Burgers are food, not people

Published: October 2, 2010

Look carefully, and think hard is this a burger or a bun kebab?

Among the many confusions that prevail in the minds of ordinary citizens these days, I find myself bothered by a a niggling question – what is the difference between a bun kebab and a burger.

Is there even a difference or are they actually the same?

I’ve been fond of both sandwiches since I was a child and until recently did not notice that the differences between the two have started to decrease over the years.

A few days ago on the way back from work I was craving something to eat. I stopped at a bun kebab stall and asked the cook to make a saada bun kebab. He repeated my order to confirm that he understood but his tone signified a sense of disgust and admonishment as he said:

“Aap ne aik ‘burger’ ka kaha hai, na?’” or “You mean you want a  ‘burger’, right?”

I immediately realised I had made some kind of a mistake which had offended the other person. Passively, I nodded my head in the affirmative.

While eating my ‘burger’ that evening at home, I became conscious of the gastronomic evolution that had silently turned bun kebabs in to burgers (or is it the way around?). I tried to recall the stages of this evolution and established some key stages.

You are what you eat: Some time back, if you’d find someone asking for a burger at a bun kebab wala the people around you would start laughing and called you ‘Mummy Daddy.’ In the exact opposite of this scenario if you ordered a bun kebab at a fast food outlet you would still hear the laughter but this time you would be termed a maila.

The fancy bun kebab: Then came the time when the shape of the conventional bun kebab transformed to a take on a round shape from what was an elongated capsule like bun. This was a major shift as far as the evolution was concerned. The older capsule version is still popular though.

The name switch: Finally, the name change took place. Now we wander in an era of perplexity. Has the bun kebab taken a step forward or is it the burger that has moved back a step?  Whichever way we see it the situation is quite bizarre. The average consumer is no longer average. At least he doesn’t sound average anymore. All he needs is a slice of egg-coated meat placed between two pieces of bread with mayonnaise spread over it, a slice of onion, tomato and cucumber (fries optional) and he is just another ‘burger’.

If we place our society between two slices of bread, the evolution makes sense. Like the bun kebab our society has evolved too and this change has gone unnoticed by many. Gaps that divided us seem to have narrowed but in reality, the opposite has happened. We remain different as burgers and bun kebabs –  but maybe that’s not different at all.


Hammad Mateen

The author is a mechanical engineer, education management professional and freelance writer working in the social sector, he tweets as @hammadmateen (twitter.com/hammadmateen)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ghausia

    Heh, this was a fun read. I never failed to be amused by people terming me a burger for my liberal anarchist ideas, and others terming me a bunkebab because my dad doesn’t let me go out with friends in the evenings. Oh woe is me, I’ve spent my entire life confused about who I am, since apparently my identity is shaped according to moronic stereotypes created by God knows whom, I suspect either some very stoned or very farigh individuals. The country’s self-destructing and that’s all people are worried about? Ridiculous. Great writeup dude.Recommend

  • http://shirazhassan.blogspot.com Shiraz Hassan

    oh dear!!!
    I found this article very interestingRecommend

  • http://www.TheIdeaArtist.com Umair Kazi

    As cliche as it sounds, I’m going to say it..
    Food for thought! Especially the last paragraph. Good insight, Hammad.Recommend

  • parvez

    Brilliant, absolutely first class.
    And now the bun kebab and the burger can look at each other and laugh – real nice.Recommend

  • Hamza A. Khan

    First class write up. First Blog I’ve ever read on here after which I didn’t think I could write something better.Recommend

  • http://natashasuleman.wordpress.com Natasha

    ‘Different’ indeed. Keep it up!Recommend

  • http://habloid.wordpress.com Habiba Younis

    very nice, keep it up!Recommend

  • Asad Hasnain
  • rana

    Sociologically speaking – what are french fries?Recommend

  • Ghausia

    @Rana something to do with ultra liberals that support secularism and call for burqa bans and/or support them I bet lol. While we’re on the topic, what’s ketchup then?Recommend

  • http://hammadmateen.wordpress.com Hammad Mateen

    Thank you so very much for the feedback everyone.
    I really appreciate it.Recommend

  • http://hammadmateen.wordpress.com Hammad Mateen

    Ketchup, by the way, is the thick sauce of tradition which provides the hypocritic taste when blended with religion.Recommend

  • farhan

    Excellent , its always a pleasure to read your articles.Recommend

  • Kiran Zaidi

    nicely putRecommend

  • Ghausia

    lol okay so what kind of people qualify as ketchup?Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/143/taha-kerar/ Taha Kehar

    Although the topic was extremely formulaic, you managed to address the key issues in an immensely original way. Recommend

  • Aqeel Ahmed

    Uh…I did not read your full article…but the title gave away your utter lack of etymological knowledge and that you did not bother to research at all. The term that you spell as “Burger” is actually “Burgher.” A mere glance at the dictionary meaning should explain its usage. Its not food, its an actual reference to a class of individuals with specific attitudes. The term is part of our colonial heritage and has carried more spark in socialist/communist circles. Your article seems redundant if not absurd…Recommend

  • http://hammadmateen.wordpress.com Hammad Mateen

    We just need to step into our kitchens to find this ketchup (I mean, people who qualify for being called this ‘ketchup’ exist within our homes.) Now don’t ask me what ‘kitchen’ stands for. ;) lolzRecommend

  • Saad Durrani

    A bun kebab is bun & kebab separate with chutney and salad. A burger is however, assembled.Recommend

  • http://hammadmateen.wordpress.com Hammad Mateen

    @Aqeel Ahmed:
    maybe you should read the full article in that case. :)
    Your comments are valuable even though you’ve judged the book by the cover.
    Thank you!Recommend

  • Ghausia

    No no no you’ve opened a Pandora’s box here tell me tell me tell me what does the kitchen stand for? :P Oh it doesn’t mean my mom does it? My mom’s nice!Recommend

  • http://hammadmateen.wordpress.com Hammad Mateen

    lol… I haven’t met your Mom so I can’t comment on that :P but yes, at times it can be Moms. Haha .. Where’s all this going? :SRecommend

  • http://ahandfulofdust.wordpress.com/ Mariam

    I remember when I once said “chips” and a friend of mine corrected me, “you mean french fries” : DRecommend

  • Ghausia

    We’re building up the Pakistani stereotypes, all we have are burgers and bunkebabs lol.Recommend

  • Sarah B. Haider

    That was truly an interesting read. Something good for a change. Keep up the good work!Recommend

  • Shayan Afzal Khan

    Great article, Hammad! Just one small mistake – critical in the understanding of the true bun kebab/burger debate – the real karachi bun kebab is essentially vegetarian – aalo aur daal kee tikiya, with haree chutney, and with or without anda. and is almost always best consumed standing next to the thela that you order it at – all chapta, garam, and glistening with having been pressed against the tavaa.

    A burger – well, the only acceptable burger for us Karachi-ites is the Hanifia one, with their delicious mustard sauce (although I prefer their hunter beef fry myself). Its those Mummy Daddies who actually prefer Mcdonalds and the like that are doomed to remain Burgers all their life!Recommend

  • Moeen

    Hammad, a good to read and a morning laugh in the office :)Recommend

  • Waqas

    A bit sad…poor bun kebab is losing the battle, despite of having served the masses for so many years, its getting no love.Recommend

  • Youcanthandlethetruth

    I’m really very happy to see someone not lash out at burgers or bun kebabs. A well written and extremely well articulated piece.Recommend