the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Burned by Coffee


It’s one of the oldest stories — a guy or gal has a big date that night, so she looks into the mirror, and sees a huge zit! Horrors!

I don’t have a zit, but it looks like I have a cold sore. But I DON’T HAVE A COLD SORE! It just looks like a cold sore. What I have is the aftermath of a coffee burn on my lip. Honestly!

Tonight, I’m going to see Secret Agent Josephine‘s gallery show of dog paintings. She is a popular California blogger and many other bloggers will be there. And I mean glamorous female bloggers. I will be meeting most of them for the first time, and what will be the first thing they will notice — my coffee burn! And they will think it is a cold sore. And they will write about it in their blogs tomorrow:

“Secret Agent Josephine’s show was a big success. Many bloggers were there. Lovely Whoorl was there with her beautiful baby. Therapy-going Neilochka was there also, with his cold sore.”

It is NOT a cold sore. It is a coffee burn.

As a preventive measure, I think it is essential that I tell you how I got this coffee burn on my lip. After I tell you this story, you will realize that I am telling the truth:

A few weeks ago, a local independent filmmaker emailed me. He said he liked my blog and wanted to talk to me about possibly putting together some story pitches together for a producer. We met, liked each other, and decided to give it a try. After a week, we didn’t accomplish much more than coming up with a few titles stolen from other movies.

Not from the makers of “Knocked Up,” It’s “Knocked Off!”

Yesterday, we decided to meet at his home and finally get to work. For eight hours we hashed out story ideas, in between drinking lots of coffee and playing Trivial Pursuit. By the end of the day, we were exhausted. On the way home, I felt my eyes closing as I was driving on the freeway (we live 45 minutes apart). I decided to pull off and get myself a cup of coffee. I was happy to notice an In-N-Out Burger down the block. If you are unfamiliar with this chain, it is because they are mostly on the West Coast. They are my favorite local burger joint. Unlike the bigger fast-food chains, they make their burgers fresh. Although it can take twice as long to get your burger than at McDonald’s, the hamburgers actually taste like meat.

I ordered a cheeseburger with onions, and a cup of coffee. I couldn’t wait to eat that burger! I don’t have fancy tastes. Although I enjoy all types of food, nothing is as comforting as a hamburger, a slice of pizza, a bagel, or a good tuna fish sandwich. I picked up my newly-made burger from the high school kid behind the counter, sat down at one of the faux 1950’s plastic booths and dove in!

Thank you Harry and Esther Snyder, creators of In-N-Out!

From Wikipedia:

In-N-Out’s first location was opened on October 22, 1948 by Harry and Esther Snyder at the northwest corner of what is now the intersection of Interstate 10 and Francisquito Avenue in the Los Angeles suburb of Baldwin Park, California.

All ethnic groups take pride in the accomplishments of their own. African-Americans are proud of Barack Obama. Asians appreciate that Daniel Dae Kim is considered a sex symbol on Lost. Jews are no different. Even my mother knows that Spock’s Vulcan sign is something he saw at an orthodox synagogue as a child.

“I knew Spock was Jewish,” my mother used to say. “He was the smart one.”

Unfortunately, the Jewish community is somewhat ashamed of William Shatner.

Harry and Esther Snyder: clearly mishpucha (Yiddish for family). To me, McDonald’s is Church of Scotland (McDonald’s), Wendy’s is Presbyterian, and Jack-in-the-Box is Roman Catholic, with “Jack” running the show from his Vatican-like headquarters.

In-N-Out is Jewish.  Harry and Esther Snyder?  I actually have an aunt and uncle named Harry and Esther.

I sometimes wondered if they know I’m Jewish, too, which would explain why their service people are so nice to me. Whenever I order a burger, the worker at the register always smiles at me with a knowing look and asks “Would you like some onions with that?” in the same caring tone that my mother uses when she asks if I would like an extra matzo ball in my soup during Passover.

In-N-Out hamburgers are very cleverly wrapped, with two pieces of waxed paper folded around the burger to prevent spillage. I quickly ate half of my burger and then started drinking my coffee, remembering that my original reason for stopping here was to get some coffee, not to eat a cholesterol heavy burger. As I took a sip from my coffee cup, I noticed something very unusual written on the bottom of the outer hamburger wrapper:

Revelations 3:10.

WTF? Revelations 3:10?! New Testament messages on my burger wrapper at my favorite Jewish burger chain?


My brain went into overload, unaware that I was about to take another sip of burning hot coffee, and mistakenly missed my mouth. Instead, I spilled the scalding liquid right on my lip, later causing a blister.


It turns out Harry and Esther Snyder are not mishpucha, but Christian fanatics who put weird Bible messages on their products and then purposely give extra hot coffee to their non-Christian customers.

Would I make this story up? It is a coffee burn that I have, not a cold sore!

From Wikipedia (why did I never notice this before?):

In-N-Out prints discreet references to Bible verses on their paper utensils. The print is small and out of the way, and only contains the book, chapter and verse numbers, not the actual text of the passages. The practice began in the 1980s during Rich Snyder’s presidency, a reflection of the Christian beliefs held by the Snyder family.

Burger and cheeseburger wrappers

Revelation 3:20—”Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.”

Beverage cups and antenna toppers

John 3:16—”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Milkshake cups

Proverbs 3:5—”Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”

Double-Double wrapper

Nahum 1:7—”The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.”

Paper water cups, or “R-9’s”

John 14:6—”Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Next time, I’m going to Canter’s Jewish Deli for my coffee.


  1. girlanddog

    Mmmmm… Have you ever tried it animal-style?

    The burger, that is. 🙂

  2. whit

    This reminds me of the fact that I was mad about this once and then forgot about it.


  3. Neil

    English major alert:

    Should the title be “Burnt by Coffee” rather than “Burned by Coffee?” I should have just called this something else. Like we discussed in our writing session yesterday, a good title can add millions to your movie. Are you really going to see a movie called “Burnt By Coffee?” Maybe I should have named this “Neilochka and the Temple of Revelations!” or “Did Jesus Add Onions to his Burgers?” Hmm…

  4. aviva

    What was that about Occam’s Raisor? Let’s think about this:

    a. You have a cold sore
    b. You went on this elaborate trip fanatical christians coffee blah blah blah blah blah burn that is still there days later

    Logic prevails. Sorry

  5. scarlet hip

    I blame the Bush administration.

  6. Frida

    Good god.

    I have to say it.

    Only in America.

    Burgers with bible verses. I’m telling an Afghan that story just because it is fun for me to create wonderfully stereotyped views of the world for people who have little chance to check the world out for themselves and contradict me.

  7. Two Roads

    Burned is a past participle, burnt is an adjective.

    I burned the house down.
    It smells like burnt toast.

    So while you were burned by the coffee you have a burnt lip.

    Hope you have a fun evening explaining the cold sore to everyone!

  8. whoorl

    I noticed no such coffee burn. Seriously!

  9. Neil

    Whoorl — That’s because I cleverly always stood on your right side. Nice to meet you and your family!

  10. Pearl

    “It turns out Harry and Esther Snyder are not mishpucha, but Christian fanatics who put weird Bible messages on their products and then purposely give extra hot coffee to their non-Christian customers.”

    At midnight sharp I read this…and burst out laughing.

    Can we get a photo of your “coffee burnt-lips”? I need a visual.

    Hope you heal soon…

  11. By Jane

    oy, I feel your pain….when I lived in Bethlehem PA, there was a bagel shop there. A bagel shop–and they had the NT quote of the day at the cash register. Jesus is whatever–but they’re stealing our cultural heritage!!! it’s an oxymoron, a christian bagel shop

  12. Dagny

    Well geez. Anyone in the know knows that the folks at In n Out are devout Christians. I have never read the “propaganda” and I knew it. (Notice, folks, how I put that one word in quotations. Now back the f*** off. Unless you’re up for a true smackdown via words.) I’m with Girlanddog. Animal style is the way to go.

    And while you’re checking out religious passages, could you check on Alaska Airlines? Because whenever I get food from these folks, there are religious passages as well.

  13. Ash

    Good grief. I would have spilled my coffee too.

  14. Danny

    How did I never notice this? Maybe because I was too busy devouring my double-double? As fast food chains go, In n’Out is clearly miles above the rest, both in terms of food quality and the way they treat their employees (see “Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser). And if that’s as far as they go in terms of proselytizing their Christian message, I can live with it. Those are pretty harmless bible quotations. At least they’re not printing ones like Leviticus 20:16–“And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast; they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” I’d really prefer not to read that on my fries.

  15. Two Roads

    I laughed out loud when Neil expressed his disappointment that the Snyder’s weren’t Jewish but Danny you truly outdid him! Bravo!

  16. Lisa

    (Hey- I think you meant to tag this rev 3:20 not 3:10)

    Hilare post! That is conniving that they would post biblical passages on my double double wrapper. Back to Micky D’s!

  17. sizzle

    the coffee burn sounds painful if not inconvenient. i am sure no one noticed.

    you should have sprayed some windex on it.

  18. Richard

    Don’t anyone tell Neil about Norman Jewison not being Jewish. ESPECIALLY don’t do it while he’s reaching for his coffee at McDonald’s!

  19. Neil

    I do know about Norman Jewison, Richard. At least Bruce Springstein is.

  20. savia

    I wonder if they’re just trying to overcompensate for calling their restaurant such a deliciously naughty name as In-N-Out? It had so much potential. It’s sad, really.

  21. wendy

    No In and Out in Colorado..yet. But we have an imposter…supposedly friends w/the owners. I almost wept the first time I had one…very close..but this is good old instead of animal style…it’s “the works”…pretty lame huh….

  22. Margaret

    you always think it’s in the cool-aid, but they tricked you with the coffee: watch out for the fanatics! they got you to do it, just like they wanted you to do, you looked up the verses and spread the word

  23. Miss Syl

    “In-N-Out: Because Jesus loves you with a hot, dripping piece of meat in your mouth.”

    The slogan possibilities are endless, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

    Other than to say…boo, hiss on them. I’m glad we don’t have that place around here.

  24. Jennifer

    First of all, I would have thought Bible verses on food wrappers would happen down here in the South, not in California. The heck with global warming, the end times are here!!
    But on the bright side, can you sue Harry and Ethel for millions because you were served a hot beverage without proper warning that it was hot? Don’t laugh, it could work!!

  25. Neil

    I had a long discussion with Sophia over this at breakfast, and she thinks it is fine, considering that they are a family owned business and can do quirky things if they want. I’m beginning to agree with her. After all, aren’t we always complaining about evil mega-corporations like McDonald’s? Here is a hamburger joint that is nutty and “independent” enough to put New Testament stuff on their burger wrappers. Hey — why not?! As long as their hamburgers are still good and they don’t ask me to convert. I’m not offended when I go into a Chinese Restaurant and see a Buddah with offerings in the corner.

  26. 180/360

    What??? I’ve never seen any bible verses- that is crazy! Granted I’m usually busy consuming the gooey goodness of a Double Double to ever take notice, but still! The religion/fast food comparison is hilarious. And I’m sure people were more concerned with what came out of your lips rather than what was on them… 😉

  27. Rattling the Kettle

    Your Jewdar is clearly on the fritz, Neil: Snyder is not even remotely Jewish-sounding. I think you need a recalibration. I’m flying back east for Rosh Hashana in a couple of weeks. Hop on a plane and meet me at Katz’s, we’ll get you fixed up but quick.

  28. Miss Syl

    Okay, but though they don’t *literally* ask you to convert face to face, the passages they’ve chosen to refer to specifically suggest the reader *should* convert (if he/she hasn’t already).

    Which is not to say I don’t I agree with Sophia–I do. Of course it’s *okay* for them to do it; it’s their company, they have a right to do as they like. But it’s also okay for me to think it’s creepy to be proselytized to during my meal, even a tiny bit, and to prefer companies who don’t do that.

  29. buzzgirl

    Am I the only heathen that’s never heard of the book of Nahum?

  30. helen

    I enjoy this post. In-N-Out ought to be commended for not being afraid of their faith. It’s just too easy for people of any faith to shy away from their belief in this politically correct age. 🙂

  31. Noel

    The only thing to do is to start a hamburger chain of your own, Neil, and put Old Testament references on the wrappers. If people like hamburgers, and haven’t yet seen the One True Path, it’s up to you to convert them, one patty at a time.

  32. plain jane

    Buzzgirl: When I saw “Nahum”, I couldn’t remember it but as I ran through the books of the bible in my head…Jonah, Michah, Nahum, Habakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. There it was at the end of the old testament. (I always loved the way the end of the old testament list sounds, it rolls off the tongue like a jump rope chant.) All very short books, Nahum only has 3 chapters and I don’t remember a single thing about it.

  33. Mrs Mogul

    I have never ordered a coffee with a burger, usually the sugar filled cokes do me. Oh I can’t wait to have some real bagels soon! OY VAY!!

  34. Marilyn

    Okay… so to put it in perspective I imagine walking into a burger joint and getting a wrapper with a Koran (am I supposed to spell it with a Q?) verse on it… If I knew there wasn’t anything sinister in the message I don’t think it would bother me. Sure they want you to convert. It’s the nature of religion, but that’s the great thing about living here. I can eat the burger and forget the message.

  35. Katie

    And if the Snyders *were* observant Jews you wouldn’t be able to get that cheeseburger at all. Or anything with bacon. There’s a Dunkin Donuts here in Brookline that won’t sell breakfast sandwiches with bacon or sausage. You can only get the egg and cheese. Maybe they need to learn about Boca sausage.
    My favorite burgers are from Five Guys. Hope your lip heals soon.

  36. Neil

    Just by coincidence — my hebrew name is Nahum. Was the message for me?

  37. Eileen

    Think what they would do to atheists

  38. Ellen Bloom

    Snyder is a German name, not necessarily Jewish.

    Since Jews have been persecuted and fled from many different locations thru the ages, we have all sorts of last names. You know, many have changed their names to blend in. It’s more difficult these days to determine who actually has Jewish roots!

    Hah! SpringstEIN might be Jewish, but SpringstEEN is not.

  39. melanie

    poor lip. sorry about the christian coffee burn.

    hope you had a good time anyway.

  40. L.A. Daddy

    Wow. I didn’t know that about In-n-Out. That’s a shame.

    Perhaps I should give them a suggestion for a passage – “The body is a temple. And your food burns down the temple. Very slowly.”

  41. Moviequill

    Instead of suing for $14 million for burnt coffee lip damage, take the free burgers for life deal…

  42. dan-E

    i knew about the bible references for years now and yet, i never knew that they sold coffee until you wrote about it, being as it i always wash down my double doubles and fries with either coke or their awesome pink lemonade.

    as for people who seem offended by it, uh why? bible verses on wrappers, big f***ing deal. the print is so small that people go there for years without noticing it. in ‘n out wouldn’t be this successful if the only people who ever ate there were bible-thumpers.

  43. Alice

    i felt the same way when i found out that chik-fil-a is run by fundy’s too. of course, that was much easier to deduce, since they’re closed on sundays. because it’s god’s day, and all.

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