Max Barry’s novel “Jennifer Government” (2003) is one of the best novels I have read recently. Similar in style to Huxley’s dystopian, satirical “Brave New World”, Barry’s comic exploration of modern society is full of brilliantly humorous moments and scarily possible (or probable?) predictions about the future. According to this account of the not-so-distant fate of the USA, the balance between the power of the government and that of Trans-National Companies has been tipped in the favour of capitalism, and so it is CEOs rather than politicians who run the world. Everyone is so happy with this state of affairs that they change their surname to the name of the company they work for. Hence, the main characters – Hack Nike and Jennifer Government – represent how this method of social organisation works out on the ground.
Hack’s bumbling, uninformed decisions (and a pretty girl) leads him to join an anti-capitalist protest group targeting the Melbourne Central mall, where the fast-food giant McDonald’s has gained a foothold. Hack finds himself standing inside the massive restaurant, yelling about how McDonald’s “pillages Third World countries for their natural resources to serve us greasy, unhealthy food! […] It invades our neighbourhoods and forces out small business! It advertises to children!” Despite the relative success of the rebels against the capitalist machine (I’ll leave you to read it to fully appreciate the rapidly escalating outrageousness of the events which follow this moment in McDonald’s), the novel leaves the reader wondering whether any real difference has been made. Or do the amorphous companies which come under threat simply absorb the shock and reform themselves to maintain their power
In the spirit of the novel, this week’s recipe is for homemade, vegetarian burgers. As far as possible, the ingredients I have used have been bought from local or fairtrade suppliers. The brilliant thing about this recipe is that you can adapt it to whatever you have in the cupboard, as long as you have egg to bind the ingredients together so that they hold their shape.
|1 tin kidney beans|
|5 slices bread|
|2 garlic cloves|
|10 cherry tomatoes (or tomato puree)|
|Seasoning and spices – I used chilli, black pepper, salt and cumin|
|1. Finely chop the onion and garlic, then fry on a low heat for 5-10 minutes|
|2. In the meantime, put the bread in a food processer until it reaches fine breadcrumbs. Then add the kidney beans, eggs, tomatoes, seasoning and, finally, the onion. Blend until the mixture comes together and forms a relatively smooth paste (don’t take all the lumps out though – you want the burgers to have some texture).|
|3. Cover your hands with flour and form the mixture into burger shapes. (Warning – this stage is very messy!) Put on a non-stick surface or baking paper and leave to rest in the fridge.|
|4. When you are ready to cook, you have a variety of choices. You can fry them for 10 minutes on the hob in a little oil; put on a metal tray and cook in the oven for about 15 minutes; or put them on the BBQ.|