We went to see the Burger Baron documentary, aka Lebanese Burger Mafia, this evening. It's a lovely film, full of nostalgia for prairie burger joints and the people who ran them. It was a bit of an eye opener in that, even though we had a Burger Baron in Regina, this was fully an Alberta-based movie.
This was because the original Burger Baron franchises went bankrupt in the 1960's and the trademarks and recipes went into the public domain (if not in the legal sense, then in the practical sense that nobody was enforcing any trademarks.) One of the original Alberta restaurants was taken over by a Lebanese immigrant and was a success, spawning new Burger Baron restaurants in small towns across central Alberta. And as war enveloped Lebanon, he funded the immigration of much of his family and each of cousins opened their own Burger Barons in more Alberta towns. And because there wasn't a real franchise model, each new owner did their own thing, so Burger Barons in Alberta are all slightly different, up to and including the 'secret sauce' in their iconic mushroom burger.
The Regina "Barons" are mentioned but aren't the main part of this story, although the Regina owners were related to Mr. McDowell, the original Burger Baron creator. The film is focused on the Lebanese-run, Alberta-based locations, where each of the owners were fiercely independent and while they got along, they could never agree to collaborate on anything. And as the wars continued in Lebanon, three generations of refugees and their children made their livings in the Burger Baron restaurants.
The most poignant part of the film is the stories about life in Lebanon and having to flee as the bombs fell, as neighbourhoods got torn apart. And it's especially timely given the ongoing strife in that part of the world today. Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East is a beautiful place when it's not being bombed to bits, and the grief on the faces of the men who had to leave for Canada was so clear. It was so hard to watch them, even years later, describe their conflicted nature, working so hard at the restaurants but desperately wanting to go home.
I'm proud that Canada offers a safe home to people from all over the world, especially those who are fleeing conflict. But I'm sick that people are forced to leave their homes, again and again. I was happy that these families made a home for themselves in Alberta and were able to thrive, but I know they would have been much, much happier had they been able to stay in peace in Lebanon.