Buildaburger Conference 4th July 2013 – The British Burger of Independence


On the day of the year when our cousins in the US celebrate their independence from us, the British, I pause for thought on the humble hamburger, that most North American of hot food meals. As most of you will know, the hamburger does not normally contain any ham, although it can. It was named after the city in Germany, and its immigrants, and is not a pig-related reference. More recently, the contraction “burger” has come to represent any patty of food that is either fried or grilled, often served on a bread bun, and it does not have to include meat at all.

It is common knowledge, although not such a common experience, that human flesh resembles pork when eaten. As so often, I am reminded of George Orwell, and this time the famous quotation from animal farm.

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

It is ironic how Britain is now so in thrall to the US because of the less-than-savoury mutual masturbation of our governments and spying agencies. Who would have thought that in a mere 200 years, we would become the oppressed nation.

I would hate to alienate friends in the US, but maybe Britain needs to re-establish and celebrate its own independence. I don’t mean culturally, but militarily and politically. Although the US likes to see itself as policing the world, it has developed a very bad reputation with a history of colonialisation, coups and interventions in other countries whilst trying to impose its own particular brand of democracy. Of course Britain is not innocent, but our two governments have become such an emulsified patty of interdependent and occluded interests, it’s hard to discern the pigs from the men, and you can’t necessarily tell the difference just by taste.

The United States is a nation of immigrants, apart from those people who were already there, of course, and I would miss the amazing melting pot of cultures that has produced so many classic deli dishes. However, globalisation, whether commercial, cultural or political threatens to homogenise the entire world into the cultural equivalent of a single 4oz serving of Soylent burger, topped with that strangely-imagined orange “cheese”, sickly sweet ketchup, and served on the familiar cliché of a sesame bun that looks like no bread a human being has ever baked. Not unlike the famous canteen scene in Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” where Syme opines, joyfully:

“You know, I don’t think there’s a single piece of meat in this stew. Looks like meat. Tastes like meat. It isn’t meat at all. Doubleplus good.”

So, here we have the British Burger of Independence made from 94% Hereford beef, topped with mature Cheddar cheese, raw onions and tomato ketchup on a wholemeal bun. All British ingredients but inspired by the classic hamburger as an homage to our transatlantic partners in crime.

We should embrace our differences, celebrate the multi-cultural world that we live in, and leave other countries to sort out their own problems. The following television advert, currently showing everywhere in the UK, is a keen reminder of what dangers might lie ahead if we do not maintain our political independence and our own cultural identities.

Even Orwell could not have imagined the bland horror of a post-globalised world where we are no longer at war with Eastasia, Eurasia or Oceania, and where pigs and men are indistinguishable, but where “We all have McDonalds in common.”


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