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A Vegetarian Jonesing for a Hamburger

Updated on February 24, 2015
Crossing palm trees at In-N-Out, Goleta, CA.
Crossing palm trees at In-N-Out, Goleta, CA. | Source

My Secret Meaty and Fatty Thought

Don't get me wrong, I love being a vegetarian.

I love fruits and vegetables and legumes and beans and pasta and nuts. I only use olive oil and have a large vegetarian food pyramid poster in my kitchen.

I believe that being a vegetarian is a healthy way of eating and wonderful for your digestive system, just like god intended. For me being a vegetarian is a kind of spiritually of the body, more specifically--a spirituality of the stomach.

Eating vegetarian is an act of kindness to your body and your soul and to all of the animals that roam the earth. It's like taking the sacrament if your Catholic or studying the Torah if you're Jewish.

Every Saturday I take pride in going to the my neighborhood farmer's market where everything is fresh and organic, where the veggies are big and colorful and the farmers are certified and local.

I take my organic produce home and apply a gentle veggie wash to the vegetables.

I sit at the table and prepare the meals for the week. My brown rice, wild rice and quinoa are stored by my side. I only eat purple potatoes. My nuts are raw and unsalted. I play everything by the book. I eat like my life depends on it.

But in the back of my mind lurks something awful, something wrong.

In the deepest recesses of my brain lives a thought. It is a meaty and fatty thought. It's a thought about having a hamburger. Yes, that dreaded 9-letter word that is taboo among those serious vegetarians like myself.

It's almost like a curse word.

I've Tried Every Faux Burger Known to Man

It's not just any hamburger that I think about. It's not Burger King or McDonalds or Jack In The Box that I'm after. It's not those upscale gourmet burgers from Five Guys, Plan B, or Smash Burger. It's not those tiny White Castle burgerettes that are square and you have to eat a couple hundred to satisfy your appetite.

I've tried everything. I've made burgers with non-meat products that contain soy, black beans, textured vegetable protein, flax, oats, quinoa and kale and try to make them thick and crunchy. I've had one or two good veggie burgers--one at the La Costa Resort in San Diego and the other I bought at Costco in Goleta, which has a surprisingly good veggie burger that I continue to buy on a regular basis.

But all these burgers don't quite work for me. Something's missing--the texture, the juicy flavor, the aroma. I can't seem to get the yearning for a good hamburger out of my mind no matter how many years I have been searching for the perfect veggie burger.

So the thought remains. It lingers in my mind like a fly that won't leave the room. It comes to me in a dream; it surfaces when I watch my meat-eating girlfriend partake of one. It occurs in the summer when the barbecues are smoking and sending out meaty burger flavors into the air.

It may be unhealthy. It may go against my sacred vow not to eat an animal. But the simple fact is---I want a damn hamburger!


Double-Double with Cheese, Please

Everyone in California says how good In-N-Out Burgers are.

They tease me often, telling me that that they just had lunch there and that they can't stop thinking about the double-double with cheese. They can't stop talking about how thin and delicious the beef patty is, like it was the very first time they tasted a burger.

I drive past the crooked yellow arrow every day. I see those two criss-crossed signature palm trees right in front of the place. With the long line of cars at the drive-thru, people are still willing to wait for a great, but simple burger.

Everybody knows their spiel, that In-N-Out makes burgers the old-fashioned way. They are not processed or prepackaged or frozen. They hand-leaf their lettuce and they cut their french fries daily. They have a bunch of young, healthy and exuberant teenagers serving everything up the same exact way.

I felt that life was too short to torture myself. I turned to my girlfriend one day and said, "Babe, I think I'm ready."

She replied, "Ready for what?"

"I'm ready to eat my first In-N-Out burger."

Her jaw dropped.

Inside In-N-Out in Goleta, CA.
Inside In-N-Out in Goleta, CA. | Source

Vegetarian Nazis and Vengeful Gods

On the ride to In-N-Out I was very nervous. I kept clutching my stress ball.

Thoughts of slaughtering animals filled my conscious mind.

Thoughts of losing what I had gained as a vegetarian swirled in my head.

I felt that if I had one burger, that would lead to another and then who knows how many other burgers that I would consume. I felt that I would drop into a swirling vortex of meat eating insanity and I would be lost forever.

Then I realized. I have pretty good self-control. I don't have to be a perfect vegetarian. There won't be any vegetarian Nazis knocking at my door to arrest me if I eat a burger. I won't go to Hell if I just have one double-double with cheese. There will be no vengeful God condemning me from the heavens.

I convinced myself that it was okay, while my girlfriend was holding my sweaty hand and saying, "It will be alright, Mark. You're doing the right thing."

She was actually happy for me as well as happy for herself. Now she wouldn't have to sneak off by herself and have a hamburger. I would now have an occasional hamburger and she would have her boyfriend with her and she would not be at a table alone, feeling sorry for herself and self-conscious.

It was a good thing.

I Placed My Order with Pride

We came to the crooked arrow with the criss-crossed palms trees. We entered the pristine building and immediately we felt the energy of happy hamburger eating people. There were all kinds of people--short ones, tall ones, big ones and small ones. They were intensely eating their burgers and their eyes were wide open and pupils dilated.

I watched the staff, who wore cute little In-N-Out sailor-type hats move around at a frenetic pace. But they all seemed to know exactly what they were doing and each movement was purposeful. One guy was cutting the potatoes, another was flipping the burgers, another sweeping floors and others were doing their own particular jobs like clockwork, professional and dedicated.

The cashier was friendly when I told her that I wanted a double-double protein burger (lettuce wrap) with everything.

I was proud of ordering by myself. It was like going to school for the first time.

My girlfriend ordered her usual and we were given a number and had a seat.

I sat there with much anticipation and questions ran through my mind.

How will it taste?

Will eating a hamburger change me?

Will I be disappointed or will I have an amazing experience?

Will I want to go to confession afterward or will I want to share my experience with the world or, perhaps, HubPages?


Was it a Hamburger or a Magic Mushroom?

Eating the double-double with cheese was like an out of body experience.

I remember myself levitating from the seat, about 4 inches or so.

I recall my vision blurry and I saw angels dancing around the room and music playing and trumpets blowing and people laughing and a choir singing old African American spirituals.

I clearly recalled that my taste buds couldn't believe what I was doing. It was almost like they were shocked and crying, "Boss, what the Hell is going on here!"

I remember the taste was utterly enjoyable. The flavors from the burger and the add-ons were simply mind-blowing. I thought for a second if I was ingesting LSD or magic mushrooms or something hallucinogenic. I felt as high as a kite and ready to ride the wind.

Meanwhile, my girlfriend was just looking at me. She knew CPR and was certified in First Aide if I should fall off the seat and injure myself.

She held my hand and said, "Slow down, baby. Take your time."

I never ate so fast. I would always savor my food and eat at a comfortable pace so I could digest my food properly, but this day was different, I was eating the food as if I feared someone taking it from me. It was like I was eating fast because I had been deprived for so many years.

I'm the Same Vegetarian, but Less Deprived

As it turned out, I didn't fall into the abyss of hamburger madness. I simply ate the hamburger, wiped my chin and moved on.

I didn't get swept away. I didn't lose self-control. I didn't intend to give up all my vegetarian ideas and lead a life of barbaric meat eating.

The fact is, I am still the same vegetarian. Eating a hamburger hasn't changed me one bit. I am still the same person who goes to the farmer's market on Saturdays and who buys organic and local grown fruits and vegetables. My meals still consist of vegetables and fruit and legumes and beans and nuts and pasta.

I don't chase goats up a hill or roast pigs or ravage cows.

I don't want to carry a hunting rifle and kill animals on sight.

I'm just a vegetarian who isn't perfect.

I'm just a vegetarian who has certain hamburgerly desires.

I'm just a vegetarian who likes to treat myself to an occasional hamburger with everything on it, and not feel so deprived.


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