What the L would the Romans say?

Answer Man, I’m 94 and have been out of school for quite a few years, but last night on the football game, they said it was Super Bowl XLIII. Isn’t it supposed to be Super Bowl XXXXIII? When did they change that? — Charlie

Charlie, at your age you should know a lot about Roman numerals, but in this case, the commissioner of the National Football League runs the show, not Caesar.

In the heyday of Latin, IIII was more common than IV for the number 4, because the latter was a short form for the king of the gods, Jupiter. But for centuries now, when fancy numbers are needed, IV and XL are more common.

I’m old enough to remember when LCDM was a mnemonic device for learning the Roman numerals for 50, 100, 500 and 1,000: The memory trick was Lucky Cows Drink Moonshine, or something like that.



Answer Man: I love your column. My question is, Minnesota license plates routinely are three letters followed by three numbers (ABC 123). However, I see some cars have it reversed (123 ABC). Is there a reason why some are different? — Judy

They’re not "whiskey plates" or an indicator of some other mischief, if that’s what you’re wondering. The Department of Vehicle Services has run out of letter-number combinations, so now they’re reversing the order.

As you’ve probably noticed, the state also has discontinued embossing the plates with raised letters and numbers, and the plates are thinner. Both are penny-pinching changes.

Last call for mexi-burgers

Seriously, I mean it — this is it — after today, no more about mexi-burgers in this column. It’s been great while it lasted, but it’s time to move on. If you want more on mexi-burgers, I’ll refer you to my colleague, Kimberly Van Brunt, who writes the P-B’s "Quick Bites" column.

I’ve heard from about a dozen readers who remember those tasty loose-meat sandwiches at Benny’s Drive-in.

This is from Sarah Burrington of Rochester: "I worked at Benny’s as a carhop for three summers, 1970-72. The original owners who actually perfected the original mexi-burger were Ben and Eloise Dresbach. They owned and ran the stand for decades, and that recipe was truly kept a secret ... Benny and Eloise were two of the most amazing people I ever had the privilege to work for — they were like second parents to everyone who worked for them! Those were grand old days. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Love your column!"

This is from a Faithful Reader: "YUM! I remember them. I am now 46. When I was little, me and my siblings would get into our PJs. Then my dad and mom would load us all in the station wagon and drive us to Benny’s. I have many precious memories of those rare outings. By the by, I’m sure you’re aware the building is still standing. It’s now Bilotti’s summer pizza take-out kitchen, on the corner next to the VFW, across the street from the old KTTC."


And this from Debbie Davids, who with her husband were the final owners of Benny’s (or Bennie’s, as she spells it) before it went belly up: "I know the recipe for mexi-burgers. My husband has since passed away, but our recipe is with a good friend and is also in my head — and none of the ingredients are even close to your guesses! So this is not so secret after all. We also gave the recipe to anyone who asked."

So I naturally asked Debbie for the recipe, and she responded, "I’ll think about that!" After a day or two, she coughed it up, saying it was "given in memory of my husband, Jon, who worked very hard to keep the drive-in going."

Therefore, here it is — Debbie and Jon Davids’ recipe for the famous Benny’s mexi-burger:

Ten pounds of 90-95 percent lean hamburger; 4 tablespoons of chili powder; 1 tablespoon of black pepper; 1 tablespoon of dry mustard; 4 tablespoons of salt; and 1 teaspoon of red pepper. Drain off the fat before serving.

Serves one Answer Man or about 20 average appetites.

The way to the Answer Man’s heart is through his stomach. Send questions — but seriously, no more about mexi-burgers — to P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 55903 or

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