We are awash in pickle chips. We have been transported onto a magic carpet of ketchup. We have found the recipe for the sauce that Hot Shoppes used in its Mighty Mo hamburgers.
In last Monday's column, I relayed the plaint of Mary Diegelman, a Levey reader from Springfield. Mary is a Mighty Mo fan of nearly 50 years standing.
When she discovered that Marriott Corp. had closed its last Hot Shoppes restaurant this past summer, Mary was devastated. Not only were her favorite burgers gone, but she was afraid the recipe was, too. She sought my help.
As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.
As soon as I asked readers for a copy of the Mighty Mo sauce recipe or a copy of the cookbook in which it appears, the floodgates opened. I received 200 offers of help before 8 a.m. -- on a national holiday.
Arthur Korn, of Silver Spring, offered to give me his copy of the recipe, and to drive it downtown himself. Arthur is 87 and said he hadn't driven anywhere in a month. But for this cause, "I'm warming up the old buggy. Mighty Mo's were the best. They were a piece of old-time Washington." I told him thanks, but the trip wasn't necessary.
We'll get to the recipe in just a few inches. First, thanks to all who offered it and never got a return call. It's because we were swamped, not because we were ungrateful.
Second, a soupcon of history.
Woodrow D. Marriott, retired vice president and general manager of Marriott Corp., said he is the father of the Mighty Mo if anyone is. "We wanted a double-decked hamburger," he recalled, so he invented one. The company offered a reward for a name. A secretary won by naming the sandwich after the USS Missouri, a battleship whose nickname was Mighty Mo.
How did the recipe for the thick, thousand island-ish sauce develop? Marriott said he doesn't remember. Does he like the taste? "Oh, sure." Might that have had something to do with the company's decision? "You might say so."
"I don't eat hamburgers anymore, because I'm too damned old," he said. "I'm 84." But the Mighty Mo was always a top seller in the Hot Shoppes chain, Marriott said.
Paul Noel, director of operations for Hot Shoppes, said you still stand a fighting chance of finding a Mighty Mo at the three remaining Hot Shoppes cafeterias -- at Prince George's Plaza, Crystal City and Marlow Heights.
But Paul cautioned that the sandwich is rarely served at any of the three. "It just doesn't taste the same in a cafeteria line as it does when it's right off the grill," he said.
Although the official recipe doesn't specify it, Paul said that Hunt's ketchup ("thicker than others") was used in the Mighty Mo sauce. Also Redpack chili sauce, which is sold only to restaurants and isn't available to riffraff like you and me.
Asked if either the Mighty Mo or Hot Shoppes restaurants might reappear, Paul said the chances are "not very good."
If you'd care to make Mo sauce in the comfort of your own kitchen, here's how: 1/2 cup ketchup 1/4 cup chili sauce 1 1/2 teaspoons A-1 Sauce 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 2 drops Tabasco Sauce 1/2 cup finely chopped sweet pickle 1 1/4 cups mayonnaise
Combine ketchup, chili sauce, A-1 Sauce, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco Sauce. Add pickle to sauce mixture. Combine the sauce-pickle mixture with mayonnaise, stirring until well-blended.
Note: Store in a tightly covered container under refrigeration until time of service.
Now, to fashion a full-blown Mighty Mo . . . 1 uncut sesame seed hamburger roll (sesame seeds also must be uncut) 1 tablespoon of softened margarine 2 hamburger patties, each two ounces Salt to taste White pepper to taste 1 tablespoon shredded lettuce 1 slice American cheese 4 teaspoons Mighty Mo sauce 2 dill pickle chips
Cut hamburger roll crosswise into three equal slices. Spread bottom, top and one side of center cut of bun with margarine. Grill bun until lightly browned and heated throughout.
Shape hamburger into thin 4-inch diameter patties. Grill very lightly on both sides. Do not overcook. Grill second hamburger very lightly on one side, turn and top with American cheese and grill lightly. Do not overcook.
Spread two teaspoons of Mighty Mo sauce on bottom of roll. Top dressing with shredded lettuce, then hamburger. Top hamburger with middle layer of bun, grilled side up. Spread with remaining Mighty Mo sauce.
Top with cheeseburger. Place pickle chips on cheese. Cover with top of bun. Do not cut.
So there you have it. Mary, I hope your taste buds have not withered and will now regenerate. As for the rest of you, go find scissors and clip today's column. Mo-induced bliss will be yours, whenever you like.
Bonus time, for Teen Twist fans: This sandwich, too, was a Hot Shoppes staple. It, too, has faded from the scene. But not from a 1987 Marriott Corp. cookbook. The details: Four ounces of thinly sliced ham, a slice of American cheese, two slices of tomato, shredded lettuce as needed, a tablespoon of tartar sauce, a dab of margarine on a twist roll sliced lengthwise. Salivate to heart's content.