Tag Archives: burgers

At the drive-in

Eating on your own is always a strange experience. And never more so than when you’re in Hollywood on a Friday night. Thankfully, it’s the kind of occasion that diners were invented for. Having walked around for a while (which is Brit Out Of Water code for “made my way to the nearest record shop to buy CDs, plus box sets of TV shows I’ve missed”), I happened upon Mel’s Drive In.

Even though I’ve only been to LA once before, I’ve still managed to go to a Mel’s Drive In before – there’s a few of them around the West Coast, and the outpost on Sunset Boulevard proved useful after a boozy night out on my last trip here. Tonight’s meal showed the Jekyll and Hyde nature of diners in America, with possibly the worst chickenbuffalo wings I’ve ever had (supremely soggy chicken skin, anyone?) and a fantastic cheeseburger that actually tasted of meat.

But it was three other things that particularly drew my attention at Mel’s Drive In.

1. As far as I could make out, it wasn’t a Drive In. You could park your car right next to the restaurant, admittedly, but I guess “Mel’s Drive Up To” wasn’t as compelling a name.

2. Los Angeles may well be the one place on earth where people wear bluetooth headsets on a permanent basis, despite not being on the phone. That they manage to wear the headsets and yet not demonstrate any visible sign of embarrassment or self-awareness speaks volumes for the confidence of these people.

3. There is only one door at Mel’s Drive In, making it the only way that you can get into the restaurant. Inside, above the door, is a sign that reads “This door to remain unlocked during business hours”.

With business insight like that, it’s no wonder that America is the leader of the capitalist world.

Any given Sunday

It’s the Super Bowl this Sunday, arguably the biggest sporting day of the American year. Around 92 million people tune in to watch the event, which this year will be played between the New England Patriots and, incredibly, the New York Giants.

New York had a terrible start to the season, but somehow seemed to keep their head while all around them were losing theirs in order to make it to the big show. Sadly for them, they’re up against the New England Patriots, who have won all eighteen of their games this season (“eighteen-and-oh” in US parlance). They’ve won the Super Bowl three times in the last six seasons, and in quarterback Tom Brady they’ve got the David Beckham of the NFL. In sporting fame terms that is, rather than him being a text-maniac adulterer married to a woman who’s about as ‘Posh’ as haemorrhoid cream.

On the other hand, the last time that the New York Giants won the Super Bowl, I hadn’t even had my first kiss. Indeed, their quarterback Eli Manning probably barely knew what a kiss was, given that he was only ten at the time. It’s like Manchester United coming up against Accrington Stanley in the FA Cup Final, except maybe slightly more one-sided. And if that kiss-of-death doesn’t allow the Giants to win, I don’t know what will.

My point is not that I don’t understand the rules of (American) football, because I do. But what I have no idea about is the Super Bowl grid that I was somehow persuaded to write my name inside today, in return for parting company with a fresh ten dollar bill.

When I was a kid, we always used to have a Grand National sweepstake. For those who don’t know, the Grand National is the UK’s biggest horse race – like a Kentucky Derby except with stonking great fences all the way around the course. Essentially, we’d all put 10p into the kitty, and in return we’d pull out the name of a horse out of a bag – and the person who ended up with the race winner would take everything.

Super Bowl boxes appear to be a super-fuelled version of this, invented by somebody with a mild mental disorder and a refusal to do anything the easy way. I can’t really begin to explain it fully – all I can say is that there are 100 boxes, each worth $10, and the numbers 1 to 10 are placed randomly along both sides of the grid. My box appears to be in the Giants 1, Patriots 3 box. That doesn’t need to be the final score in order for me to win, but it does mean that I need the last digit of the score to have those figures. In other words, if the Patriots win 43-11, I’m a winner.

Anybody still reading? Me neither.

Suffice to say that while I will almost certainly be watching my first Super Bowl as an American resident, I won’t be paying too close attention to the mathematics of the score.

That doesn’t mean numbers won’t be important on Sunday though. Far from it. I’ll be attempting to set a new record for number of organic burgers eaten in one four hour period.

Ladies and gentlemen, you’re about to see something very special.