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Sailing with Charlie with Cheeseburgers

There are many types of burgers – the cheeseburger being perhaps the favorite. Think traditional beef patty on a white bun with sliced onion, lettuce, tomato and, of course, a kosher pickle if you're Jimmy Buffett. To turn your meal into your gourmet dream, add a slice of American cheese (now relegated to the term 'singles' or 'American cheese flavored food' since there's not enough cheese in a slice for it to be called cheese). The cheeseburger is an American cultural gastronomic icon. It is also largely responsible for obesity in the world's most 'advanced' nation as shown in the documentary movie Super Size Me especially when accompanied with French fries and beer.

Now, what has this got to do with sailing? Well, it was Jimmy Buffett, Caribbean troubadour and sailing gypsy who has probably promoted the cheeseburger more than anyone else in history. On his way to Tortola, after a rough crossing of the Mona Passage on his first boat Euphoria, he limped into Road Town, Tortola, with a broken bow sprit. All his ice had melted in the chest and he and his crew were surviving on peanut butter and tinned food. After tying up at Village Cay Marina they were amazed to find cheeseburgers on the menu – and pina coladas too. "The overdone burgers on the burned bun tasted like manna from heaven for they were the realization of my fantasy burgers on the trip," declared Jimmy. And that's the true story. So to all the snack bars in St Bart, the Bahamas, Florida and the Keys, you can shove your libelous claims where the sun don't shine!

Cheeseburger in Paradise became a huge hit for Jimmy in 1978 and when you've been on a diet of rice and beans for days it's exactly the kind of thing that springs to mind; Buffett's songs resonate with true feelings. Like Margaritaville, Changes in Attitudes and Five O'clock Somewhere, we can all really get involved in the sentiments of the songs.

But now, it seems, cheeseburgers are taboo; we are told that meat, cheese and fries are to be eaten in only very modest amounts. Charlie had a blood test the other day: glucose level was high, blood pressure borderline, uric acid in danger of imparting unpleasant conditions like gout and kidney stones. In fact he was so depressed I took him to the health food restaurant for a soy burger and a glass of warm chamomile tea. "Aren't you having anything?" he asked. I wasn't hungry I told him.

After lunch he returned to his boat rather despondently and I popped into the pub. I ordered a medium bacon burger with grated sharp cheddar cheese on a warm rye bun, and an ice cold Heineken. I mean think of all the people on the Titanic who passed up the chocolate mousse.

Julian Putley is the author of 'The Drinking Man's Guide to the BVI', 'Sunfun Calypso', and 'Sunfun Gospel'.

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