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Filler: Nanny staters invade N.C., and get to order the rare, rare burger

The Southern Crunch burger at The Liberty in

The Southern Crunch burger at The Liberty in Charlotte, N.C. Credit: Photo by Walt Handelsman

Democrats, the nation’s pre-eminent guardians of the nanny state, began arriving in Charlotte for their national convention Saturday, just as North Carolina restaurants regained the right to serve the delicious medium-rare and rare burgers that can, on occasion, sicken or kill.

They can even serve them with 128-ounce Mountain Dew Mega Monster Gulps.

Burgercide is rarer than a pound of freshly ground chuck. According to the Centers For Disease Control, there were an average of about 100 fatalities per year from E.coli in the United States between 1981 and 2010, not all of them food-borne. There are about 54 deaths from lightning strikes in this nation annually, and a lot more people (all, in fact) eat food than frolic outdoors during thunderstorms.

Regardless, North Carolina outlawed burgers served in restaurants at an internal temperature of lower than 155 degrees in hysterical response to the 1993 outbreak of E.coli caused by food served at Jack in the Box, which killed four children.

Many other states did the same. I was in South Carolina in 1993 when that state passed its rare-burger ban, and I was struck by the irony of it.

In South Carolina you can drive a motorcycle down the street, helmetless, while sucking raw, potentially disease-infused oysters from the shell, but from 1993 until a couple of years ago, you couldn’t get a little red in your Double Deluxe. You still can’t if you are under 18. There’s a lot of legal ways to risk life in limb there, and everywhere, but when people die and television news anchors can intone, “Are your children safe?” silly laws sometimes get passed.

In North Carolina, retail establishments can sell you cigarettes — a fact I whole-heartedly (and heart-diseasedly) approve of — alcohol, guns, ammunition, deep-fried sticks of butter, but, until Saturday, not a properly juicy patty.

The re-legalization of the yummyburger was hailed by foodies, and a restaurant called The Liberty celebrated by offering theirs at half-price all weekend to customers who ordered true rare.
Your intrepid reporter headed to The Liberty Monday. I didn’t get the half-price deal (I tried, boss, I swear) because Labor Day is apparently not part of the “weekend,” but I did get a bumping burger. It was the “Southern Crunch,” a massive patty-and-bun adventure loaded with pimento cheese, jalapenos, bacon and potato chips, recently voted “Best Burger in Charlotte.” And it was a five-napkin bun-and-patty marriage of the best sort. By the time I finished (every bit of 90 seconds after I started) I was covered in more blood than a vampire on date night.

Andrea, our server, said the burger trade has been brisk since Saturday. She also admitted, via eye gestures and what might have been a wink, that customers had always been able to get theirs cooked to less than 155 degrees if they knew how to ask.

Perhaps something like, “If you turn my burger into a charred hockey puck, I’m going to weep, wail, gnash my teeth and tear out my hair on your bar,” did the trick.

In the scheme of things, rare burgers aren’t a big deal. But the hysterical and arbitrary nature of nanny state laws is. In New York City right now, a ban on the sale of sugary soft drinks over 16 ounces at certain retail establishments is being debated, and the biggest supporters are the same knee-jerk liberals who, in my experience, think marijuana should be decriminalized.


Everything we can do that doesn’t directly hurt another person should be legal. Drugs, liquor, prostitution, gambling, steak tartare, wearing plaid with stripes. Life is less complicated if you’re consistent -- and more fun if you favor sin.

Believing that, I particularly enjoyed eating my juicy delight as Charlotte filled with Democrats, at least some of whom believe trans fats, fatty meat, potato chips, tanning, baby formula, cigarettes and anything that endangers anything, with the exception of pot, abortions and subtly naughty chardonnays with oaky finishes, must be banned.

Now I’m off to the convenience store, where I’m hoping there’s a 128-ounce Mountain Dew Mega Monster Gulp with my name on it.