…During the annual fair the concession did a thriving business in charcoal broiled hamburgers: hamburgers topped with cheese, with bacon, with bacon and cheese, fried onions, relish, mustard, pickles, ketchup, mayo, well… all of the major food groups of the day combined in a huge, messy calorically rich, artery busting snack. In fact their burgers were so well known across the fairgrounds that the working stiffs, old and young, migrated to this place everyday either at lunch, dinner or just before closing time of the fairgrounds itself to get their daily fix. They sold so many burgers that a ranch out west had a herd of cattle on standby just for this fast food joint. They sold hundreds of these burgers daily. How did they do it? How were they able to keep up considering it does take some time to cook one of these delicacies properly so as to ward off those nasty gastro-intestinal loving critters?
It was easy as I found out. The owners had this wagon stored in the storage shed beside the concession. The wagon could hold about six of the two gallon type stainless steel kettles, two abreast: narrow at the bottom, bulging wide in the mid section then open to the air at the top, with a thin steel handle bar fastened at each side near the top rim. Every day about 2 hours before lunch it was my job to take that wagon and the kettles over to the sports stadium, up the ramps into the concourse of the stadium itself. This was a stealth operation you see for I could not make it be known to the public that I was connected to a food processing establishment while on this particular mission hence off came my white apron and hat while in transit from the concession booth to the stadium’s concourse.
Inside the concourse one could not fathom that anything was amiss, or open. All of the vertically oriented and aluminum sliding shutters were shuttered shut. Silence, nobody there it would appear at first glance. Then, almost subliminally, the odour of a deep fryer operation wafted the senses. It became overpowering as I walked along the concourse, pulling my wagon, as if a hundred deep fryers were at work simultaneously. An exaggeration perhaps but the smell of gazillion French fries could be overwhelming to the senses. But this wasn’t about French fries frying. This smell was sweeter, pungent, salt-like in its aroma with a deep and richly textured smell. It was meat!
As instructed I banged on the penultimate shuttered booth to the main ramp of the stadium. It opened slowly.
“Yeah, what do you want.” said no one in particular.
“I’m here for the burgs”
“Okay, hold on a bit”
Suddenly the shuttered metal door opened up about half way. Inside I could make out about 3 sets of deep fryers going full tilt. The oil bubbling and boiling over it seemed. Smoke filled the air but then got caught and sucked up in a vacuumed vent. This was only one of the booths. There were three more in operation.
“Give me your kettles” he ordered. “Just two.”
I complied. He took the two kettles over to the fryers. He then lifted two baskets out of the oil tilting them up then down, then shaking each of them to drain the oil, or grease, or whatever from the baskets. He tipped them over onto a white cloth, stained by a hundred deep fried burgers past while the burgers present looked like a lump of brown, oil soaked fried cow pies laid out on to the white cloth towels. With tongs he then transferred these deep fried burgers into the kettles ever so carefully but ever so skill fully so as not to damage the integrity of the burgers themselves. When he was done, both kettles were full to the rim with these oil soaked cooked burgers. He then covered them up with more white cloths tucking the ends into the kettle walls.
“Here, off you go” he said
“Thanks,” I think
With that the shutter was shuttered closed again, until tomorrow…