Can You Major in Philosophy at Hamburger University?


Imagine a hamburger.

What do you see? Is the meat thick, juicy, maybe a slightly bloody medium rare? Or is it thin, trading that juiciness for the deep flavor of an all-over browning?

raw burger

I don’t know if I prefer one over the other, but it occurs to me that the underlying philosophies of the two schools of hamburger thought are so different that maybe they should be considered two distinct things altogether.

The thin-pattied burger is a sandwich meant to be taken as a whole: there’s a sense of balance and proportion between the buns. Each bite is an adventure, with different combinations of bread, meat, cheese, lettuce, pickles, maybe onion, perhaps tomato and, unless you’re a philistine, mayonnaise. It’s a thing of beauty, engineered.

The thick burger—and let’s be frank about this—is really just a big-ass piece of meat. Everything else, even the mayonnaise, is only there to make you feel like you’re not just eating a big- ass piece of meat. It’s also a thing of beauty, but perhaps more primal.

So which is the hamburger of your imagination? (And what does that say about you?)

Mine, it turns out, follows a different path. Mr. Pete’s Burgers of San Clemente, CA has devised a third way: He makes a fine thin burger, and then, with the casualness of a genius, tosses on a massive pile of pastrami. You get it all with this masterpiece: the balance and intrigue of a well-constructed sandwich, the two beefs playing off one another, and the brutal satisfaction of eating an irresponsible quantity of animal. It’s amazing. Somewhere, Mr. Pete’s ancestors of the Classical world are smiling at the philosopher they’ve begotten.

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