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By Jason Offutt
If there’s one thing I told myself I wouldn’t eat while in London, it was a hamburger. Hamburgers are available everywhere in America (if you can buy a burger at a Mexican restaurant, you can buy one anywhere), so I didn’t want to ruin my British experience by eating something American.
Then the group I’m with walked by a restaurant called “Byron Proper Burgers” at an unfortunate time. We were hungry. And, since the restaurant’s name was interesting, we walked in wanting to get to the bottom of the whole “proper” thing.
The hamburger patty isn’t an American idea. Genghis Khan’s Golden Horde kicked the hell out of the known world between 1206 and 1227 A.D., living on ground meat while riding from one slaughter to the next because the horde stopped for nothing.
Not food, not sleep, not villages (they would set on fire), nothing. The ground meat kept well and was easy to eat while on horseback trampling people.
However, it was Americans who put the ground beef on a bun and added mustard and ketchup. Americans consume an average of 14 billion hamburgers each year. My arteries hurt just thinking about it.
A pretty blonde waitress in blue jeans and a black T-shirt with white lettering that read, “By Ron,” seated us and provided menus, presumably proper menus.
“Hello,” I said, stopping her as she started to go somewhere she was actually needed instead of talking with me. “What’s the ‘proper’ in proper burger?”
“Excuse me?” she asked, slightly confused. This must be the first time she’s ever dealt with an American.
“The burger. Why is it proper?”
“Well,” she said, holding up her index and forefinger at least three-quarters of an inch apart (excuse me, at least 1.9050 centimeters). “Because it’s a good quality burger. It’s not flimsy.”
I nodded and thanked her.
“Now you know,” she said, and walked away.
People in the United Kingdom apparently love hamburgers. The United States has the largest number of McDonald’s Restaurants in the world with 18,590. The UK comes in third with 2,600, after Japan’s 3,598. However, comparing the number of restaurants to the number of people, the UK comes in second to the U.S. with 24,130.7 people for every McDonald’s Restaurant. In Japan, it’s 35,519.7 to one. In the U.S. it’s 16,885.4 to one.
So, for the UK, that’s a lot of hamburgers consumed for a space slightly smaller than Oregon.
Too bad their burgers are so bloody expensive. But, then again, I was in London where you can’t even get a glass of tap water at a restaurant unless you order a glass of wine.
Byron Proper Burgers range from the six-ounce classic (with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and mayonnaise) at £6.75, to the Byron (with dry cure bacon, mature cheddar, lettuce, tomato, red onion and Byron sauce) at £9.25.
I guess those prices sound pretty normal until you realize one British pound equals $1.51 American. So your £9.25 Byron burger is actually $13.99, and that’s without a side order.
But I have to say the burger was delicious, and quite proper.
Jason Offutt’s column has been in continuous publication since 1998 appearing in newspapers and magazines across the United States. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheJasonOffutt.