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June 26, 2009

Does food have a right side up?

BuckysBar.jpgIt's weird, but Bucky, our macho, rural good-ole-boy regular, has been getting sort of existential and Zen-like lately. Witness the questions at the end of his guest post today. Here's Bucky. EL

Everyone has his or her own little quirk, right?  Except for my friend, John Martin Thomas (JMT).  He has everybody’s little quirks.

He is, for example, extremely particular about his food.  Every aspect of it.  He is also very predictable about what he eats.  Having breakfast at the course after an early round of golf? He eats huevos rancheros.  Every single time.  Meeting him at Elw…uh, the steakhouse we go to for dinner?  Prime rib.  Every single time.
So, last weekend, Paco and I were to meet JMT for Saturday lunch at the bar.  I got there and was surprised to see Paco’s car already in the parking lot.  (Paco’s quirk:  never on time.  And the most amazing thing about this quirk:  He always has a good excuse.  Not “good” in that it’s entertaining, “good” in that it is always a legitimate reason for being a few minutes late.  But I digress…) ...

As I walked in, Paco walked out of the kitchen.  Huh?  And he had a big grin on his face.  We each ordered a beer, and flirted with Stacy, the bartender, for a couple of minutes.  When she went to wait on somebody else, I asked Paco, “What are you grinning about?” 

“Just wait,” he replied, “but don’t order a cheeseburger.”
JMT came in, stopped at the bar to pick up a beer (and flirt with Stacy), then came over to the table.  We ordered lunch:  Paco, a club sandwich, me an Italian sausage sandwich and JMT had what he always has on Saturday at the bar, a cheeseburger, double pickles, tomato, lettuce and onion.
When we got our lunches, JMT looked at his cheeseburger, which was assembled like this, top to bottom:  top of the bun, patty, cheese, pickles, more pickles, onion, tomato, lettuce, bottom of the bun.
Yes, they had assembled his burger and condiments upside down.  Paco’s grin was ear-to-ear.
“Hey,” JMT said, loudly, to everyone in particular, “what the hell is this?”
Two issues:
1)  Does food even have a right side up or an up side down?  If you ordered, say, pumpkin pie and it was served with the dollop of yogurt underneath the crust instead of on the top of the filling, would that bother you?  Would you even notice?  Would you send it back?
2)  Is it “pathetic” (Mrs. Bucky’s word, not mine) for three men who are north of 50 to be flirting with a bartender who graduated from high school in this millennium?

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 12:06 PM | | Comments (24)


You could go on the assumption that it all ends up in the same place anyway... regardless, the hamburger was more inverted than upside down - it would've been upside down if it went BOTTOM of bun, patty, cheese, pickles, more pickles, onion, tomato, lettuce, TOP of bun.

I could not eat it that way. I think I could flip it over and settle down, but no promises.

Makes perfect sense to me. Imagine your hands reaching for the burger...The thumbs now go on top, while the other fingers are on the bottom to support its weight. A simple 90 degree rotation to the mouth and enjoy. In the end, the grip is the same, but picking it up is much easier.

This may not matter for a McDonald's hamburger that is easily handled with one hand. But I just happened to finish off a Ray's Hell Burger, and given its size and generous condiments, such a technique is essential to ensuring it all stays together.

1. Both the cheeseburger and the pumpkin pie would bother me, and I'm not sure I could flip it over and settle down, haha. How about tacos? I have a very specific method in which I add my fillings. I don't like restaurant tacos as much because I can't control the order.

2. No, with several qualifications, which I won't get into, haha.

3. Can I be friends with your friend Paco? Because that is the best practical joke I have ever heard.

Issue 1: Yes.

Issue 2: You already know the answer to that question.

I wouldn't send the pumpkin pie back for being upside down, but I would send it back for being topped with yogurt.

"the hamburger was more inverted than upside down - it would've been upside down if it went BOTTOM of bun, patty, cheese, pickles, more pickles, onion, tomato, lettuce, TOP of bun."
but the solution for JMT would've been a lot easier. he could've just flipped it around. the better prank is what they did there.

to answer the quesitons:
1) if there wasn't a right side up, how could there be something called an upside-down pineapple cake.

2) so soo sooo very sad.

Years ago my sister worked for me during the summer in a very hot warehouse. She used to keep a large cup of icewater nearby. One day, I took the straw out, inserted one end into a packet of ketchup, and sucked about an inch of ketchup into the straw. Then I replaced the straw. Aaahh... good times.

Just for the record. Never trust a person with three first names. Never.

Thank you Bucky, I needed a laugh.

Gravity could alter texture. The tomato would remain intact when on top of a burger but I'd imagine it gets smushed when it is forced to act as a structural component beneath the burger.

Also, (just a guess) but the overall taste that is perceived may also be affected as the ingredients would likely stimulate the taste buds in a different order (ie sweet/sour before umami). I doubt this would be significant.

I always flirted with a certain checker at the grocery store. One day the bill came to $19.56. I made the comment that 1956 was a very good year because that is the year of my birth. The checker responded that I was 2 years older than her father. That put me in my place.

As long as my french fries don't come upside-down, I'm good.

Well, my iced-tea being upside-down could be confusing, but I'd get over it.

1. Yes (hat tip to J McIntyre for letting me copy his work)
2. No. "Pathetic" is an apt description only if "hopeful" is part of the context of the flirtation.

Well yes, food does have a "right side up". For instance, if I was served a piece of chocolate cake/chocolate icing that had the icing side down on the plate and the cake side up, I think I would have to send it back. Much the same, pie a-la-mode. Want the ice cream on top of that, not underneath. Clams casino; would not want the shell on top and the clams, bacon, etc. underneath the shell.

Ooops...forgot to address #2.
Wouldn't go so far as "pathetic" but inappropriate, definitely.

I think food has a "right side up", especially, as other commenters noted, the tomato would just make the bottom of the bun soggy.

And for those that like different condiments on different sides of the bun. For me, its mustard on the meat side (bottom), and mayo on the cheese side (top). Now it probably would be okay to put the cheese on the bottom of the burger as long as the mayo was on the bottom slice of bun.

But cheese needs to be on top, especially if it is on something hot, like a burger, so it melts over the hot item.

As for ham and cheese, the cheese deserves to be on top. Its just the way it is. Especially if its been heated.

As for #2,
jl nailed it.

Good subject Bucky.
Hope you 3 guys gave that young bartender a "really good tip" for putting up with the "old fogey" flirting; she earned it!

I forgot...

Bucky, you wrote
Meeting him at Elw…uh, the steakhouse we go to for dinner?

That made me laugh, right out loud. Thanks!
Its okay, you can name the place. We can take it. We're all "Wacko for Flacco" these days.

We have a Shula's in Baltimore, and the menu is written on a football. Is Elway's the same?

The checker responded that I was 2 years older than her father.

When I still had the little red two-seater, I pulled into a Lutheran church youth group car wash. The guy in charge was a late-50s looking man in a BCFD tee shirt and an excellent rear view.

It was one of those "free" deals, where you donate whatever your conscience dictates. I laughed and handed the very nice, very polite adolescent girl a $10, saying "And I'll give you another for that fireman's phone number."

She got kinda uneasy and answered, "Well, my grandmother usually answers the phone..."

Bucky, (1) Yes, food has an up-side and a down-side, but regardless, I love the burger prank! (2) Well, yeah, but as long as the flirting is harmless, have fun!

EL wrote that Bucky has been getting sort of existential and Zen-like lately. It was early on that Bucky filled the sink with rocks. Is that macho?

Dahlink, whatever it is, it all comes from hanging out at D@L.
Bucky, don't ever stop flirting.

Thanks all for participating. The correct answers are:

1. Of course food has a right side up. That's why Paco's practical joke was funny.

2. No, it is not pathetic. jl, this week's VoR, explained it better than I've been able to explain it and when Mrs. Bucky read his answer, her response was, "I suppose." (Which is, for her, a ringing endorsement of the practice.)

CantonKate - Paco is a good friend, indeed. We've been friends since junior high school.

Lone Lady - "Old", yes. "Fogey", not now; not ever.

PCB Rob - No, the menu isn't on a football. There are two Elway' is the restaurant in the Ritz Carlton and the other is a bit more informal, but they haven't gimmicked up the Elway connection. (DonnieB would even approve, because both serve USDA Prime grade beef.)

Is Shula a B'more icon or a goat, or neither?

EEL and Eve - both funny "geeze, I'm getting older" stories. I'll give you another:

A few of us were having a drink one evening after work and I ordered a Macallan. The server asked, "18 or 25?" I replied, "25." Sarah, one of my co-workers, asked, "What does the '25' mean?" I told her, "That's the age of the scotch--either 18 years old or 25 years old." She thought for a moment and said, "Geeze you drink scotch that's older than I am."

Dahlink - I don't know where the "macho" came from, either. Recall, I look like Santa Claus. But the "rural" is right on.

A truly "upside down" cheeseburger would consist of (bottom to top as presented): top of bun, tomato, lettuce, pickles, bacon (you have to have bacon), cheese, meat, bottom of bun. If it had also been made upside down you would have had some very grilled cheese under the meat. An upside down pineapple upside down cake would have the cake portion staring you in the eye, just as it looked when it came out of the oven. Now if you want to mess with the "order of presentation," that's another story. And being of a certain age myself, the phrase "I have underwear older than you are" comes to mind.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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