It took me right up until it was time to cook them to understand that Barbie’s pot of burgers was a kind of sloppy joe and not a magical dish where hamburger patties are braised to tangy, juicy excellence in a kind of olive-tomato stew. If I had realized that these “burgers” were not cooked in what I think of as burger form, I would have been much less enthusiastic in my recommendation that we include them in our last cooking adventure. And that would have been sad. Because, y’all. The pot of burgers is really good.
I think it was the olives. I’ve never had a sloppy joe with olive in it before. (I don’t know if I’ve had a sloppy joe at all since I’ve turned, I don’t know, twelve, but that’s beside the point.) It also could be due to the fact that Donna and I blatantly ignored Barbie’s instructions and used tomato paste instead of ketchup. It’s nice to have access to ingredients beyond what would have been available to a child in the 60s.
Pot of Burgers
- 2 tablespoons shortening (Do you ever buy shortening? I don’t. But we did!)
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 cup celery, chopped
- 1 pound ground beef, lean
- generous sprinkles of salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup tomato paste (or ketchup, if you’re Barbie.)
- 1 can condensed tomato soup
- 1/4 cup sliced olives
- 4 hamburger buns
Prepare the chopped ingredients – onions, celery, and olives if you bought them whole.
Melt the shortening in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are browned (about 5 minutes).
Add the ground beef, salt, and pepper. Cook the beef, breaking it into smaller pieces as it cooks. Continue to cook until browned.
Add the tomato paste and the tomato soup (“straight from the can,” says Barbie.) Lower heat and let simmer for five minutes. Do not boil.
Let everyone who doesn’t like olives dish theirs up and then…
Add the sliced olives. Simmer for another 2 minutes.
Toast hamburger buns under the broiler. Remove and plate them.
Spoon a good sized helping of burger onto the bun. Cover with top halves. Serve and eat.
-Adapted from Barbie’s Easy-As-Pie Cookbook
Sloppy joes are weirdly gendered for a food. Commercials in my childhood called them “manwiches” and promised that (unlike a dainty, girly sandwich I guess) a manwich was a meal. Hopefully the manwich isn’t a thing anymore (is it?), but it seems likely that the idea of sloppy joes as Boy Food was around in Barbie’s day. At any rate, they’re the star dish in our chapter’s frame story, involving Ken’s tragically rained out birthday picnic. Barbie calls her Pot of Burgers, “the kind of hearty food that boys like,” adding, “It’s fun to cook for Ken and Allan. They enjoy food so.”
I am not sure that Donna’s husband enjoyed the pot of burgers particularly more so than we did. (He also didn’t remark on our efforts to recreate the festive indoor picnic decorations that Barbie and Midge assembled to stave off Ken’s disappointment.) And we never get to learn how Ken and Allan reacted to either the Pot of Burgers or the sunny centerpiece of easter grass, paper daisies, and fruit since the story ends before they arrive. I can can confirm one thing, though. I did enjoy the hell out of these, and it will be fun to make them again. For me.