Comparing food to crack cocaine is tone deaf, inaccurate, and classist. Creating stunt burgers—beef patties surrounded by deep-fried Twinkies, for instance—is a hackneyed affront to everything a burger should be. So, on the surface, a “Crack Pepper Burger” invented by a Canadian restaurateur to poke fun at Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s drug-use scandal—as reported by the Canadian Press this week—looks like a very bad development indeed.
But Rob Ford’s “tribute hamburger,” as Grub Street called it, is not nearly as tasteless as it sounds. (“Tasteless” in the sense of “offensive,” that is; not living in or near Regina, Saskatchewan, I can’t vouch for how delicious it is.) That’s because Nicky’s Café, the inventor of the Crack Pepper Burger, is making a pun rather than implying that the sandwich has addictive qualities similar to those of crystalline cocaine. The name of the dish stems from a homonym: “Crack” refers both to the drug Mayor Ford was caught on video smoking, and to the action that renders peppercorns edible. It is, in other words, yet another example of a small business keeping the pun alive and well.
Even better, the Crack Pepper Burger does not invoke crack as some abstract symbol of gratification the way, say, Momofuku Milk Bar’s Crack Pie does. It alludes to the fact that Rob Ford actually, indisputably smoked crack! Nicky’s Café is poking fun at one embarrassing public figure, not making a joke at the expense of crack addicts worldwide.
Finally, unlike the aforementioned Twinkie burger and its ilk, the Crack Pepper Burger sounds pretty good. Black pepper gets along famously with beef—consider steak au poivre—and, in addition to the cracked pepper, the Crack Pepper Burger contains three tried and true burger toppings: mushrooms, onions, and cheese.
I’m not saying the Crack Pepper Burger is a brilliant bit of political satire or a culinary masterpiece. But as foods named after drugs go, it’s in pretty good taste.