With Christmas soon approaching and holiday meal planning in full swing, this is the perfect time for a hamburger. Why not a lengthy discussion on the criminality of fruitcake or helpful tips on how to turn leftover holiday victuals into a traditional Indian feast? Because the last thing you want to do when you’ve just spent two hours looking at Christmas recipes you want a rest from holiday food. You want a burger, a beer, and a rerun of Louis before your holiday frustration leads you to take down the plastic reindeer on your neighbor’s roof with grandpa’s hunting rifle.
What do you think of when you think of a great hamburger? Do you think of a grey disk of meat product engineered to exacting specifications, veiled in polystyrene and sold to fleshy humanoids queued up like ants to a spilled soda? Is a great burger a hand-formed patty of seared goodness served in the diner your grandfather introduced you to as a child? Maybe it’s that saucer-sized round of fresh ground beef, sizzling on the backyard grill. A great burger is like a great girlfriend; elusive and particular to everyone’s individual tastes. (nice buns don’t hurt either)
We regularly see the hosts on the Food Network go into ecstatic foodgasms because they ate a freshly picked vegetable or a slice of beef from a cow they just met in the last scene. Eating a dish made with fresh ingredients that have shared the same region’s soil, water and climate makes an enormous difference in the taste. The classic icon of American foodways, the hamburger, is a great showpiece for that idea because unless you grew up in an underground bunker you’ve probably eaten what you thought was a pretty good hamburger that you can use as a comparison. When you eat a burger that is made from fresh, local ingredients you’ll feel like the prisoner released from Plato’s cave and will never see your hamburger the same again.
A classic American burger starts with a great bun. There are bakeries in town where you can buy well made hamburger buns, but warm, fresh bread made with your own two paws is a pleasure only topped by love, sex, and news that Guy Fieri has been taken off the air. The difference between bread made with store-bought white, refined flour and freshly milled whole wheat flour is even more dramatic. White, refined flour has had its bran and germ stripped off like a cheap prom dress while freshly milled whole wheat flour has its bran and germ still intact. That means the flavor will stick around because it still respects you. And as an added reward you get the nutritional benefits of the bran and germ directly. That’s why white, enriched flours have to be enriched. They were made nutritionally bankrupt in the refining process so they need enriching. Refining removes 14 vitamins, 10 minerals, and protein leaving the starch alone to wreak havoc on your waistline, while enriching only replaces four of the vitamins. That said, the quality of fresh milled flour that appeals most to me is that it is cheap and it has so much more flavor!
Locally, Sonrisa Farm produces fresh, stone milled, sustainably grown whole-wheat flour, as well as wheat bran, pancake mix, and wheat grain. These Chattanooga residents grow their wheat on a family farm in Colquitt, GA, which is then stone ground at Falls Mill in Belvidere, TN, bagged and sold at the Main Street Farmers Market. I made burger buns with their whole wheat flour and it gave the burger a depth of flavor and texture that paired perfectly with the unctuous flavor of local ground beef.