Wednesday, October 25, 2017

I Tried BurgerFi's Beyond Meat Burger

Plus some stuff about The Brain That Wouldn't Die and the original The Night of the Living Dead, for some reason. 

By: Jimbo X

By and large, I don't like writing about my personal experiences for this blog. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's those cult of personality types who always make everything they write about revolve around themselves. Instead of writing about a specific subject or a specific event or a specific thing, they just blabber on and on about how damned dandy they, themselves, are and how great it is to be them and experience all the bullshit they experience. They're not writing to inform, or enlighten, or even entertain, they're writing or vlogging because, somehow, someway, it placates their enormous ego and ceaseless need for public affirmation. No matter what these kinds of people produce, the content has the same purpose: to make the blogger or writer or video maker feel an inflated sense of self-purpose and convince others that, if absolutely nothing else, their particular life experiences are WAY better and more noteworthy than the life experiences of their readers and viewers.

IF I'm going to write about my own exploits and sojourns, the objective experience has to be front and center. The article can't be here's me doing and saying all this shit while I'm at this place, it has to be look at all this shit at this place I was at recently. What was experienced is substantially more important than the person who experienced said events or happenings. That's a key characteristic that so much Internet content lacks, and without it, what a person writes or produces just doesn't have any historical weight. If you're going to take the time and the effort to extol your doings, you at least owe it to yourself and the grand collective to give us something that resembles an impartial, objective, factual explanation or description of whatever you're Instagramming or blogging about or putting on YouTube.

Which brings us to BurgerFi's Beyond Meat Burger. I never sat out to review it. In fact, up until the moment I saw the in-restaurant advertisement for it, I had no idea it even existed. By now, we all know how I converted from vegetarianism to not vegetarianism, and you better believe I have the extra 50 pounds to prove it. But that's an altogether different story for a different day and time, dear readers: what we've got to talk about today is a little place called Kennesaw, Ga.

I used to live there for awhile. It's not a bad place, all things considered. But I hadn't been through the downtown area in years - five, perhaps six - and when I got there (more on why I was returning in just a bit) I was gobsmacked by what I saw. Back then, the downtown area was downright rustic. You had a laundromat, a gas station, a pharmacy, this one restaurant space that was always going out of business and a KKK memorabilia store (and nope, I am not making that last one up, neither.) Well, today, there's a gigantic, massive senior living complex behind, in front of, and surrounding the little town I used to know, and it's probably only a matter of time until the whole thing gets razed for a Whole Foods and Menchie's Frozen Yogurt. Of course, there's not a whole lot of redevelopment that can be done in the area, since there's a CSX train track running right down the middle of it, and last time I checked, homeowners ain't too keen on blaring whistles at 2 in the morning and cargo containers of toxic waste flying off the railway into their living rooms. So I guess you could say residential development in Kennesaw probably ain't gonna' be on the table, but let's get real - if the powers that are in Kennesaw (including its crossdressing current mayorhad the legal ability, they'd have already leveled the whole goddamn thing and put up some sort of behemoth "mixed use" complex and given it a 50-year tax abatement. (Also, I just remembered: their second to last mayor got busted for sexual exploitation of a minor and is doing six consecutive 20-year-sentences in the slammer, and the city's still giving him pension money. Just a little sliver of local culture I figured you folks would enjoy being privy to.)

But ... asides. You see, the whole reason my and my gal we're there that night was because the city was putting on an outdoor spooky movie series all month long. You see, throughout October, every Friday night they were showing a separate double feature of semi-public domain movies, like Godzilla vs. Megalon and Roger Corman's original Little Shop of Horrors. Well, that night, they were showing The Brain That Wouldn't Die and the '68 version of The Night of the Living Dead back-to-back, and that's pretty much the closest we're probably gonna' get to the resurrection of Drive-Invasion these days, so of course we made it an official date night.

Now, before the movie started, we decided to hit up the nearby BurgerFi. For those of you not in the know, BurgerFi is one of those fly-by-night slightly more upscale burger joints like Freddy's and Five Guys and Smashburger that prides itself on selling real hamburgers and not the frozen-ass, microwaveable McDonald's shit. Their menu is also pretty kooky - I had never been to that precise location before, but I do recall hitting up the BurgerFi at the CNN Center and chowing down on this thing called the Conflicted Burger, which was a big ass double-decker sandwich with both a veggie patty and a real beef patty inside it. And if you think that's an unorthodox selection, wait 'til you get a load of their All Day Breakfast Burger, which comes with both a fried egg and a hearty squeezin' of maple syrup.

Technically, this is a co-branded product, since Beyond Meat is the third party beef supplier and you can buy their vegan patties at most grocery stores, anyhow. Even now, though, I struggle to see the difference between their burger and most of the other vegetarian, plant-based hamburger alternatives out there. Interestingly, the burger itself ain't 100 percent vegan, since it comes with American cheese and mayonnaise, but they do offer it in lettuce wrap form if you really want to drive home the whole "veggie" point.

Now, to the non-vegetarians out there, this may not be much to write home about. But as a survivor of the vegetarian lifestyle myself, I can tell you point blank that stuff like this is a real rarity. Sure, a lot of the hipper burger chains offer a default veggie burger, regardless, but you never really get one that could be considered on par with a normal burger. What I mean by that is, well, the veggie burger patties are always noticeably smaller than the REAL hamburger patties they sell. Like at Burger King, that little pansy-ass veggie patty is barely half the width of a real Whopper burger, and I've been to some places where the circumference of the veggie patties were even smaller than that. So all that to say, finding a big veggie burger that's actually as filling as a real burger at a fast food place is about as uncommon as finding a Skittle in a bag of M&Ms.

Just in terms of overall girth, the burger - which was a little under $8 with a soda and fries - is pretty dadgum heavy. There's a lot of stuff on top of the burger, as evident by the photo above. You've got your standard clam-shell covering of lettuce, a nice, gooey cheese square three relatively crisp pickle slices, and whatever you call the coalesced substance that forms when mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise all swirl together (is "kustardonnaise" too on the nose?) The bun itself, however, was pretty unremarkble, despite having the name of the franchise literally branded upon it. Which, naturally, really makes me want my own personalized branding iron. Do you think there's some company out there that does custom designs? Because I'd love to stamp all my grilled cheese sandwiches with the old Sega Dreamcast logo, or possibly flame seer a few swastikas into my next batch of King's Hawaiian sweet rolls.

And as for the burger itself? Eh, it was good, but like every other veggie burger out there, it just lacks the proper texture and mouthfeel. When you eat a real burger, there's a little bit of a rubbery feeling to it, with the granules of meat giving each individual bite a certain level of chewiness. Really, when you eat a hamburger what your tongue is tasting is the little pockets in between the beef where there isn't any beef. You know, because all burgers are basically just a bunch of individual particles of ground chuck clumped together and all. Well, the structural problem with veggie burgers is that you don't get that empty space between each bite. The thing doesn't fall apart when you bite into it like a real burger, because the whole damn thing is basically one long, continuous piece of protein. You might get some chewiness, but you never get maximum chewiness. The patties are never plump and juicy, they're always crispy and a little difficult to tear apart. The exterior, fried skin seems to want to pull off before you can sink your teeth into the plant meat, and while it might be a pretty decent gustatory experience overall, your taste buds just know it ain't the same experience.

So, long story short, the Beyond Meat Burger is pretty much the same as every other veggie burger patty out there. Which is weird as hell to me, since it isn't that hard to make a halfway decent faux-meatloaf dish out of vegetarian beef crumbles. With enough time, effort and molecular deftness, I'm sure Morningstar or Wise Foods or the people who make the Celebration Roast could give us a vegetarian patty that feels like a real hamburger, but the problem is they're all too busy trying to dream one up that tastes like a real hamburger. So yes, it is a good and very flavorful little hamburger imitator, but alas, it isn't exactly a flavor you haven't already eaten a million billion times before. And if that were the only takeaway from my visit to BurgerFi, I probably wouldn't have even bothered writing about it. Thankfully, I also stumbled across something else that I figured was worth a quick write-up ...

These Coca-Cola Freestyle machines are pretty much everywhere these days, and for me they're always worth tinkering with because so many restaurants get their own proprietary, brand-exclusive Franken-flavors. For example, Moe's has its own peach-flavored Mountain Dew imitator, while I've seen more than one movie theater offering some in-house exclusive L-T-O Coke flavors around Christmas time. Well, as it turns out, BurgerFi not only gets its own exclusive flavor mix-in from the House of Coke, they get their own exclusive soda brand, which, rather appropriately, is called FiLIME Fusion, and comes in both a regular and diet incarnation.

I guess the best way to describe the drink is a SUPER lime iteration of Sprite, but really, it's much more than that. If Sierra Mist and Mountain Dew had an illegitimate cola child, I'm pretty sure FiLIME Fusion is what it would taste like. The soda is much thicker than sprite, not just in terms of carbonation but also mouthfeel. I'm not quite sure what they put in the magical green elixir, but you can definitely taste the syrup tingling on your tongue. Of course, the thing that REALLY puts the LTO beverage over the top as its hue. This is easily the greenest cola I've ever seen, with a bright lime tone that makes the piss yellow Mountain Dew tincture we all know and love look downright jaundiced by comparison. I mean, this stuff looks eerily similar to the zombie-making juice from Re-Animator, which alone makes it a Halloween delicacy almost going out of your way to experience. And needless to say - it makes for some mighty fine refreshment during a back-to-back bill of pioneering, black and white horror movies from the 1960s.

Now, you motherfuckers know I miss me some Drive-Invasion, and if it's Halloween-time I'm going to take outdoor horror movie-watching anyway I can get it - especially when it's a rare opportunity to screen an unheralded genre mini-classic like The Brain That Wouldn't Die in public for free. The thing is, there's just one little catch with the set-up these guys were working with. Remember earlier, when I told you the downtown area is situated right in the middle of a busy train track? Well, take a wild guess what kept happening during the movie. I guess you could say the blaring train whistles gave the experience a little bit of atmosphere, but it's not ambiance when the shit keeps happening every 25 minutes for five minutes at a time - it's just plain annoying, that's what. 

Still, for those of you who've never seen this flick, it's probably worth going out of your way to witness. For a movie that came out in 1962 (although it was completed in 1959), it's pretty graphic. Not only does the whole movie revolve around a severed head going fucking insane while her husband runs around date raping go-go-girls so he can steal their torsos and make his wife "complete" again, it's also one of the earliest movies in U.S. cinema history to feature an extended arm ripping sequence. And we're not talking some pussy-ass arm ripping, neither; we're talking a nearly five minute sequence where a scientist gets his arm yanked off by a retard Bigfoot monster in the closet and he literally runs around the house bleeding everywhere for five minutes before he finally buys the farm. Of course, most people remember this best for being on MST3K, but I still say it's a hell of a little movie in its own right. Give it a try if you haven't - it's one of those underappreciated gems that definitely deserves more reverence than it gets.

And that's our segue to the second feature of our double bill, the all-time immortal Night of the Living Dead from 1968. Like all other non-retards on the planet, I strongly prefer Dawn of the Dead to this one, but all things factored into the equation, I still consider this one of the 100 best American horror movies ever made. Looking back on it (and this is the first time I've watched the movie in about four years), it's amazing just how much of the movie is described and not seen. Probably half of the movie is dedicated to either scenes of characters talking about the near death they escaped getting to the farmhouse (in particular, the black dude's opus about plowing through a whole bunch of flaming zombie motherfuckers in his truck) or non-diegetic scenes of people wholly unrelated to the rest of the character drama filling in the story plot holes on television. Things don't get really cuckoo crazy until maybe the last 20 minutes of the movie, and before that the whole thing is pretty much carried by people simply talking about all the shit that's trying to kill them. Now that's how you do shit on a budget; had Romero had a higher budget, the whole thing would've been mostly by-the-books, come-on-guys-let's-dodge-all-the-monsters tomfoolery, but because the money wasn't there, he had to focus on a truly character (and dialogue) driven horror story. Well, that, and some really gross out stuff at the end where you see zombie daughters stab their mamas to death with garden trowels and fat, nekkid undead dudes ripping out victims' guts and chewing on them like saltwater taffy. That's a good way to make your movie stand out, too, I suppose.

Really, the movie remains important for two things: number one, the cinematography (and I don't think anybody's gonna' dispute the greatness of George A. Romeros's black and white camerawork and deft editing) and more contentiously, its supposed racial commentary. For whatever reason, people STILL think Romero was trying to make some sort of anti-racist commentary by making the lead male character a black dude, but people forget that Duane Jones' character wasn't even meant to be a black guy - he just so happened to be the best actor that showed up the casting call and that was it. And really, there's nothing in the script that even hints at the notion of racial animosity. I.E., nobody calls Duane a "nigger" or refers to him as "boy" or commits as much as a, sigh, microaggression against him for being African-American. Indeed, the topic of race is virtually a non-factor in the movie altogether, and it isn't until the very, very end of the movie - where Duane's body is tossed upon a funeral pyre - that even the teeniest, tiniest reference (intentional or not) to lynching or white supremacy rears its head. It wouldn't be an issue, really, except for the fact today, the great unlearned learned only celebrate the movie for its perceived racial forward thinking, when it should be revered as a clever, well-structured horror pioneer that ingeniously worked around its financial limitations through great dialogue and way-ahead-of-its-time narrative devices.

So, all that to say, I reckon I enjoyed my little night out in Kennesaw - or, what's left of the Kennesaw I remember, anyway (which was largely devoid of cheerleaders taking a knee for Instagram likes and the opportunity to virtue signal nationwide, uh, social equality or something.) I ate a just kinda alright if not overpriced veggie burger, I chugged a bright neon green experimental soda, and I had the luxury and privilege of getting to watch two old-ass, public domain horror movies under the stars and freezing my ass off, the way God, Allah and Al Davis all wanted us to.

It was a good night, ya'll. Not a great one, of course, but one that was better than average. And in this day and age, I'll take as many of those kinds of nights as the good lord will allow me ... and be damn thankful for 'em, too. 


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