the uncanny veggie burger

Am I the only one who prefers cool and intermittently rainy days to almost anything else? Being self employed is usually just really scary and stressful but today (Monday the 4th) I slept in until 9:30, made coffee, and now I’m sitting at my kitchen table listening to the rain. I’m also listening to CocoRosie - a really cool group that my partner introduced me to. I’ve actually only listened to their album Grey Oceans, but I really love it and plan on listening to more of their work eventually. If you haven’t heard them, they construct these soundscapes often out of a lot of found sounds augmented by drum machines. One of the sisters has a really classically beautiful voice - she would probably be a great mezzo. The other sister in the group does something that I might compare to rap but that’s really not accurate. She sings in this very strained voice that kind of reminds me of the voice a child uses when they’re being possessed in a horror movie.


Movies are actually what I wanted to talk about. I love going to the movies! I love going to see bad movies just as much as I love going to see good ones. Going to see a movie is a very truly democratic experience. The experiences of others around you filter and contextualize your own experience. What I mean is this: Last year I went to see Mother. (Stay tuned for a post about Darren Aronofsky is the greatest living director). Mother is an amazing film on its own. I think the way that it captures pure energy is astonishing. Aronofsky is a master of building tension and releasing it in the most uncomfortable way. Just typing about it I’m getting chills. I want to watch this movie all the time. If you haven’t seen this movie here’s the spoilers. Jennifer Lawrence moves into a new house with her husband who is a famous poet. He actually grew up in this house but it burnt down and now they’re rebuilding it together. This house is huge and is in the middle of nowhere. He has this weird crystal thing that has flames inside of it that’s he’s very protective of and he’s also kind of a dick to her. So this guy just shows up at their house one day and Jennifer’s husband who is kind of fluffy (he’s the kind of guy who talks a lot about the “magic of lovemaking” or shit like that) invites him to stay in. New guy then invites his wife in and Jennifer Lawrence wants them to leave because they’re just kind of bad guests. Then their kids show up and get into a fight and one of them actually kills the other in a Cain / Abel situation. Then the husband lets them have the funeral at their house and way too many people show up and they destroy the place. Jennifer Lawrence flips out and makes them leave. Fast forward like a year or something and Jennifer is pregnant and that inspired hubby to write a new book which sells a whole ton of copies as soon as its released. So she wants to make a special dinner for him but then all of his fans show up at the house and he invites them in and they start destroying the place. Here’s where things go ABSOLUTELY HAYWIRE really quickly. I think this sequence was MAYBE 10 minutes long? It starts as just a party celebrating this great poet, right? Soon people decide they should start stealing things from the house because they’ll probably be worth a lot someday. More and more people keep showing up and some people start to regard the poet as God and they start to worship him. Every room has people experiencing this religious fervor in a different way. Eventually a full out religious war breaks out. There’s gunfire and explosions and one sect starts executing people right in the living room. SWAT team shows up and they’re killed by terrorists. Jennifer goes and hides in her husbands writing room and he goes in there with her. Now she’s in labor and she gives birth. Things quiet down outside the room because everyone realizes that the equivalent to Jesus is being born. So Jennifer Lawrence falls asleep and her husband takes the baby outside to show to everyone. Then he lets the baby crowdsurf across everyone over to the priests who then proceed to kill and eat the baby. Jennifer Lawrence (understandably) is pissed off and goes into the basement and blows up the house. At this point it’s revealed that her husband is actually God (?) and he picks up her burnt body and reverses time and they just try it all again.


Okay so that’s the movie. Here’s what I’m getting at. This was marketed as a horror movie. There’s no way around it. The trailer makes it seem like her husband invites a cult into their house and then they do some creepy shit. There’s even creepy string music in the trailer! So I went on opening night knowing that Aronofsky was probably not going to make a cut and dry horror film but it was pretty obvious that everyone else in the theater was expecting The Omen or whatever. So as things in the movie got weirder and weirder I could feel everyone around me getting more and more uncomfortable. We had a real community experience. Theirs was framed by seeing something they really didn’t expect. Mine was framed by knowing that I was going to get something I didn’t expect but also getting to watch a bunch of people either get their minds blown or just get angry that they weren’t watching a slasher.


Movies for me are this really great community experience. I love the whole thing. My partner and I go to the movies 2-3 times a month and honestly if we made more money we would go a few times a week. Watching movies at home is lots of fun too but it’s like listening to the record when you can go see the band. It’s a different experience.


Which leads me to last weekend. We went to see Book Club. Book Club was marketed as sort of a sex romp where four aging women discover Fifty Shades. That’s not really what it was. I was expecting something a little more nuanced about our expectations of the lives of the elderly, especially women. That expectation was based on an interview I listened to with Mary Steenburgen about it but it wasn’t really that either. It was really just four women vaguely finding love. Jane Fonda learns that it’s okay to not always a be a no nonsense businesswomen and have a little fun. Mary Steenburgen tries to drug her husband because he won’t sleep with her but then they come to an understanding and dance to a Meatloaf song. Candice Bergen learns how to online date and somehow DOESN’T END UP WITH WALLACE SHAWN?! And Diane Keaton starts dating this cool pilot. What was really fun about going to see this movie is not that it was a very good movie. I mean, it was fine. I wouldn’t watch it again but I’m glad I did. I will say that I think it’s important that a movie exists that starts not just one, but FOUR older women - they are all white but that might be a topic for a different essay (this one IS supposed to be about veggie burgers by the way). Anyway, what was fun about going to see this movie is that everyone else in the room was probably over the age of 50 AND ABSOLUTELY FUCKING LOVED THIS MOVIE. If I watched this at home I probably would have played tetris on my computer while it was on and not really paid any attention. But at the movie theater every joke got a huge laugh and that made it more fun. I guess depending on which way you look at it movie theaters are actually very fascist but I still had a good time.


Why is this called The Uncanny Veggie Burger? I’ll tell you! We didn’t see Book Club at any old movie theater. This wasn’t some chump ass AMC. This was Chunky’s. Never heard of Chunky’s before? That’s because there’s only a couple of them and they’re all in New Hampshire or Northeastern Massachusetts and they’re awesome. And when I saw they’re awesome I really mean they suck but they suck in the way that food at a bowling alley isn’t very good but it’s still fun to eat. What happens at Chunky’s is that they have tables and big chairs they took out of cars and they’ll come serve you food while you watch the movie. They even give you this little buzzer thing (like the ones they give you at a restaurant when you’re waiting for a table and it buzzes when it’s ready) that lights up. So you can just press the button on it when you want a waiter to come by. The food isn’t that great but it’s a silly novel experience and I kind of love it.


So there we are watching Book Club and drinking root beer and having a grand old time and I say, “Hey they have veggie burgers here. Let’s have one.” So I press the button and the buzzer lights up and the waiter comes by and I order a veggie burger with no cheese and some onion rings and he turns the lights on the buzzer off and he goes to the kitchen and he comes back to my table and he puts the plate down in front of me and he walks away and I lift the bun up to spray some of that sweet ketchup on it when I notice that this particular veggie burger looks suspiciously like beef. I haven’t had meat in about 10 years now and I’m sure eating some would make me pretty sick. I inspect the patty. It looks and feels a lot like meat. Just to be sure I press the button on the buzzer because I would really like some confirmation that this isn’t meat. Nobody comes by for 45 minutes and this is when I realize the fundamental flaw in the Chunky’s system. I always imagined that when you press the button there’s a computer in a back room with a dispatcher who’s telling waiters, “NUMBER 26 JUST WENT OFF! GET OUT THERE PRONTO!” But what actually happens is that waiters just walk into the theater looking for lights. Well if no one comes in (and why would they come in to check on a bunch of old women and a 25 year old watching Book Club) then they don’t know if anyone wants anything! At this point I’ll spare you the part where I complain about a specific business and my experience and how I complained to the manager and got some free tickets which I’ll probably just use this weekend anyway and get to my point here.








I get it, okay? These companies are trying to make something that resembles meat in the hope of making new converts feel a little more comfortable. But this also creates an actual and kind of strange problem for us vegans and vegetarians where we don’t actually know if what we’re eating is what we’re being told it is. When you have a specific diet and you see a menu that actually has something you can eat on it, it feels like a gift from God. When you have to then ask someone a few times if it’s actually vegan or whatever you start to feel stupid. But I actually don’t think it’s that far fetched to imagine a situation where a veggie burger looks so much like a real one that a waiter doesn’t actually know what they’re serving.


So I say let’s take these uncanny veggie burgers and put them in the trash heap of history with Jar Jar Binks.