Saturday, August 30, 2014

Steak n Shake's 7x7 Burger is like Kryptonite for Vegetarians.

It certainly doesn't have the appeal of the pictures. It
actually looks relatively normal.
I'm leaving in just over two weeks. I'm leaving friends, family, and loved ones for a long time. This unfortunate departure means better things in the long run (hopefully). I'm trying to have lots of special moments with my kids, so when we were driving home from the Eden Drive-In the other day, it was 1 AM, and I knew my son was a fan of crazy burger challenges, I decided to stop at Steak n Shake for a 7X7 Burger.

Fortunately, I didn't discover this vegetarian nightmare until just a few days before. After Wendy's had banned the T-Rex (a nine patty burger), I figured my child may never be able to prove his gastronomical capabilities in public. Let me assure you, he has never eaten a seven patty burger in his life before. Afterwards we put him on a diet of wheat-meal and tofu. However, Chance was able to accomplish the challenge, which seems trivial compared to the numerous  individuals  on the internet who have ate two (or more) of them.
They call it a meat tornado.

So where to get it? We went to the Lawndale Steak n' Shake in Greensboro. The burger is only served between 12 AM-6 AM as a part of their Up All Night menu.  The cost? $7.77. The 1 lb+ burger includes garnishes like lettuce, pickles, tomato, condiments, and seven patties of beef and cheese between a minuscule grease soaked bun. Is it good? Oddly, yes, however I'm not certain anyone would want to indulge in such an experience more than once. The burger leaves a permanent notch in your stomach, and general discomfort for some time to come.

Despite the necessary shame of this burger, it appears to be the lone "monster burger" within Greensboro (are you listening Burger Warfare). This is the ideal after-drinking sandwich for sobering up, and an odd challenge for those who were huge Man vs. Food fans.

The truth is, I don't expect these sort of old-fashioned burger challenges to stick around. The aforementioned T-Rex was properly banned after corporate discovered the rogue franchises making money off the concept. There's just too much liability, when some Americans will perceive these mega-sized portions as normal, and begin to consume them on daily basis. For that reason, it's a little bit naughty to have one while they're still available. It's like driving too fast, drinking too much. This rebel's cause is clearly the risk of dying from cardiac arrest. If I ever open up my own burger restaurant, perhaps I'll make a 7x7x7. I leave it to you to figure out the math.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Free Food

I remember volunteering at the local Urban Ministries food pantry in high school, and it was clear to us, we were the rich, white kids from western Greensboro, helping out those unfortunate people, not like us. Over the years I've continued to volunteer in other capacities, most recently with Serve The City in Brussels Belgium. My perception of poverty has changed, and unlike my privileged youth, I've recently found myself as a student, between degrees with a very tight budget. So when a local non-profit organization recently offered free food to anyone, and we had more time than money last Thursday, I took my privileged white ass to stand in line for Out of the Garden's mobile food truck. There's no shame for me in surviving these last few weeks up till graduate school, becoming a part of less privileged. I'm poor and I'm quite humble about all of it, though there is some sort of statement to be made about a recent UNCG graduate with honors and a double minor, not being able to find a summer job in Greensboro.

Shannon, who is also an UNCG student recently participated in a round-table discussion on why local students do not remain in Greensboro after graduation this past spring. The result of these inquiries was that there are no jobs for college graduates. While attending UNCG it was commonly known, and repeated by the entire student body, that "you go to school in Greensboro, and work somewhere else". I have a degree in International Global Studies in Affairs and Development, exactly where would I work in Greensboro and make a livable wage? 17K a year working for a proselytizing ministry is not my idea of a rewarding career or a livable wage.

Considering my background, I found it interesting as I stood in line for 3-4 hours in the baking sun that the demographic of people with me was mostly minorities. I was one of about ten white people out of 200 waiting. I felt saddened by this, my gut ached, and my head confused how inequality runs rampant in Greensboro (it may have been the heat). The unemployment rate for the area is 9.4% (as of June 2013, down from a recent 12%), the homeless rate is  14% (student homelessness is up 48%) [via The State of Homelessness in America] . If you don't keep track of these indicators on a regular basis, let me assure you, that these numbers are high, very high. Despite these numbers, I can assure you that you need to only stand in one of these massively long lines for food to realize how bad the problem is.

So Wednesday night, WFMY and WGHP advertised that the Out of The Garden Project had 2,000 pounds of free food to give away to anyone. Unfortunately they reported the wrong address for pickup, and failed to mention that the organization is for families with kids (yes, I have two). Despite this, upon arriving a half hour early, there was a line of more than 200 people (many with children). Immediately, the three volunteers for the organization asked about half the individuals to leave and return the next day, apologizing that it wasn't their idea to post it on TV.  We chose to remain for the duration of the disbursement which slowly lasted about four hours. About half way into the wait, a woman fell over and about died. 911 was called and she was removed from the line. At the time, local newscasters were on site (for other reasons), and filmed the incident. It was spun on the 6 o'clock news as a woman who had heat-stroke because of the heat (rather than about poverty). Considering that many of the people who I stood in line with me that day were former residents of the Heritage House, I find the trivializing of what went on that day by local media, a sad commentary on what's wrong with Greensboro.

In the end, we, like the other hundred or so lucky people, received two bags of groceries: a few pounds of non-profit beef, a half dozen can goods, a bag of flour, and expired Food Lion perishables. I'm not even sure if the later of that is even legal. We were completely grateful, and were glad to go home and cure our sunburn and dehydration.

We learned that several of the local schools, within food deserts (no grocery stores) or impoverished areas, receive a list of available food give-outs, and pantries.  Unfortunately, this organization does not list the information on their website, but according to several people we met that day, does serve this location on Merritt Drive commonly.

I hope to continue to give back what I've taken, and encourage others to give too. Remember, there's really only a thin line between the haves and have-nots, and one day you might be on the side of that line.