I have eaten some of these creations, and I've enjoyed them. Burgers with portobello mushrooms and blue cheese, green-chile cheeseburgers (a magnificent New Mexican version), fresh-herb-infused cheeseburgers.

All of these were memorable burger experiences. (Obviously, or I wouldn't be remembering them.)

But they are, in the end, flights of fancy. I've been known to go on a good fancy flight every now and again. But when I come home, it's always to the basic burger.

My version of the basic burger is one that is big enough to cook rare, if you choose, but not so big that it becomes a meatloaf. Personally, I've never been that crazy for the half-pounder. I did eat one in Amarillo that was in the shape of Texas and took up almost as much land mass. But I prefer a good six-ounce burger, shaped round and high, not flat. And I like it with extra-sharp cheddar. And I like that cheddar melted just so - not so melted that it's thinned out, but without any sign of chunkiness either.

A slice of pasteurized cheese is fine, too. Keeps things simple. And simplicity - splashing in a pool and resting in a lawn chair and going out to the ballgame - is what summer is all about.

I don't know that there is a simple pleasure greater in life than munching on a well-cooked burger. Note I didn't say a burger cooked well. To me, a burger must be medium-rare. But that's me. Regardless of how it's cooked, everybody loves a great burger. Even vegetarians. Otherwise, Burger King wouldn't have introduced its new veggie burger.



Before the invention of the burger, there was no summer. Oh, they had hot temperatures and lakes to swim in, but they didn't have summer in the way it has come to be known: backyard barbecue get-togethers scenting the neighborhood air with cooking meat.