Thursday, June 30, 2011

England - Where Cows Go Mad (Houston's)

Hickory Burger

Spending a semester studying abroad had always been one of the things I wish I had gotten the chance to do. I'm not quite sure what appeals so much to me about studying abroad; maybe it's because I've only traveled out of the country once in my life, and that was to Hong Kong way back when I was in high school (I don't count Canada as a different country; they are more like a wannabe-version of the US). I also like seeing new places and trying out new things, so I guess that's part of the appeal as well. However, my four years in college never afforded me the opportunity to go abroad for a semester. My first two years as an undergraduate were in Rutgers' School of Pharmacy, but because these "pre-professional" years are so intensive (they cram in General Biology, General Chemistry, Physics, Organic Chemistry, Calculus, etc. into four semesters), students aren't allowed to study abroad. And after I came to my senses and realized that I would die of boredom as a pharmacist, I transferred to Penn for my junior and senior years, but a graduation requirement was spending at least four full semesters on campus, so again, I couldn't leave campus.

Coming into medical school, I had looked up some information about NYU's International Health Program. It was a pretty big selling point for bringing me here, and I really relished having the opportunity to go to another country to partake in some sort of research project over the course of my first summer. Not only do I have the chance to get involved with research for the first time in my life (as an aside, I am pretty unusual in that I never did any sort of research prior to medical school) and have something really unique/interesting to put down on my CV, but I also finally have the chance to spend some meaningful time living in a different country. And I'm not gonna lie, getting the opportunity to do some traveling and sightseeing was another huge draw as well. 

So with all of this as the background for the present, here I am, one week and change into my nearly seven week stay in Cambridge, England. Prior to coming over here, I honestly knew very little about England other than what I gleaned from the news or from pop culture. So while I am aware of the identity of the pouting girl in the picture at William and Kate's wedding, I didn't know that Cambridge University is actually just a conglomeration of a bunch of universities rather than a single school. The stuff you learn when you travel! So, yeah, I'm pretty ignorant about what's going on in England. Something else that I learned about England over the years is that it had an epidemic of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), aka mad-cow disease. Without even going into how giving cow-derived feed to another cow just sounds terrible, I am especially unnerved by the long latency period of the disease and the fact that it is incurable. Plus, it just sounds like a really shitty way to die. While the British beef supply is likely much more tightly regulated these days and is probably 100% safe, I am too overly cautious to accept that, so I have pretty much sworn off of beef for the duration of my stay here in England. Likely an irrational fear, but in my mind, it's still a risk that's not worth taking.

Having anticipated this beef-free interval of my life, I consumed enough beef leading up to my departure to make a Hindu village cry. On the day prior to my flight to England, I went out to lunch at Houston's. While Houston's (it also goes by Hillstone in many other parts of the country) may be a national chain, it most definitely does not have the feel of one, as its ambiance and food don't give off the mass-production vibe that you would get from, say, a TGI Friday's or Applebee's. Houston's is also the home of one of my favorite burgers: the Hickory Burger. Sure, it's not an unadulterated burger, and burger purists may decry the inclusion of hickory (aka barbecue) sauce, but to hell with them, I love this burger. Topped with shredded cheddar, Canadian bacon, and diced onion, and served on a brioche bun, this burger is a thing of beauty. The cheese, while not melted when served, gets nice and gooey from the heat of the burger patty, which was cooked to the requested medium-rare and came with a good char and nice flavor. And the fries are simply superb - crispy shoestring fries that are entirely addicting to eat. At $15, this burger is definitely on the pricey side, but I think it's worth it.

Of course, while going beef-free for seven weeks kinda sucks, there's more to life than steaks and burgers. I'll write more about my exploits over here in later posts, but for now, I will continue having to experience the consumption of beef vicariously through watching my brother eat steaks as we Skype.

181 Riverside Square Mall
Hackensack, NJ 07601

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