“Gloves, I think, are an unspoken, required attribute of any burger restaurant... I’m surprised that establishments in every country don’t offer them.” These are the words of Alina Volkolovskaya, manager of Butterbro gastropub in Minsk, Belarus. Volkolovskaya spoke to The New York Times about Butterbro’s policy of supplying gloves to diners who order burgers—a growing trend in some European countries, but one that’s unlikely to cross the pond and become mainstream in the United States.
Since Black Star Burger in Moscow began the practice in 2016, the Times explains, more and more chain restaurants throughout Russia and the surrounding region are providing sterile nitrile gloves with which to eat burgers, the idea being that eating this sloppy sandwich with one’s bare hands is unsanitary and impolite. (Prior to gloves, standard practice was to eat burgers with a knife and fork.) It was also simply vanity-related: Black Star initially pitched the gloves as an elegant solution that would keep your fingers from smelling like meat and generally keep those lovely hands pristine. But now that COVID-19 has everyone increasingly conscious of their personal hygiene, especially in shared spaces, it’s worth questioning whether the trend will jump to burger joints closer to home.
While some food safety specialists confirmed to the Times that the gloves might be useful in cases where the diner hasn’t washed their hands prior to eating, others express doubt that Americans will try anything of the sort. George Motz, described by the Times as a “New York hamburger specialist,” says that “Americans take their burger culture way too seriously” to consider eating with gloves, which negate the “very tactile experience” of eating a burger. And that’s just fine, because as long as we practice good hand-washing before and after we eat, we can achieve the same result as gloves with less waste.
“What I don’t want people to do is to be so paranoid about eating with gloves that they forget that the overwhelming majority of the risk comes from other people,” said Donald Schaffner, a professor of food science at Rutgers. So go enjoy your burger any way you’d like, so long as you enjoy it responsibly.