I made burgers last night.
I have been cooking hamburgers for about 56 years. I have grilled them over gas flame, charcoal and open wood fires, I have fried them on the stove, microwaved them (not recommended…), and even baked them (also not recommended…). I’ve used incredibly expensive burger, and really really cheap stuff. I’ve even ground my own, and used mixes of different meats – not a real fan of turkey burgers, but they will do in a pinch.
I started cooking burgers, and cooking anything actually, as I mentioned before, as an excuse to spend time with Mom as she daily prepared meals for a full house of 9, sometimes 10 people. Burgers were especially fun, since it required the chef to put his hands in a huge mound of raw hamburger, and to shape patties suitable for everyone to eat. We did have a wooden hamburger press with a rooster on the front that we often used – my sister Lisa absconded with it, although she professes Mom “gave” it to her. Right. Often, however, it was simply hands on. With that process, there of course ended up with a wide range of sizes of patty. Some would be known today as “sliders,” about the size of a silver dollar, but others would be so large as to make a gourmet burger restaurant blush. Of course, part of learning how to cook meant learning how to make them more regular, than spectacular.
In the course of burger making, Mom, as usual, had a secret weapon. Instead of burgers alone, with a little salt, Mom would make – and I would help – “special burgers.” Into probably three or four pounds of ground beef, Mom would add ketchup, and mustard, and minced onion, and salt and pepper, sometimes a little garlic salt, and two or three eggs. We usually mixed it up in the red plastic bowl that at one time must have been set on the hot burner of a stove, and ended up with a melted scar, like a prized steer. The melt didn’t go through all the way to make a hole, and it was surprising how resilient the bowl was, as we used it for many years afterwards.
Into the bowl went the ingredients, and then came the most important part – well, the most important was that you always washed your hands before you began, since only heaven knows where 7-year old hands may have spent the day! The next thing, of course, was to squish and mash and squeeze everything – by hand – into a single entity. That meant a lot of work with oozy-goozy fingers. Yes, the egg yolks did need to be popped, and everything well mixed, which is what I also believe 7-year-olds were created to do.
Once all mooshed up, hands were again washed, and then the patties were formed. It was a bit trickier with this recipe, since adding the liquids, and the eggs meant that the core structure of beef was a little soupy sometimes. It was an entirely different level of burger preparation – more like the Olympics.
So, last evening – I made burgers. I made Mom’s burgers, with not quite as huge a bowl full, but still significant. I mixed and squished, now with 63-year-old hands, which is also what they were created to do, and then I formed and shaped them, experimenting with a new hamburger press that the family gave me for Father’s Day. On to the grill, flipped once, and served up, they tasted near exactly the way they did decades ago. Of course, the family raved and mowed them down, which is the greatest compliment, and I took just a couple of moments to thank Mom for another one of her everlasting gifts – Mom’s recipe.
What are you giving your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, friends or this world that will be an everlasting gift from you? What special thing will you be known for? What spectacular activity or feat will follow you even long after you are gone, at least for another generation or two? My great-grandma Serviss always had a cookie jar filled to the brim with cookies for young guests to the house. My great-grandfather had a jar next to his recliner that he always referred to as “rat poison.” Actually, there were chocolate covered cream candies that he didn’t want seven great-grandchildren disposing of in the blink of any eye, so at different times, he would pick out the ones that didn’t have “poison” on them, for us to have, but we needed to be very wary of the others.
Memories, when they are the good kind, are the sweetest things we can savor on this earth. Even more, when the memory contains a skill or a saying or something useful, if well cared for, it can be carried down the generations with a value that can hardly be estimated. No matter how old you are, when you give what you can, and do so intentionally to lift the life of another, or to bring another into the sense of being special, like learning how to make Mom’s burgers, then and only then can you be assured that you have lived a significant life. Someone out there needs what you have – don’t let today go by without offering it to them!
Word for the day: rambunctious. Hooray! We actually have a word that began its life in America! Now, some will say it was a knock-off from the British word, rumbustious, which means “noisy and undisciplined,” but rambunctious means far more than that – it means “noisy and undisciplined,” but also “lacking restraint.” Merriam-Webster says that this adjective is to be included with a number of words that arose in the early 1800s, as America was feeling its oats and claiming more and more of its unique place in the world. Other words would be rip-roaring, scalawag, hornswoggle, and skedaddle. They all sound like they are coming from the western part of the country, newly settled and being homesteaded.
This word is also close to my heart, since it was the caution that was given, not frequently, but always, as the doors of the station wagon were opened and the world outside was to be set upon by the Cross children. Dad would say, among other things, “Now don’t get rambunctious!” By trial and error, we learned what that meant, when indeed often we became rambunctious without even knowing it. Pronounced RAM-bunk-shus, it signified the confidence we had, and the willingness we took on to make our marks in the world. We weren’t necessarily undisciplined – Mom and Dad would not have allowed that – but at times we might have perhaps lacked a wee bit of restraint… Great word.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.