A Cook's Diary

On cardboard sandwiches and tummy fillers

Saturday night, we went out to see The Avengers. Alex had seen it with her school friends on opening day because, well… she had to be among the first. It’s a Robert Downey, Jr. thing. She’s smitten. Speedy and I, on the other hand, hate seeing any movie on opening day. We don’t like jostling with the crowd. So, we waited. When we finally went, we all went. Speedy, me, Sam and Alex. Yes, Alex. Told you. It’s a Robert Downey Jr. thing.

So, anyway, we finally saw the movie that everybody had been raving about. Nice visual effects. Nice action. Scarlett Johansson is gorgeous. So is Chris Hemsworth. I won’t rave about the movie though. It was okay. It had its high moments, it had some really funny moments… But much as I appreciate technology and the wonders of computer-generated visual effects, in the end, a film is still about a good story and how it is executed. And the movie could have used more in terms of story.

But this isn’t really about The Avengers. This is about what we ate after the movie. We had sandwiches before we left the house, we had coffee at Starbucks while waiting for the screening time (Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf was full), the movie was over two hours long and we were hungry by the time we were on our way home. For some reason, Speedy suggested Burger Machine. Why he did, I had no idea. Or maybe I do.

The girls often talk about Burger Machine. Apparently, it’s a popular thing in their school. CHEAP, available in almost every city block, open 24/7 and CHEAP. Personally, I haven’t been to a Burger Machine outlet since the girls were toddlers. We were in Mandaluyong, it was almost midnight, we were hungry and Burger Machine along Shaw Boulevard was open. If you’re familiar with the place, Burger Machine in Shaw isn’t a mere stall — it is a restaurant. We ordered rice, tapsilog or something, we asked for spoons and forks, we were given disposable plastics and told that they would cost extra. Excuse me? Charging customers extra for spoons and forks? And just how were we supposed to eat the rice, eggs and meat — with our hands? To make a long story short, we paid extra and we have never patronized any Burger Machine anything since. Until last night.

So, we stopped at the Burger Machine stall on the corner of Marcos and Sumulong Highways. Most of the sandwiches were Buy 1, Take 1. We went home with six sandwiches — two bacon and cheese burgers; two double longganisa burgers and two roast beef sandwiches. Within minutes of unlocking the front door, we were attacking the food. Except for Sam who felt feverish. I took a roast beef sandwich, Speedy did the same, we ate and… I looked at Speedy and asked where the beef was. Did the Burger Machine guy forget to put in the beef? I really couldn’t find any…

If you’ve experienced Burger Machine, you might have noticed how the wrappings are color coded. Blue for the bacon and cheese burgers, white for the longganisa burgers, pink for the roast beef sandwiches… When I unwrapped my roast beef sandwich, the wrapping had already gotten wet from the grease. I was almost through eating when and I noticed that the bread was pink. Oh, my… the dye had bled into the bread. Well, the sandwich was almost gone, I might as well finish it, right?

I could have lost my sense of humor and sulked. But Speedy and I looked at each other and we agreed that the sandwiches were still tummy fillers — better than getting home and having to fix sandwiches then wash plates and utensils afterward. So, I got over whatever angst was threatening to surface, looked at Alex who was eating her bacon and cheese burger without complaints and asked her how her sandwich was. She said she forgot to tell the Burger Machine guy not to put ketchup in her sandwich. There was so much ketchup that the bacon and cheese got lost — literally.

Okay, if my teenaged daughter could eat the stuff without throwing a tantrum, I could live with what was on the table. I was still hungry after the non-roast beef sandwich. I set aside the other bacon and cheese burger for Sam and offered Alex the extra double longganisa burger thinking she might want more. She said we should split it. We did. Two patties in the darn thing and all I could taste was the ketchup. Seriously. Very, very serious amount of ketchup.

There was a moment when I started pitying my daughters eating that kind of crap when they’re in school. But then I realized that I ate similar crap too when I was in school. In fact, I’ve had worse. And I’m thinking… Is that some kind of ritual that all students go through — eating lousy food? I mean, when you’re on a student allowance, you can’t be all that choosy all the time. So I swallowed whatever comment I was about to make. It won’t kill them to go through that phase of living on their allowance — they’ll just have to manage their money better so that the occasions for eating lousy food can be kept to a minimum.

So, the Burger Machine sandwiches now being partially digested, I am writing this to get rid of the angst that I couldn’t unleash while eating. And I’m writing this to vow that when we take the girls out in the future, we won’t ever, ever go to Burger Machine again. Ever. I swear.

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