I have yet to encounter someone who isn’t pleasantly surprised with Burger King’s Impossible Whopper. Now, this may have something to do with the incredibly low bar that Burger King and other fast food restaurants have set for themselves. I mean, when I’m thrilled that there are extra pickles and onions on the sandwich, exactly as I had ordered, I don’t think we’re really scrutinizing fast food establishments. It’s cheap for a reason, and one of those reasons is that order accuracy and 99 cent value menus don’t go together like peas and carrots.
The standard of pleasant surprise is that the Impossible Whopper tastes shockingly similar to the original “beef” Whopper (if you want to call the flame grilled meat substance that they use beef). When the new no-meat Whopper came out, naturally, I performed a comparison test, and the only way I could tell the two apart was that the edges of the Impossible Whopper were too smooth and neat. Other than that, it was pretty darn difficult to tell the difference. So, good job, Burger King!
This got me thinking about why the Impossible Whopper is such a big deal. I mean, non-meat burgers have been around for quite some time. According to Wikipedia, the first veggie burger might have been created all the way back in 1982 in London by a Mr. Gregory Sams, who called it (very creatively) “VegeBurger”. This makes a lot of sense to me, because if anyone could invent a tasteless and awful product, it would be an Englishman. I jest with love, I do happen to be an avid fan of English food, and there are few dishes better than a traditional English Sunday roast with Yorkshire pudding. Another non-meat burger was developed in 1980 or 1981 by Paul Wenner in Gresham, Oregon, another amazing global culinary hotspot (heavy sarcasm being applied here). So, whether it was called a veggie burger or gardenburger was immaterial. All that mattered was that, to non-vegetarians, both styles of meatless burgers tasted like shit. And that might be insulting to actual shit. Vegetarians insisted that these products were perfectly acceptable alternatives to hamburger, in the same way that Panda Express is a perfectly acceptable alternative to Yu’s Mandarin in Schaumburg, IL (it most definitely is not).
I asked the Sane One about the only veggie burger that I know about, the Boca Burger. The reason why I asked her is because she has been a vegetarian for almost her entire adult life. She’s experienced the evolution of the meatless burger firsthand. I asked her if the Boca Burger was good when it originally came out. Now, please remember what I said about the culinary opinions of vegetarians in the paragraph above. This is also the person who needs to drink milk to cool her tongue after ingesting two or three black pepper flakes. Having said that, she answered that the current Boca Burger tastes much better than the original variant way back in the day. This means that they are constantly trying to improve the recipe or whatever magical chemical process they use to make these meatless concoctions.
Today, there are several non-meat burgers that come damn close to being indistinguishable from actual hamburgers. And that is a good thing. The path to nearly identical flavor, texture, and looks has taken almost 30 years from the very beginning to the debut of the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Whopper last year. Each one of the variants in between, while problematic, served a valuable purpose and was necessary in the creation of widely acceptable product.
In the world of international adoptions, Koreans are the VegeBurger or Gardenburger. And while the numbers do not reach the levels of Koreans adopted around the world, the next evolutions were the Chinese, Russians, Guatemalans, and other countries that are becoming popular sources for international adoption into the US. It’s not necessarily fair to Koreans, but somebody has to be first, and for a country renowned for always coming in second, hey, we finally won something! Even if it is a dubious honor, the reality is that the process of international adoption is not, on its own, a horrible practice. How it has been applied could, perhaps, use a little improvement.
All the issues that KADs face will manifest themselves in the following generations of international adoptees in the US. Granted, the level of information that will be available to the adoptees is far greater than the information available to the first wave of KADs that came to the US shortly after the Korean War. And child psychologists no longer advocate for complete immersion into a predominantly white Christian environment like they did for so many of us. The US today is vastly more considerate of multiculturalism than it was in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
Did we, as a society, fuck up international adoption? If you ask a good number of KADS, the answer is a resounding “yes”. However, I must wonder what the response would be without the perspective of the improved world that we live in today. Every evolution will make the previous version seem like an unacceptable alternative. Unless you’re a hipster and you lug the bulky manual Olivetti typewriter around because you think that you’re so much more elevated by being retro. But that is for another blog post, titled “Congratulations, You’re in Contention for the Title of Worst Fucking Human Being Possible!”
Is an “Impossible Adoption” even feasible? Some of us claim that it is not, but I think we’re being somewhat short-sighted and only focusing on the past and current situations. And to put it into meatless burger options, we’re probably somewhere around 2010. It’s getting better, but there are still problems with it. The sad reality is that, for many of us, our adoption stories are already written and there is literally nothing that can undo it, nothing that can take away the trauma, and nothing that can improve our self-esteem. However, we do have an opportunity to pass on the lessons we have learned to the next generations of international adoptees, who are just coming to the age where they are going to have children, question their cultural roots, and start speaking with a voice that shares their own unique adoption experiences. By not sharing our paths, by denying our acquired, accumulated, and collective wisdom about identity, we delay the progression and risk never developing the Impossible Adoption.
I believe that the Impossible Adoption is viable. I believe it’s possible for children to grow up in a healthy and loving environment thousands of miles away from their place of birth and for it be a largely positive experience. And I know that without the mistakes, suffering, and experiences of the first cohort of international adoptees, it won’t be achievable. As a KAD, as someone who experienced all the awfulness of growing up isolated in an all-white community and the lasting psychological damage, and as someone struggling with accepting the parts of me that are unavoidably Korean, I am confident that if a shitty company like Burger King can pull this off and make a sandwich that tastes almost identical to a mediocre hamburger, then we can make huge strides to create a world where the characteristics of an international adoptees can have as close to a positive origin story, a home and a community that educates them and supports their differences (whatever they may be) and that the motivation for their adoption is clearly one of love and not exploitation. We owe it to the next generations to try, because no child deserves to grow up like so many of us did in “the greatest country in the world.” Will the Impossible Whopper become the greatest sandwich in the world? It really doesn’t matter, because what I should have been writing about is how good their fries have become! I mean, holy shit!