The best hamburger of my lifetime

Hamburgers with Papa

One of my fondest recollections of Papa is his love of unhealthy food. This was one of the perks of having Papa pick me up from various afterschool activities and friends’ houses – one could never know if he might be in the mood for hamburgers. Come to think of it, Papa was much like Winnie the Pooh in this regard, sometimes struck by an entirely unexpected ‘rumbly in his tumbly’.

We certainly did not eat at McDonalds regularly or often; but we had hamburgers there often enough for me to remember this small pleasure; and it was also rare enough for me to develop a special appreciation for it.

Hamburgers & keeping kosher

As a college student, I gradually became religiously observant and eventually stopped eating non-kosher meat. Now, most Jews do not keep kosher, but for those of us who accept this dietary restriction upon ourselves, kosher hamburgers are quite a treat; and kosher hamburgers are abundant in Israel, especially in cities with large religious populations like Jerusalem.

I must add that Jerusalem’s burger joints range widely in quality. We have McDonalds and several other chains, but we also have very high end burger restaurants and everything in between. Even the midrange burger places have better quality patties than McDonalds – and the prices, of course, reflect this.

By the way, burger joints aside, the endless availability of kosher food is one of the reasons that living in Israel is appealing to Jewish people who keep kosher. Living a traditionally religious Jewish life is simply easiest in Israel for many practical reasons; perhaps this too would be worth writing about…

My Babushka’s advice to me

My Babushka (my Mama’s mother) and I would speak by phone almost every single day in the final years of her life before she died nearly three months after my Papa, and, as you might imagine, one of our favorite subjects of conversation was my daughter. Babushka’s love for our baby girl was not theoretical – she deeply adored her and always looked forward to our family visits when her great-granddaughter would climb up onto her couch to give her a kiss.

Our daughter is our first child and so I’ve been discovering child development by observing her as she grows up. Therefore, I’ve never quite known what to expect at any given age, nor what is considered ‘normal’; but my Babushka, who raised three daughters and then some of her granddaughters, had a very good sense of what behaviors and milestones were age appropriate for little children.

Often, we would discuss what foods our child was eating, and I loved to joke with Babushka about my “dream” of going out for burgers with my daughter. Of course, I was making this joke back when she was only three-years-old, which was clearly absurd, and Babushka thought the notion very amusing. “You’ll have to wait until she’s five-years-old for that,” she would tell me.

Five… no… Six-years-old

Regardless of her age, it has always been difficult to convince our daughter to eat any foods beyond the ones she is already familiar with and fond of. In fact, the older she gets, the more this seems to be a losing battle; and there are even some foods she once enjoyed, which she is no longer willing to put in her mouth. We have learned the hard way not to push anything new on her, and we wait for those rare moments when she asks to try something new of her own volition.

Of course, telling her that I like hamburgers is entirely reasonable, right? I’m not suggesting that she should, God forbid, try them; I’m just saying that they’re amazing. So over time, I have adopted the strategy of dripping water upon the rock, as suggested to me by the Bible (Job 14:19):

אֲבָנִים, שָׁחֲקוּ מַיִם The waters wear the stones

Finally, several months ago, she told me that she’d eaten a hamburger at preschool and she’d liked it! I tried hard to contain myself, and I may have even succeeded. “Well,” I said very, very casually, “if you’d like to get a hamburger with me some time, just let me know.” She responded affirmatively, and let me know that she only likes plain hamburgers – no ketchup, no vegetables, nothing. “Sure, sure, no problem. Whatever you’d like,” I responded hopefully. Then, wisely, I dropped the subject entirely.

Thank you, COVID-19

I will forever be thankful to the global pandemic for the event that took place on Thursday, February 4th, 2021, the week before our daughter officially turned six-years-old.

Here in Israel, we have been in lock-down, on-and-off, for months. Honestly, I’ve lost track of time spent at home because the days and weeks and months all blur together in my memory, as I assume they do for our daughter as well. She’s returned to preschool several times, only to return back home for another month or more. Of course, she’d be the first to tell you that she prefers being at home with us, but she does still miss her friends from preschool.

Anyway, there are only several dishes that she requests for lunch at home, and, as I’ve mentioned, we don’t push our luck in trying to recommend new foods to her because that always backfires. Now, under normal circumstances, it’s reasonable for a child to have a very limited amount of lunch options at home because under normal circumstances a child eats lunch at preschool on most days… but last week, finally, the endless sameness of her lock-down era home lunches finally got to her, and she unexpectedly turned to me and said, “Maybe we could get hamburgers this week. But remember – I just want a plain hamburger – no ketchup, no vegetables, nothing.”

And so it was ~

And so, last Thursday, February 4th, 2021, my daughter and I ordered hamburgers from the local joint and brought them home for ourselves (eating out is illegal during the lock-down). She had a plain 80g burger, and I had the standard 250g patty with all of the toppings. And the best part of the whole experience is how much she loved her hamburger!

I literally cannot recall the last time that I’d heard her expressing so much enthusiasm and appreciation for a particular meal – the entire time that she was eating her little hamburger, she kept on repeating, “Wow, I really, really like this. It’s delicious!” and smacking her lips. I think, hands down, it was the most enjoyable meal that I can ever recall having, and, quite certainly, it was the most delicious hamburger of my entire lifetime.

I’m already looking forward to the next one! 🍔

66 thoughts on “The best hamburger of my lifetime”

  1. Love it. When we first took my youngest son to Fuddruckers he had the most beatific smile on his face, and my oldest,the one with autism, ha always loved burgers above all; clearly inherent since no one influences his food preferences

      1. What are they? Another food to franchise. The Golden Arches, KFC, various Pizza chains Subway and I can’t remember the others. Some have begun doing Kosher and Halal as we now have 7,000 Muslims in our suburb and since the first fleet there are many Jewish Suburbs, so the local supermarkets have whole areas for Kosher and there are some things I really like.

        1. there’s nothing in mayo that would prevent it from being certified as kosher. I mean – there’s vinegar, which is a grape product (like wine or grape juice) so that has special restrictions… but as long as it is produced in the “right” way, there’s no reason why vinegar and/or mayo couldn’t be kosher.

        2. Andrew,

          Ok – so –

          There are several considerations. There are the ingredients themselves, which I’ll get to, and there’s also the matter of the utensils and implements used for cooking. If hot and/or spicy non-kosher food comes into contact with utensils, those utensils then become unkosher themselves and cannot be used to cook kosher food.

          The eggs themselves, as an ingredient, are a non-issue, as long as they are cooked in kosher pots, pans, etc.

          The vinegar, as an ingredient, is an issue if it is grape vinegar because grape products have a special status in kashrut. In order for wine, grape juice, grape vinegar, or any grape beverage (alcoholic or otherwise) to be kosher, the grapes themselves need to be planted, grown, harvested, etc. by Torah observant Jews. This goes back to Temple sacrifices and the sacrifices of other ancient faiths who would pour wine for their gods. It’s also related to why we say the “kiddush” blessings for Shabbat on wine and/or grape juice if they are available… grape beverages are considered especially significant. Interestingly, raw grapes do not need to be planted and grown by Jews – those can be produced by anyone and still be considered kosher.


        3. O. K., David,
          I get this one.
          Now is there a process, liturgy, prayers which will tender a non kosher kitchen kosher.
          I get emails from Chabad everyday and in the question and answer part of the web a woman was asking how she could return her kitvhen to its Kosher status because sje had accidentally introdiced a non kosher food. The woman seemed very upset.
          About the pots and pans, buy new ones? .
          What makes a vessel kosher in the first place?

        4. Ok. So this is actually super complicated, Andrew.

          To begin with, prayers/ blessings/ liturgy have nothing to do with kashering a kitchen.

          Let’s start with this – any brand new implement you purchase is kosher, and it will stay kosher unless you screw it up somehow (and keep in mind that implements you designate for meat have to remain FOR MEAT, and implements you designate for dairy have to remain FOR DAIRY).

          Whether or not implements can be kashered once they have been rendered unkosher depends upon the material that the implements are made out of. As a rule, materials such as fabric, metal, wood, rubber and stone (for example, granite and marble) can be kashered. According to mainstream Orthodox rabbinical rulings, utensils made from the following materials cannot be kashered: ceramic, glass, plastic.

          Kashering a utensil requires heating it up to an extremely high temperature. This is either done by boiling it in its entirety or going out at it with a blowtorch.

        5. Our pots ate cast iron steel or aluminium so the blow torch won’t do tje aluminium. Boiling, well if the vessel is large enough to hold it.
          Hoe often would or have you needed to?

        6. Andrew,

          You have to think of traditional Judaism as a religion that is not Biblical. It is rabbinical. That means that rabbis of many generations have issued religious rulings, grounded in biblical source texts but also reflective of those rabbis’ and their communities’ lived realities.

          So, for example, in the Mishna, there is a rabbi who famously was known to eat poultry with milk because poultry don’t produce milk… but he was overruled by the majority of the rabbis because chicken looks like meat so they wanted to avoid confusion – both among Jews and among those who might misunderstand the Jewish people’s behaviors when the observed them.

          Today, the rule is simple – all meat (including poultry) must be kept entirely separate from all dairy products of any mammal.

        7. Poor rabbi though I can’t envisage eating any fish , fowl or mammal in milk. O I had forgotten about white sauce and its derivatives.

        8. You’re right, I had forgotten the milk biproducts. It is rather confusing since we don’t always stop to think about what is actually in something.
          We do use separate preparation areas for meat, fish, dairy and vegetables though not specially dedicated utensild or vessels. Health. We have been told that as far ad clean and unclean creatures go, it is attributed to health and hygiene. Kosher, as a concept goes further.

  2. I smiled all the way through this one!! So many memories of my sons… my oldest once hugged me (in public no less as a teen!) when I handed over half of my burger to supplement his already inhaled double burger. Food does build memories and cement relationships.

  3. As others have noted, one of the sweetest aspects of this is how very easily we can relate to it. Very sweet, David. Personal moments that are so worth sharing. … And yes, I loved Fuddruckers, too, although they shut down here in Salt Lake City a couple of years back. I’m not sure hamburgers are worth eating anywhere else around here, and since my wife has moved to a more vegetarian diet, I have stopped looking.

    1. George, my wife also stopped eating meat years ago – before our daughter was born… so all my my hamburger hopes now rest only with our little girl 😉

      1. Now I understand your zeal to get her to try them. I loved how you described, though, your clever approach, holding back, don’t show too much eagerness. I laughed so much reading that one.

  4. David, this is such a sweet story. You reminded me of raising a finicky eater. Oh the patience and creativity needed! Others, with different parenting styles, may have resorted to force and discipline, but that was not my style. I think that might backfire. I love reading about your outing and your daughter’s delight in her burger. A cherished dad and daughter day. 💖 BTW, my daughter is an amazing cook, eats incredibly healthy, and will try new things now. I believe you and your wife are on the right path, by not pushing things on your daughter.

  5. Special moments between your children and your grandparents are incredible. Also, have you read, Strong Fathers Strong Daughters, by Meg Meeker. A must read for every father.

  6. What a special moment, I have 2 sons. Maybe one day I will share a funny story about my eldest and my sandwich when he was around 2. Thanks for sharing. I’ve gotten behind on my reading, I need to narrow down the topics I’m studying, but I’m going to get back to your blog soon.

  7. That’s a really beautiful story, David! I am pleased you got to have that first hamburger with your daughter: I’m sure there will be many more 😊 her birthday must be very close to my own…

  8. Been a long time since reading a blog post made me warm and fuzzy inside and made me smile often…thanks for liking my post so I’d read yours….by the way..yours is better. Shalom

  9. Aww wow David, your personal stories are always so heartwarming and emotional. What a beautiful smart little girl you have. Having hamburgers with Dad I bet was the best. Like you will remember and cherish that special moment, so will she. Thanks for sharing such sweet intimate moments of you and your daughter. Also very much appreciate and respect your mentioned verse from prophet Job peace be upon him (or for me Ayyub Alayhi Salaam). Beautiful read ❤️

  10. My younger daughter’s birthday is today. And we celebrated with hamburgers (and King cake). Cooking and eating meals together says family to me–great story. (K)

  11. I love the special connection you have with your family. You write about it beautifully.

  12. That was a lovely memory and link to your present. Thank you for sharing.
    There’s a very special bond between children and their grandparents. I never met my grandparents, but I now have five grandchildren and only one is a girl, and we have a very special relationship. She calls me granny! I’m not Jewish, but I really love your word, babushka😍

    1. Luccia – thank you so much for your kind comment. I totally agree with you 🙂

      BTW, ‘babushka’is an Eastern European word – not a Jewish word. Both of my parents came from the USSR so I grew up speaking Russian at home, and I also spoke Russian to all of my grandparents. They were all babushkas and dedushkas to me!


  13. This was so much fun to read. Your daughter sounds so beautiful. Love how she loved the burger. I am not a huge meat eater any more. But I must say that burger looked delicious . A treat once in awhile. Enjoy these moments . 😊

  14. When my parents would go out for a weekend date, they would drop my sister and I off at our grandparents house. It was always a treat because my grandpa would have the most delicious cheeseburgers ordered from the best burger place in town.

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