Toronto Life’s Eating and Drinking magazine is my bible. It is leafed through, dog-eared, scribbled in and crinkled as I spend a year constantly referencing it and making choices about food. This year’s cover features “The Better Mac” from This End Up.
The Better Mac features fresh ground chuck patties, special sauce, lettuce, choice of American or cheddar cheese, pickles and sweet onion. There was never a question about the combination of ingredients on a Big Mac and whether or not they work together. They obviously do: secret sauce, cheese, lettuce and the double bun.
Secret Sauce: The best part of a Big Mac is the secret sauce. Anything secret automatically tastes better because there is a forbidden quality to it, a never-again attainable moment when you taste deliciousness that you don’t know if you will ever be able to have again. Then there is that moment where it clicks that Mac sauce is obviously 1000 Island dressing, and yet, that doesn’t make it taste any more simple and basic. Mac sauce makes you realize that burgers do not need to be topped with ketchup and that there is an endless possibility of toppings for your burger. Aiolis, chutneys, and spreads are just the beginning on a whole new burger.
Cheese: Despite loving food and my favourite food being cheese, I still eat Kraft Singles. I can’t help it. They are delicious and nostalgic. When I make my own burgers I usually top them with this terrible product. Because of my love for this fake cheese, this has never been a problem for me while eating fast food. The low quality of cheese has never been my sticking point or issue.
Lettuce: My love for Kraft Singles is similar to my love for iceberg lettuce. Although there is almost no flavour or nutrition from iceberg lettuce, I love it. I like how crunchy it is and how refreshing it is to eat. I love it on burgers, tacos and salad. It is the only lettuce I would eat solo. Iceberg lettuce is the only choice for a burger. Everything else has too much vegetable flavour and takes away from the fatty, greasy deliciousness that is a burger.
Double Bun: The double bun truly is a thing of genius. You are essentially eating two burgers but because there is only 1 ½ buns you don’t feel as guilty or glutinous. It doesn’t overwhelm the burger and its topping but serves as a platform for them. It helps create the balance between burger and topping, giving structure and support to the heaviness.
If the above is my love sonnet for the Big Mac, a burger I have eaten on less than 5 occasions, then obviously the Better Mac was going to be just that, better. The science behind the Big Mac is flawless and when you recreate it using high quality, real ingredients the result will be better. The above statements on the ingredients prove truer for the Better Mac. The sauce is better, a homemade style secret sauce, the cheese doesn’t perfectly crease when folded as it is not mostly plastic, the lettuce is as high quality as you can get with iceberg and the bun is actually a bun, not something that has been smushed into bread-shaped submission. However, while eating this, I slightly missed my Big Mac. When I eat a gourmet burger, I want something different; I don’t want to recreate something I can get in almost every country in the world. This is not a slight to the burger. It was delicious but it wasn’t special. I won’t crave it. I won’t want to eat it again. All there is to it is that it is a better Big Mac.One thing I will give it credit for, unlike a Big Mac, the Better Mac does look like it’s photo: