Indira broke the dietary rules on one notable occasion. We were vacationing in Hawaii, indulging in what she referred to as our “babymoon.” I awoke in the middle of the night to hear a muffled scarfing sound. In my dazed and dreamy state, I became highly alarmed. My brain convinced me that somehow a raccoon had gotten into the room and was going through our belongings. Maybe he was eating my stash of travel snacks. That rascal!
However, when I flipped on my phone’s flashlight app, I didn’t discover any wildlife. Instead, Indira was tucked into the bed beside me, contentedly wolfing down a king size Snickers bar. I was less surprised by the fact that she had a midnight hankering than by the fact she was devouring chocolate, a treat she had never expressed much interest in before she was pregnant.
Other than that noteworthy indulgence, Indira’s pregnancy diet was rich with much healthier fare: fresh pomegranate juice, quinoa up the wazoo, chia seeds on everything, red raspberry leaf tea and a wealth of natural supplements and so-called super foods. We still ate out together a fair amount, but her menu choices were often severely limited. One evening, we dined at a high-end steakhouse. To accommodate her restrictions, the chef cooked her filet well done. “It wasn’t worth it,” Indira told me mournfully as she slowly worked her way through it. “I can’t believe I made them do this to such a beautiful piece of meat.”
I knew how much she missed a lot of different foods, so I wanted to have a plan in place for her first post-birth meal. “What do you think you might want to eat then?” I queried.
She didn’t pause. “Shake Shack. Make sure you get mine medium rare.”
And that’s how I found myself at the buzzy burger joint, my hands still trembling from the joy of holding my son, Zephyr, for the first time. My phone kept buzzing as family and friends called and texted to congratulate us, but I ignored them. I was on a mission. I needed to get some fast food fast. Yes, I wanted to be back with my wife and baby boy as quickly as possible, but I was also painfully hungry. I could only imagine what Indira was feeling.
When I got to the counter, I ordered burgers – medium rare, please – fries and drinks for my wife, our midwife, our doula, the attending nurse and me. It was not an inconsequential amount of food, and a lot to carry. I explained my predicament to the woman working the counter, who lit up when I mentioned why I had ordered ten times the recommended daily allowance of calories and fat. Congratulations were extended and large bags were procured to hold everything. Then I noticed the pale green onesie for sale behind the counter emblazoned the phrase “Small Fry.” Of course, I had to have one. I practically skipped out the door.
Back at the hospital, I was greeted like a knight in shining armor, Superman and an archangel all rolled up into one. Indira offered her thanks before tucking in with the ferocity of a jackal devouring an injured antelope. Since Zephyr was off getting a sponge bath, parental duties were momentarily suspended. I pulled up a chair next to my wife’s bed.
It was a little surreal. Just over an hour ago in another cream-colored room, Indira had labored, my son had entered this weird, wild world and I had cut his umbilical cord. Up until that moment, I had been simply Nevin, or Indira’s husband. Now I was Zephyr’s dad. With a burger in one hand and a monstrous Coke in the other, I precariously balanced the flimsy white cardboard canoe of fries on my knees as I contemplated my new title. I liked the sound of it. I was already getting used to it.
“Now this is what I’m talking about,” Indira said in between generous bites. “This hits the spot.”
Though I had not been through the same ordeal or dietary deprivation, I had to agree with her. It was everything I already loved about Shake Shack’s cheeseburger, but there was something else at work, pushing it to a new level of greatness. I have never eaten such a wonderful burger.
I still feel a remarkable surge of joy when I indulge in a pit stop at Shake Shack. Zephyr has outgrown his “Small Fry” onesie, but I’m already looking forward to dressing him in his kid-sized Shake Shack shirt featuring a T Rex stalking a burger. I’m sure I’ll smile every time he wears it.
Martell is the author of several books, including his most recent: Freak Show Without a Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. He tweets @nevinmartell.
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