By Drew Hayden Taylor
Originally published in Oct. 2012
There was a fine mess cooking up in Toronto. It had to do with food. It also had to do with oddly titled food and some owners of a restaurant that seemed blissfully ignorant of certain elements of Canadian history and the racism that often tags along with it.
Still, they should have known, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. It was the issue de jour in the Twitterverse, Facebook, and chat rooms of Canada. One thing that’s become obvious now is that it just might be possible to slap a human rights charge on a hamburger!
But first some context.
There is a small restaurant somewhere in Toronto that, in its infinite wisdom, thought it might be fun, interesting and profitable to create a unique and original hamburger and christen it the ‘Dirty Drunken Halfbreed burger’.
Doesn’t that just make your mouth water? I mean, we’ve all been in other eateries that frequently name sandwiches and various other meals after people, usually famous stars. And there are those foods that are one of those numerous exceptions of a more national nature. I mean I’ve personally had German, polish and Italian sausages, Hungarian goulash, French fries, English muffins, Swedish meatballs, Jamaican patties, Greek salad, and of course Canadian bacon.
For the last seven months, Holy Chuck Burgers was promoting their new hamburger. Famous for many of their other unusually named gastronomic feasts, like ‘The Farmer’s Threesome’ (three different kinds of meat patties) and the ‘Greek bahahastard,’ featuring a lamb patty with Greek feta, the Indigenously named sandwich seemed to have unexpectedly set the kitchen on fire.
Named the ‘Dirty Drunken Halfbreed’ because 1) it’s very messy, 2) there is a small amount of alcohol in the veal cheek chili topping and 3) the meat is a mixture of half cured bacon and beef. Thus the name ‘Dirty Drunken Halfbreed’.
Oddly enough, it was only in the last while that the odour of the name became noticeable. Needless to say, the Metis Nations and many Canadians were not amused, while surprisingly there were several who were not amused with those who were not amused.
Responses ranged quite broadly. “You should be charged with a hate crime.”
“Happy to hear you’ve removed the offensive burger from your menu, but what are you going to do to make it right?”
“…keep it up boys and don’t let the PC police worry you.”
“Political Correctness does not solve the problem. It just breeds revulsion and drives everything underground which is a lot more damaging.”
“This is not racial but just a joke, because it targets no specific ethnic group of people.”
Pam Palmater disagrees with that last comment. She’s holds the chair at Ryerson University in Indigenous Government and says “the term ‘half-breed’, if you look it up in just about any dictionary, is really a negative, disparaging and offensive term used to describe people of mixed ancestry, specifically people of mixed Indigenous and non-Indigenous ancestry. Now add dirty and drunken to the term half-breed and it takes it to a much higher level in terms of the level of insult that you’re talking about.” Point taken.
At various times in my life I have been admittedly dirty, once or twice drunk, and have always been considered a half breed, but I never felt a need or desire to have it immortalized in a cuisine. Especially something like a hamburger. If necessary, why not a fine pasta or even better, an excellent wine? A nice red that had a hint of earthiness (dirty), higher than average alcohol content, maybe a 12 or 14 per cent (drunken), and is a mixture of merlot and pinot noir (halfbreed). But no, it’s the lowly hamburger.
Personally I feel sorry for the owners of the Holy Chuck hamburger. Being of Greek ancestry, they say they had no idea it was a derogatory term and were surprised at the virulent reaction. They claimed innocence and pointed out that within an hour of finding this out, the offending sandwich was immediately removed. Objectively, the hamburger’s name seems so over the top that it’s difficult to believe something this obvious and tasteless (no pun intended) would intentionally be marketed by a business that survives and thrives on good public relations and word of mouth. I don’t think it’s a front for the KKK.
On the positive side, the hamburger no longer exists, and these restaurant owners have learned something new. Don’t mess with the halfbreeds, dirty or drunken.
Finally, just remember, you are what you eat.
Doesn’t Harvey’s have a hamburger called ‘the Great Canadian?”