Sunflower seeds and soy burgers were about all my stomach had seen for the past 24 hours, so by the time we pull up to Big River Services Centre outside of Fort Providence, I need some real food. The menu arrives and I give it a quick scan. I see ‘Big River Ultimate’ burger. It includes a hotdog and bacon. That’s all I need to know and I order one. (At Big River, the last gas-up before a long stretch back to Yellowknife, you’re able to swap any beef burger patty for bison. I think about it for oh, about a millisecond, and pull the switcheroo.)
I didn’t know what I was in for. Waitress and kitchen helper Sharon Wanderingspirit carries my lunch over with two hands. The burger is nearly a foot high: two bison patties, a hotdog, bacon, onion rings, and various vegetables with a kebab skewer keeping the greasy tower from toppling over. My stomach gurgles in anticipation. (But also with apprehension.) I snap a few photos of the burger for scale, but I’m delaying because frankly I don’t know how to tackle it.
I finally hoist the burger from the plate and decide to attack it on two fronts. Big bites from the top to get the onion rings, bacon and garnish and then a meaty bite of bacon, hotdog and double bison from the bottom.
The burger has only been on the menu for a couple weeks, says Wanderingspirit in mid-June, but it’s already a popular choice. I nod. And chew. And bite. And chew. The time between bites gets longer, the chewing gets slower. Pieces of patty and toppings fall haphazardly around the plate. Eventually, I’m down to one last bite, buns stuck to the patty. It’s in my mouth. It’s down my throat. It’s done.
But I didn’t even touch my fries. Is that normal? “You’re not the first,” says Wanderingspirit. Do people usually fall asleep after they finish it? She laughs but I’m serious. And seriously thankful that I’ll be in the passenger seat for the three-hour drive back to Yellowknife.