One year my dad decided to open up a restaurant. The place went through a few changes and suddenly I, along with a couple of my younger brothers, ended up running the operation.
Considering I was 17 and my two brothers were younger, the restaurant business was not exactly a natural for us. To provide only the best in fast food to the people of Attawapiskat we produced hand-cut fries. Now hand-cut fries don’t drop out of the sky or grow on trees. I can recall peeling 50-pound bags of potatoes and cutting them to prepare for a day of sales. Our fresh-cut fries were always in demand but none of us boys looked forward to the chore of making them.
We also had burgers. My mom Susan produced the homemade patties (with her secret ingredients) that kept them coming back for more. On any given day, for about a year back then, I and my brothers Joe and Paul cranked out some very high-quality fast food.
We were always endeavouring to provide the perfect hamburger and some of our inventions were pretty darn good. Of course, our friends were always happy to taste-test our creations.
I recall creating the onion ring burger with lettuce, tomato, handmade meat patty (with mom’s secret ingredients) onion rings, mustard, relish and ketchup on a sesame seed bun.
By god we were the McKataquapits of Attawapiskat there for a while. We created all kinds of combinations. There was also the potato burger, which was a concoction of fresh-cut fries, mozzarella cheese, mom’s handmade patties (with her secret ingredients), tomato, lettuce, bacon, mustard, relish and ketchup on a sesame seed bun. It was a big hit with our friends too.
We had everything going for us, with unique high-quality burgers and fresh-cut fries. To make sure we had all the bases covered our menu also featured fill-your-gut poutines, stacked high club houses, chicken fingers and chicken nuggets to die for, glorious hot dogs and even a full T-bone steak dinner with all the trimmings.
For a while we catered to early morning traffic in Attawapiskat for the person on the go. That meant eggs, fried anyway you like them, hashbrowns, toast and coffee all for one low price. Regretfully, we had to rise with the sun to serve our early birds. Now you have to remember we weren’t in downtown Toronto, Winnipeg or Vancouver. We were located right in the heart of downtown Attawapiskat with a population of somewhere around 2,000 people. That fact meant we didn’t exactly have a ton of people at our doorstep everyday, well not in numbers anyway.
In addition, being the generous people we Kataquapits are, we never turned a hungry soul away and anyone who ordered a basic menu got topped up with a deluxe just because it felt like the right thing to do. Our friends and family members ate like kings. I never ate so much grease in my life.
The only complication or obstacle that kept us from building an empire, based on our fabuluous fast food, was the fact that we weren’t making any money. Now to most entrepreneurs this would be a critical problem but to us it was merely an irritation. One thing for sure we had all the right ingredients for the perfect hamburger if not the perfect fast-food restaurant. It just didn’t really matter a whole lot to us whether or not we made a bunch of money or not.
Needless to say the McKataquapit restaurant chain never did get off the ground. Still, those days of chasing the perfect hamburger were special to me. At one point it seemed as though half the community was coming through our doors during the day. We were cutting, peeling, frying, boiling and cooking as fast as we could. There were small orders, medium orders and orders for entire families. We could hardly keep up. It seemed as though our lives revolved around the bubbling grease in the fast-food fryer. At first it was only family members and close friends that got the special treatment but after a while we were topping up everybody’s basic meal to the deluxe version just for the hang of it.
I wonder sometimes if it had been another time and another place would we have created the perfect hamburger? Then again maybe the perfect hamburger was one that anybody could afford.