Recipe For A Summer Cookout With A Literary Twist
Robert A. Fink
Who says a history professor can’t be a Dictionista? Punista? Wild and crazy guy? Don Taylor, Professor of history at Hardin-Simmons University, emailed me the recipe reproduced below. The subject heading of Don’s email was “Hemburger.” Knowing my love of Ernest Hemingway’s novels and short fiction, and having heard that I have family in Idaho who were friends with Hemingway when he lived in Ketchum the latter years of his life, Don said, “I thought you might be able to do something with this,” this being the recipe. So, I did. Do something. Not much, you’ll agree.
Ernest Hemingway’s Favorite Hamburger Recipe (Courtesy JFK Library)
Papa’s Moveable Feast In Our Time of Esotericism
In the bowl, the pound of ground beef was always there quietly marinating, but he did not go to it for ten or fifteen minutes as it waited on the counter, the shadow of the ivy’s leaves beneath the fluorescent light pleasant and the ground beef not gray or greasy, or paper-thin and tasteless. It was the light of course, but it was necessary that the counter be clean and pleasant, and Papa liked to sit at the kitchen table beneath the skylight of stars and sometimes a glowing planet.
He was old but sat as if the time of running before the bulls were still available, the afternoons of entering the Café Iruña knowing the woman, her long legs, her auburn hair, would be waiting with a copy, autographed, of his most recent, most ardent collection of stories lying open beneath her fingers tapping the most ardent of the ardent fiction, written, she knew, for her, mostly. And that was the end of that.
Now he would stand at the counter with what dignity was afforded for such an hour beneath the light which was good, and still pleasant, and the shadows of the leaves, the condiments orderly in their clear receptacles waiting for the old man who was not old but had lost too many he loved and now had only the bowl, its contents. He would disperse the meat with a fork or, recalling for whom the bell had tolled, those for whom the sun had not risen, would knead the meat with his fingers as if he had confidence and youth and was not one of those who required the light and a pleasant counter of small, glass cups of cloves, minced garlic, two little green onions, finely chopped parsley, as if he did not fear or dread the nothing he knew too well, the meat broken with the fork and scattered among the capers, the minced mushrooms, the chopped almonds.
It was all nada he knew too well—the egg beaten in a cup with the fork, the India relish, even the Spice Islands Sage, the Beau Monde Seasoning, Mei Yen Powder, dollop of Piccalilli, and he remembered that cold autumn, the wind coming down from the Pyrenees. He had given her his favorite hoodie, and when it ended, she had kept it, and he knew that a man, if he is to lose everything, should not place himself in a position to lose that. He should not place himself in a position to lose his hoodie. “He’ll lose it!” he shouted at the one-third cup of dry red or white wine, the cocktail sauce, the one tablespoon of cooking oil in the frying pan, hot but not smoking.
And he remembered Donastia and the sidewalk café, the wind coming off the Bay of Biscay and an old man waving to him from the fishing boat. And the red-haired woman who had been with him since the hills like white asparagus asked to try the new drink. It tasted bitter, like licorice, and the official, importante, stopped at their table to unroll the flexible charts, assuring them their stars aligned, and also the planets, and asked him, in particular, if he had confidence, and he said no, and that was the end of that.
Now, without further thinking, he would fry the patty one minute with the burner turned high, then turn the heat down and wait four minutes, remove the pan from the burner and flip the patty over, return the pan to the hot fire one minute, then three more with the heat turned down and eat the patty crispy brown, the middle pink and juicy.
It tasted of absinthe. There were tears on both his cheeks, and he bit his lip and said out loud, “It is very difficult. I cannot resign myself,” and something broke in his chest as he walked unsteadily but with dignity toward the room where he would lie in the bed and try not to think of youth and confidence, and maybe with daylight, sleep. It was probably only heartburn. Many must have it.