Monday, August 30, 2010

The Really Big Shawn Burger

I love burgers. The more cheese and bacon and other tasty garnishes that are added to a burger, the better it is in my opinion. Rarely can a burger claim to defend itself against my predatory need to consume beef patties smothered in cheese, but in my life I have found one that can kick my ass: The Really Big Shawn Burger.

The Really Big Shawn Burger is the showcase piece of the Moscow "Starlight Diner" chain of restaurants. These classic American-style diners are dotted around Moscow with my favourite one at Mayakovskaya Metro station. They have an extensive menu of delicious American food, including the best milkshakes in the world, red-leather bench seats and 1950s silver tables and the walls are covered in classical advertising for petroleum, 1960s Chevy cars and Route 66 signs. Plus most of the staff speaks English (and they have English menus!).

Despite the delicious fare offered at Starlight Diner, it is The Really Big Shawn Burger that catches my eye the most. The first time I went to Starlight I was with Wonderpants, Ms. Australia and Quagmire. We ordered a tall "giraffe" of beer, 3.5 litres, and perused the menu. Both Quagmire, another burger lover, and I immediately settled on The Really Big Shawn Burger.

"400 grams of beef with bacon, cheese and our house chili sauce layered between and served on a platter of our famous chili cheese fries. Think you can eat it all?"

The menu was teasing, ney, CHALLENGING us, so Quagmire and I both ordered The Really Big Shawn Burger. Dripping with grease and steaming with deliciousness, the two of us looked at the massive mound of food that was set out in front of us. A giant toothpick held the entire creation together. Do we eat it with a fork or with our hands and, in either case, how?

Quagmire and I both come from the same school of North American thought that a burger, like a pizza, is to be tackled with one's hands, the way a tiger tackles a gazelle. Oh wait, that's a lion. You get the picture.

With piping-hot grease burning our hands as it ran freely out of the burger and down our arms, we attacked. I can say that that first time I attempted The Really Big Shawn Burger I got my ass kicked. I ate 3/4 of it and some of the fries and felt proud of that fact, but there was literally no room left for another bite. Nevertheless the issue nagged at me for several months, as did Ms. Australia who continued to call Quagmire and I "pussies".

To rub salt into the wound a few months after that we returned to Starlight Diner on Mayakovskaya, this time with Gem who, goaded on by Ms. Australia, ordered The Really Big Shawn Burger. Ms. Australia commented at least a dozen times on how Quagmire and I couldn't finish it. To her credit, Gem did finish the monster burger but it took her nearly two hours! Needless to say that she didn't feel too good about it afterwards!

A month after the "Gem Incident" I returned to Starlight determined to consume the mammoth burger which, I've been told, includes the generous serving of chili-cheese fries. Once again, however, the burger prevailed and I felt like more of a loser, especially after watching Gem, a girl, finish it. This was a MAN'S burger, damnit! Why can't I eat a whole one?!? That second attempt at The Really Big Shawn Burger nearly did me in although, to be fair, I had been drinking beer for four hours straight when I attempted to tackle it.

After that I was depressed and convinced that life was not worth living. If a man can't eat a stupidly large cheeseburger, then what kind of man was he? I, obviously, was not a man.

Which is why on Friday, with only one week left in Russia, I joined a group of English teachers including Gem and we made our way to Starlight Diner. I had not forgotten about The Really Big Shawn Burger (bastard!) and I was sufficiently soused to believe that THIS TIME was the time. With prideful relish I told the waitress "One Really Big Shawn Burger!" Gem was in shock. "Again?" she asked.

Of course! I was not leaving Russia until I had managed to gain a victory over this motherf**ker of a burger, and this was it.

About 20 minutes later the beast arrived, looking like it had nearly a year ago when I first attempted it, steaming with arrogant deliciousness, the little pieces of bacon covered in cheese sticking out from the sides of the burger laughing at me. "Ha! You're back for some more, are you?"
"Oh yes. And this time, I shall prevail!"

I almost cried out "By the power of Greyskull!" when I seized the bastard with both hands and, ignoring the familiar pain of the burning grease I took a giant bite out of it (and nearly dislocated my jaw in the process). The burger merely shrugged off this mosquito bite, however, and hit me back with a solid weight in my stomach.

Ignoring the pain I washed some lingering fat-smeared lettuce out of my teeth with a swig of beer and chomped down again. This time the burger noticed and cried out. "Hey! So you wanna play hardball, do ya?"

It began to fight back harder and I admit that after my third bite I was sweating profusely, my stomach was doing somersaults and my hands were trembling, but I could not back down! I refused to return home hanging my head in shame. I swore to myself that if I didn't defeat The Really Big Shawn Burger this time around I would swear off meat forever and eat only carrots and lettuce. THAT was a life I refused to live! So with a burst of determination I took another giant bite out of the burger.

I could feel the fat and grease and beef and bacon and bread and cheese all clambering around in my stomach and trying to climb up my esophagus, which generous glasses of beer helped to keep under control, but I looked at the fearsome monster on my plate and realized that I had eaten 3/4 of it! With a burst of new confidence I seized the burger, looking a lot smaller and not so cocky now, and with three bites in rapid succession I finished it off!

I did it! I ate The Really Big Shawn Burger! There were still a bunch of chili-cheese fries on the plate but with their leader gone they offered no resistance, and quickly piled them into my mouth and then, exhausted but triumphant, I slouched back into the red leather bench and let out a long, well-earned belch.

From that day on I will no fear burger and always walk with my head held high. I defeated Starlight Diner's Really Big Shawn Burger!

1 comment:

  1. Maybe one a normal day, this would have been one of the most epic, funny, ingenious and well written blog entries I've read in a long ole time.

    But when living in a diet of kasha, tea, beer and undercooked rice, it is NOT something I needed to read.... Oh man.