Sunday, October 16, 2011

Miss OctoberBurger

Have I ever mentioned that I am Miss October?

Not in a scantily-clad, calendar page, sitting cross-legged and sly-smiled on top of a massive pumpkin sort of way. Nope. Nope. Nope. Not even close. In a cardigan wearing, seasonal latte drinking, pumpkin patch visiting, costume hunting, grilled cheese and tomato soup way.

So, no I have never perched atop a planetary gourd in orange stockings and red lipstick. Primarily because I have trouble getting to any high place, anywhere. Climbing anything is never a seamless or elegant transition for me, and always fraught with anxiety. I do not fear high places. I fear falling from them.

And secondarily, because they do not serve caramel apples way up there. And in October, I do not go where caramel apples are not.

October has always been my favorite month. As a kid I would spend months perfecting period-appropriate masterpiece costumes, with elaborate and wildly unnecessary backstories. I would then watch my sister win for best costume, mainly because she was effortlessly adorable and literally too cute to ignore. Really, another win for “Cheerful Clown?” Did no one  appreciate my attention to detail as the third witch from MacBeth, representing chaos and confusion, and somehow wedging the phrase “Fair is foul and foul is fair,” into every conversation, as though this contest were for Most Irritating 6th Grader?

When I was growing up, we each got a pumpkin, and our faces would be drawn on with Sharpie before they were placed in size order down the steps. As an occularly challenged family, this meant four marker-bespectacled pumpkins greeted the Xtreme sport trick-or-treaters who braved the last minute ice storm, because they had really nailed “bunch of grapes” this year, even though it took three dollar stores to get enough purple balloons.
The year I decided we should just carve our pumpkin family instead reeeeeeally ruffled some feathers. I carved my name into mine. It was perfect. It was gorgeous. It was in cursive. It was visually stunning, and against all odds symmetrical. It offended the entire family, and possibly some of the neighbors.

Apparently, witches and ghosts were the endgame here, and there was no room for a surgically precise autograph. I can’t say they were wrong.  Just overreacting.

My best friend Ally and I have spent almost every Halloween together for ten years. We usually begin the costume proceedings with ambitious multi-pronged concepts that surface during the summer. Then comes the “Holy Hell, it’s the second week in October and we don’t have a costume!” realization, to which we respond by tabling the issue and going for coffee. The third and final stage sees us standing helplessly in Jo-Ann’s fabrics the day before Halloween, slack-jawed and overwhelmed, asking each other if felt will work instead of tulle. Tulle sells out pretty early. Sells to the people who get their act together. So: not us.

The other day when I had an afternoon free up last minute, I thought “This. Is. OCTOBER DAY.” What to do? Go make caramel apples? Too hungry already-can’t weather Ralph’s on an empty stomach. Actually, can-but the caloric collateral damage is too high. They put the bakery right at the front for a reason. Go sit in a pumpkin patch, just me? Alone, that’s weird. Every kid from here to Van Nuys will be shouting Stranger Danger. And I would be relieved, because it would mean they have been taught well.

I really wanted to make the most of this cooled-down, leaf-changy, maple syrup day. But I was too hungry to think. So I did what I do. I sniffed out a food truck. I checked my sources and saw that Da Burger Boss truck was installed in Toluca Lake for the day, and I hotfooted it over there to get myself an Octoburger.

Once in a while, the stars align, The Adjustment Bureau feels generous, and an ordinary day can suddenly be The Best Day Of Your Life. Like the day the sample station shift at Trader Joe’s changed three times while I was there, allowing me to try their frozen rice medley for the first time, three times.

Such was the case on this October day as well. I pulled into the food truck location thinking, “Well I guess it’s not very Halloween-y, but a burger is good any day.”

And this is where it was parked.

Here’s what I knew:

1.)    Da Burger Boss is known for its original mafia theme, its quality beef, and its generosity of portions.

2.)    Eating lunch with a ghost is about as Halloween-y as it gets. Also, they don’t ask you to share. Or they do, but so quietly with their weak ghost-voice that the sound of your own chewing drowns them out.

I’m kind of a rose-colored glasses girl when it comes to the mob. I see loyalty, a nice pulled together implied dress code, fish for Christmas, and a lifetime of cannolis. I love the idea of having a gaggle of brothers who would protect my honor (and cannolis) at all costs. Plus, nicknames naturally appeal to me, and I think everyone in the mob gets one. I hope I would get a cool one, like Frances “The Tastebud,” or “Forks” Malone. Of course, my last name isn’t Malone so that one deserves another brainstorm.

If I were to host a Godfather, Goodfellas, Departed marathon, I would serve cannolis. And I would beg Da Burger Boss to come serve their mafia meat to my friends. Why? Here’s Why: Because when Ozzie of DBB handed me a ½ Lb. burger on ciabatta, with blue cheese and caramelized onions (“The Strong Arm”) my heart dropped. No way could I finish this huge greatness. What a waste. I HATE wasting food! There's just no good reason to do it, like permanent tattoo makeup, or watching Precious twice.

SO: 7 minutes later as I polished off the absolute last bite of this juicy mob masterpiece, left only with the smear of blue cheese I somehow got on my phone, I knew that this was no ordinary burger. This was an initiation. An epicurean hazing. And should you live to tell the tale, but refrain from doing because you never know when someone is wearing a wire, you are in “the family” for life. And I did it. I’m in. Somewhere between the tang of blue cheese, and the mellowness of a pool of onions cooked long and slow, I signed up. Big time. If you haven’t had a burger on ciabatta yet, you’re miserable but you don’t know it. It’s the mother of soaker-upper breads, an edible spongy double plate. It’s an Italian bread that tastes like the best part and texture of every carb you’ve ever eaten, all in one bite. And when that bite has a perfectly medium-rare burger and balsamic onion reduction in between, it’s the most delicious crime syndicate you’ve ever tasted.

So thanks to Ozzie and The Adjustment Bureau, I ate my “Strong Arm” burger outside a Halloween store, on a cool day, next to a ghost and a guy with an ax in his head. I considered licking the blue cheese off my phone, but ultimately decided against it-it’s just not classy.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Miss October!

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