burgers, taste, and our personal history

I wrote in December about some anecdotal evidence of declining quality at In-n-Out Burger. I’ve written blog entries about topics I thought were much more important, but between Facebook and my blog comments this entry struck a nerve.

Boston Pobble mentioned Five Guys, an up-and-coming chain that relies on quality and word of mouth, with no advertising. She said, “I could never eat another burger but theirs and be good.” One opened up not far from us a while back and Terry and I tried it after Christmas. It was good. Really good. And I love the way that they make it really easy to select the toppings you want.

But it is not In-n-Out. This man could not live on Five Guys alone. In-n-Out has a distinctive taste that is not like any other hamburger. But more than that, it is part of many of our personal histories. That is why, I think, my blog entry struck a nerve. As I said in my original entry, I’ve been eating In-n-Out since college. That’s forty years. Add to that the fact that for many years In-n-Out was only available in Southern California. For those of us who moved away, we were delighted when they moved north, and we could enjoy a pleasure of what was in our minds a younger, more innocent time. The fact that many of those who are new to In-n-Out burger are not all that impressed should not be surprising. After all, for us In-n-Out fans, the history, the memories, and the context are as important as the Double-Double burger.

I have to admit, by the way, sacrilege though it might be, that Terry and I agree that the fries at Five Guys are better than those at In-n-Out.

2 Comments on “burgers, taste, and our personal history”

  1. As we’ve discussed, and agreed, the experience of a thing is often as important ~ if not more so ~ than the thing itself. My *favorite* burger was a place in Medford, OR called Eddie’s. So much of a dive that not even Food Network would go there. All they did was burgers. Now, they’ve moved. The building is clean and new. They do pizza. And chicken sandwiches. And technically, they still do burgers. They swear they are the same; they are not. They just…aren’t, regardless of what Eddie’s swears. Personally, I think they don’t taste the same without the grease in the air and peeling paint on the walls.

    • Boston Pobble, I agree that grease in the air and peeling paint on the walls can affect the taste of a favorite hamburger. The editor of our local newspaper complained a while back that the food at the nice, clean, shiny new burrito place was not as good as the food at their old, dingy, hole-in-the-wall location. (My words, not his.) Oh, and thanks for that sentence with the semicolon! 🙂

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