"Hunger is good discipline." -Ernest Hemingway
It’s been rumored that George Washington was a man of few words. Atlas Shrugged stands as concrete proof that Ayn Rand was not. Using a mere 135 words, our first President delivered the shortest Inaugural Address in American history. Ayn Rand took 10 times as many pages to communicate her philosophy, which she termed “Objectivism,” through the story of John Galt, a man who creates a revolutionary motor – a motor that would change the world’s productive capacities – only to spearhead a strike of the most intelligent and successful movers and shakers of the day, meanwhile winning the heart of Dagny Taggart, railroad heiress and tycoon, and one of the aforementioned movers and shakers. The word count on that? I don’t even want to think about it. Have no fear though, if you find yourself bogged down as you trudge your way through her metaphysical maze, just refer to the Ayn Rand Lexicon.
When Ayn Rand appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1967, he asked her to summarize her philosophies for those who hadn’t read her books. What followed was a three minute monologue, but in Rand’s own words, the best she could do given it couldn’t be a “long discourse in proof.”
“Alright now, I’ll make it very brief with the understanding that anyone who is really interested would look it up in my books, particularly Atlas Shrugged, because I can’t give a long discourse in proof here. But just to mention the highlights, the basic principle of objectivism is that man must be guided exclusively by reason. Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material gathered by his senses. That’s the proper definition. That reason is man’s only tool of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his only guide to the choice of values. As a consequence of that, man’s proper ethics or morality is a morality of rational self interest which means that every man has a right to exist for his own sake, and he must not sacrifice himself to others or sacrifice others to himself. That the achievement of his own rational happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life. As a consequence of that, the only system, the only political system that expresses this morality is the system of laissez faire capitalism, by which I mean full, unregulated, uncontrolled capitalism, a system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is owned by private individuals. The principle which ties morality to politics is the principle that no man has the right to initiate physical force, violence, compulsion against other men. Men have certainly the right of self defense. But no man, no group of men that includes the government, has the right to initiate force, and to force a man to act against his own judgment. Now this is the essence of the philosophy, but if you want me to illustrate what it means: it means that very beautiful song, that we just heard, which was sung magnificently, only in reverse. It means that man, if he chooses his ideals rationally, can and must achieve them here on Earth in reality. That there are no unreachable heights for man, there are know unrightable wrongs. In other words, I approve enormously of that which makes people like the song, but I don’t approve of its content. I say that man can be happy, can achieve the ideal here and on Earth.”
This wasn’t the first time Rand had appeared on television to discuss her controversial philosophies. In 1959, two years after Atlas Shrugged hit the printing presses, Rand appeared in an interview with Mike Wallace challenging the “moral code of altruism.” Though I felt like my skull was about to crack while I was reading Atlas Shrugged from her caricatures’ attempts to drill their clear-cut, black-and-white philosophies into my grey matter, I have to admire Rand’s bravado, personal integrity, and straight-up spunk. I can only imagine how daunting it would be to appear on a national platform as a Russian-born woman promoting radical philosophical, political, and moral values in the middle of the Cold War.
To be completely honest, in light of the current criticisms of the American government, the themes of Atlas Shrugged are quite timely. However, Rand’s promotion of the Virtue of Selfishness fails to consider that altruism can be a very viable, selfishly selfless way to make society work, and indeed propel it forward. The
brick book has been made into a film trilogy with the last part, funded by a Kickstarter project, set to release this summer. For further analysis of Atlas Shrugged and its impact, check out the documentary. If you think Galt’s Gulch is your ideological home, feel free to join like-minded folks either online or in Chile.
The scene in the book inspiring the recipe for this post is when Dagny Taggart is on a mission to find the creator of Galt’s motor (still not knowing that Galt actually exists), and she recognizes a famous philosopher, one of the great minds on strike, flipping hamburgers at a roadside diner.
“Dagny sat at the end of the counter eating a hamburger sandwich. It was the best-cooked food she had ever tasted, the product of simple ingredients and of an unusual skill.”
To make the hamburgers for this post, I turned to Bobby Flay, the so-called “Burger King.” I’d never taken his simplistic approach to hamburgers – I usually dress up the meat with at least garlic, onion, and Worchestershire sauce before I cook them, but Flay suggests simply salting and peppering both sides of the patty before cooking. Honestly, this may have been the best hamburger I’ve ever cooked, and only an open flame could have improved it. The simple taste of the meat shone as the main focus of the sandwich, rather than acting as a platform for the toppings. You might be left seeing some sense in Rand’s selfishness after you realize how little you want to share any of this burger.
Follow my lead and toast your buns (both sides of each half) in the burger drippings. Doing a little umami dance afterward will help prevent aterial blockage.
Divide the meat into 4 equal portions (about 6 ounces each). Form each portion loosely into a 3/4-inch-thick burger and make a deep depression in the center with your thumb. Season both sides of each burger with salt and pepper.
If using a grill: Heat a gas grill to high or heat coals in a charcoal grill until they glow bright orange and ash over. Brush the burgers with the oil. Grill the burgers until golden brown and slightly charred on the first side, about 3 minutes for beef and 5 minutes for turkey. Flip over the burgers. Cook beef burgers until golden brown and slightly charred on the second side, 4 minutes for medium rare (3 minutes if topping with cheese; see step 3) or until cooked to desired degree of doneness. Cook turkey burgers until cooked throughout, about 5 minutes on the second side.
If using a grill pan: Heat a grill pan over high heat on top of the stove. Cook the burgers as for a grill, above.
If using a saute pan: Heat the oil in the pan or griddle over high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Cook the burgers until golden brown and slightly charred on the first side, about 3 minutes for beef and 5 minutes for turkey. Flip over the burgers. Cook beef burgers until golden brown and slightly charred on the second side, 4 minutes for medium rare (3 minutes if topping with cheese) or until cooked to desired degree of doneness. Cook turkey burgers until cooked throughout, about 5 minutes on the second side.
Add the cheese, if using, to the tops of the burgers during the last minute of cooking and top with a basting cover, close the grill cover, or tent the burgers with aluminum foil to melt the cheese.
Sandwich the hot burgers between the buns and serve immediately.
Original recipe can be found here.
To toast buns, add approximately 1 T burger drippings to coat pan over med-high heat. You may add a little butter if desirable. Toast each side of each half 15-20 seconds, or until browned.