George’s Hamburgers



Volume 4, Issue 06
November 1, 2018

One does not have to write a dissertation on ancient projectiles in order to have a relationship with modern ones. At a high school in Fullerton, California, students are reminded yearly that the campus sits on an earthy mound directly adjacent to a major U.S. military contractor specializing in missile defense, and that therefore, in the event of a ballistic attack on the neighboring facility, the pitched reinforced roof structures of the classrooms are designed to collapse downward onto the walls and (safely (?)) enclose the students below until aid may arrive.

The combination of these elements inspired not so much existential fear in the students but rather a profound hunger in the belly which could not derive comfort and satisfaction from the second-hand[1] fares served at the canteen, requiring, therefore, an original supplement. The answer stood near the corner of Idaho and Commonwealth avenues not more than a mile from the school at an establishment signified on its exterior only by a large yellow sign: GEORGE’S HAMBURGERS. The building which housed the small diner was but a modest roadside hut, a decades-old and rather poor example of the California chariot-stop which retained the bare outlines of a modernism seemingly fashioned from the engine block of west-coast automobile culture.

Inside, the first thing one notices is the curious phenomenon of English, Spanish, and Korean languages simultaneously spoken not as a mixture of heterogeneous tongues but as hybrids of one another. “Hola-hello,[2] what would you like,” is the standard greeting at the ordering window from a thin woman in her mid-thirties wearing a white polo shirt; the same woman would appear minutes later wearing instead a blue shirt, or on some days a pink or black one, then back to white again. The twins were so identical that they seemed to be literally the copy of the same individual, until there emerged a third identical copy – a brother who worked mostly behind the scenes in the kitchen. He was the master craftsman of what was for all intents and purposes the only item on the menu, an item locally synonymous with the name George’s, which has deceptively nothing to do with hamburgers at all.

If the burrito is a typological staple in the world of both more and less authentic Los Angeles Mexican restaurants, no previous experience could acclimate one to the culinary phenomenon of the burger shop breakfast burrito, for it has nothing to do with the usual style-type chart of tortilla-based meals. It must be eaten on the spot: hash browns, scrambled eggs, bacon, onions, and cheese are grilled until scalding hot, then doused with cold fresh salsa and wrapped before the two extreme temperatures have a chance to negotiate any sort of reasonable median. Ranch? one is asked, to the confusion of many a newcomer, yes ranch, lots of it, though there are at least two schools of thought regarding its proper usage, loosely articulated as the camps of pouring or dipping (and never shall they cross paths). This place is serious business; it is not where you go to have a first date, but rather to gauge the potential for the healthy development of something more.[3]

One should read the section through the burrito carefully and note the even distribution of crispy to soft, expansive and compressive, hot and cold elements, solids which have turned to liquid, and its coloration of whites, yellows, reds and speckles of green, the combination of which is appropriately concocted daily only until 11:30 AM and not five minutes later.[4] To consume one whole burrito, which weighed solidly upward of one pound (453.6 grams) was to submit oneself to the contemplative mood of an afternoon necessarily devoid of any and all rigorous physical activity, opening up a natural path to philosophical inquiry as one begins the feeble attempt of placing the morning burrito in its proper genealogical place in the fast food canon. One begins to scour the streets looking for predecessors, antecedents, copies, before realizing that George’s was the genuine article, the Urpflanze of breakfast burritos, the one which contained the rest, the noumenal burrito, the burrito-an-sich, except it was real.

Nestled in an increasingly derelict industrial zone between a gentrifying downtown and middle-income suburbs to which the nearby high school belonged, the shop resembled a kind of beacon in its context of car dealerships upon car dealerships, a utopia for hungry savages, nothing noble about us, fulfilled and transformed by the particular and uncanny mix of cultures which came to singularly define a place. Like the unexpected and thoroughly delectable mix of sensory ingredients brought together in each and every bite, the “vernacular” of George’s can perhaps be best expressed in the response to the greeting: Hola-hello, one breakfast burrito, please!

[1] Reheated meals purchased wholesale from chain restaurants.
[2] One word.
[3] The word “healthy” should be read here in the strictly metaphysical sense.
[4] To miss this deadline was a sad, sad affair.

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Volume 4, Issue 06
November 1, 2018

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