I was sitting at a table at Pop's Burgers and Grill on Saturday, waiting for a couple of my co-workers, when it hit me:
Hamburgers, particularly great ones like we've been eating all summer at DFW.com, could be the key to solving our country's problems.
If they had only locked Congress in a room with a tray full of Pop's bacon cheeseburgers, the debt-ceiling debate would have never gone down to the wire the way it did.
The NFL labor crisis would have been solved in seconds if Fredburgers had a place at the negotiating table.
And if the concession stands at Houston's Reliant Stadium had served In-N-Out's Double-Doubles, animal style, Rick Perry and his flock would have had to admit that their prayers had been answered.
Never underestimate the healing power of the hamburger.
Perhaps that sounds silly, but 30-plus triple-digit days in North Texas and all that economic uncertainty in Washington have been a bit more bearable because each week I knew I'd be getting together with friends and colleagues to tear into two, three or four terrific burgers. At the very least, DFW.com's Battle of the Burgers has been a tasty distraction.
But it has also been a call to action for us to get out and experience some of the ingenuity of grill chefs in North Texas. Along the way, a hungry community of readers has joined us in this pursuit.
At Charley's, my fellow judges and I met a man who had traveled from Keller to check out the Fort Worth burger shack. He had another burger excursion planned the next day for Chop House in Arlington. At Pop's, we met a Dutch's fan who told us he may have just discovered his new favorite. In my own tasting adventures, I found new appreciation for an old friend (Love Shack) and a reason to regularly venture to Southlake (Johnny B's).
Now, I'm not suggesting that anyone eat four burgers a week to forget their troubles. But an undertaking like the Burger Bracket does not allow for apathy. It demands that you engage in the process and get passionate about it.
That, I'd say, is the enduring lesson of our summer of burgering: Don't wait to get involved. Don't just take somebody else's word for it. Experience things and judge for yourself.
How else can you be part of the conversation?
That doesn't mean we'll all agree. When we judged Chop House versus Charley's in the Final Four, eight of us spent 45 impassioned minutes arguing for our favorite. The debate was heated, to say the least, and not just because it took place at a picnic table outside in 100-degree temperatures.
But in the end, we all felt good about the process and, ultimately, our decision.
So as the Burger Battle comes to a close, I am certainly glad to be getting back to a less extreme eating regimen. But I will miss the weekly thrill of discovery and competition it provided. And I'll miss the intense, drawn-out discussions I've had with friends and readers about it.
Amid the distractions of daily life, and the fractured debate in our country, we found common ground with that most democratic of dishes: the hamburger. Long may it grill.