In September, an old friend of mine came to visit Austin. She is a native Texan, and brought me a Texas preparedness kit. It included, among other things:
Foot lotion (so your feet won’t be unsightly in flip flops)
Cute exercise shorts
Silicone powder (ensures perspiration won’t ruin makeup)
Valentina hot sauce
The last two I’m told are frequently eaten together, by those who are either Mexican or feel they have something to prove.
It all came in a bag that keeps cold things cold and hot things hot, to outfox the oppressive fuckupery the Texas summer temps will wreak on foodstuffs.
In addition, she gave me an envelope that SHE HAD PRINTED HERSELF (she has been an artisan for as long as I can remember), with instructions as to where I was to spend the ten dollar bill inside.
I hadn’t seen a Whataburger before I left Maryland; in Austin they’re everywhere.
Recently, Max and I found ourselves without any groceries to call our own, so we wended our way to Whataburger.
After we got our burgers on orange trays, a Whataburger employee sidled up to our table with a tray of dips, like a ketchup sommelier. We then got to luxuriate over our options, like ketchup princesses. I selected standard ketchup, spicy ketchup, and Picante sauce. Proof:
I ordered the jalapeno cheese burger. I’ll admit, I had my doubts.
The cheese was…there’s no other way to put this. American. AMERICAN?! OH, OH, OH, SORRY, Marie Antoinette, they forget to stock up on gruyere when they heard you were coming.
Roll your eyes if you want. Life is short. The last time I interacted with American cheese I was inebriated, craving depravity. Having discovered a few slices of my roommate’s in the fridge, I savored peeling them out of their plastic envelopes and throwing them against the wall, reveling in the SPLAT sound they made on impact. I stood back. admiring how humidity and corn syrup rendered their stick to the wall semi-permanent. I left them there for a few moments, smirking. Then I scraped them off with a spatula and fed them to squirrels.
My encounter with American cheese at Whataburger has not improved our relationship.
The french fries served alongside my #3 burger had the same stiff dimensions and shitty, conformist attitudes of McDonald’s fries. The beef patty had that mealy, softer-than-beef texture typically associated with Micky D’s. It doesn’t need to be chewed – If you hold still long enough, it’ll just absorb into the soft lining of your mouth. Even the onions were minced to match regulation-sized McDonald diced onion.
What set Whataburger apart was the Picante sauce, which turned out to be salsa, and pretty nifty salsa at that.
To be fair, I’m sure sobriety is not the right condition for experiencing Whataburger. After all, most (all?) locations are open 24 hours.
I should also add that I really enjoyed the ketchup delivery service. I’ve always thought ketchup pumps, with those fussy little paper thimbles, were a goddamn mess.
With Whataburger burgers still slithering through our digestive tracts, we went to the grocery, to purchase salad ingredients and baba ganoush.
But before I went back to being unbearably pretentious, I had almost exactly enough of the $10 left over for two pints of Blue Bell ice cream.
We ate the ice cream later that night, after watching some uncomfortable stand up at The Velveeta Lounge on west 6th. Dutch chocolate and cookie dough Blue Bell ice cream, eaten together out of a goblet meant for wine, equals opulence. O – P – U – L – E – N – C – E. Opulence.
Did I compare Whataburger to McDonald’s, unfavorably? Yes. Did I wake up in a cold sweat, craving salt and strange textures, like a newly initiated vampire? Also a yes. Happy Halloween!