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Celebrating National Cheeseburger Day with George Foreman

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The Hall of Famer’s love of the cheeseburger is deep.

George Foreman Media Conference - Austin, TX Photo by Gary Miller/FilmMagic

It is National Cheeseburger Day, if you didn’t know, and now that you do, you can commit to memory that every Sept. 18 is a day designated to celebrate the American culinary tradition.

OK, maybe “culinary” isn’t the right term to use. That might be a bit high-falutin, right?

The cheeseburger is a working man and gal’s food choice, and revered for its simplicity and staying power popularity.

When I think cheeseburger, being a degenerate boxing addict, I tend to think of big George Foreman, the multi-era power hitter who did a good job spiking sales of the sandwich during his second stint at the top of the heavyweight division.

He shed rust, and batted down D, C and B-minus fodder for a spell, and while doing that, from 1987 forward, Foreman fine-tuned his public persona. Part of his appeal in that time was his ability to connect with average Joes, especially rotund ones.

You love cheeseburgers, I love cheeseburgers. Too much, arguably...but it’s all good, anyway.

I reached out to big-but-not-as-big-as-he-was George on National Cheeseburger Day, to get his take on the power of the patty.

”The breakfast, lunch and dinner of champions,” he told me. “That meal is why 20 years later I recaptured the title. Now no matter how many sit-ups I did I couldn’t get rid of the evidence I’d had a few.”

George Foreman and Evander Holyfield press conference Getty

Vet fans might recall he’d use burgers as a prop; at a presser to hype his 1991 clash in Atlantic City versus Evander Holyfield, he carried out a tray of delicacies and noted that he’d not be cutting weight, cutting out burgers, to maintain a fighting trim. Smart psy op, actually; a foe might think he was portly and a meaty target and would lack stamina, but in fact, he waistline and stamina reservoir were not proportionate.

Back in ‘91, he explained the burger binging to the LA Times.

“When I was a kid in Houston, we were so poor we couldn’t afford the last two letters, so we called ourselves ‘po,’” he said. “There was a Dairy Queen two blocks from my house where a burger was 29 cents. To me, that Dairy Queen was luxury, but I could afford only one a week. I was 16 when I joined the Job Corps in 1965 and left Houston. My goal that day was to come back one day rich enough to walk up to that Dairy Queen and order five burgers. Really, that’s what money represented to me then — lunch and dinner. When you walk around hungry, food is important. And you never forget.”

And the power of the patty — how about this? After losing the Rumble in the Jungle to Muhammad Ali, he was in a funk. He was feeling blue in 1975, until he had a hit of a natural anti-depressant.

“Cheeseburgers,” he told Earl Gustkey. “One day I drove down to a Jack-In-The-Box near where I lived then, drove through in my Rolls-Royce and bought a burger. I drove home and ate it and it hit me. I suddenly remembered what I’d dreamed of that day, when I’d left Houston, the ability to buy all the burgers I wanted. So I went right back to that Jack-In-The-Box and bought another one.”

Yeah, his announced love affair, that wasn’t hyping.

“I’d do these ‘marathon’ sparring sessions, on the days I’d do so, the only way I could recoup was to have one burger,” he told me. And now? “Twice a week is minimum.”

Foreman has moved closer to cruiser in the last couple years; he’s 70 and wanted to lean out some, so his body wouldn’t have to work as hard. To that end, has he tried those plant based patties, Beyond Burger or Impossible Burger?

”I’m having a lot of fun with those brands now, they taste great,” Foreman said. ”But I’m pretty passive after eating one. Michael Moorer would have made 12 rounds if I’d had them back then!”