Gubmint Burgers

In which the author discovers the power to turn beans into burgers — and a nice plate ‘o nachos.

The other night my wife and I sat down to a dinner of pasta with sauce and meatballs. All perfect, and perfectly ordinary. If you ignore the meatballs, which looked like hockey pucks with a rough finish. And were not made of meat.

Welcome to the wonderful world of black bean veggie burgers which I, an elderly man, have just learned to make. Veggie burgers are a perfect “guy” project:

Haven’t got all the ingredients? Improvise! Veggie burgers need some kind of protein (usually mashed legumes), some kind of cooked grain (leftover oatmeal), maybe chopped nuts or seeds, maybe bread crumbs, maybe some cooked vegetables of your choice — lots of maybes. Go wild.

Above all, a veggie burger needs a “binder” to pull the flaky, pulpy mess into a solid: a flax “egg” (like strange jello), juice from a can of garbanzos, sometimes even nut butters. Binders are the duct tape that pull together the entire enterprise — along with cooked grain and veggies that soak up moisture.

Is the mix a little sloppy? More duct tape! More binder, more grain, more something! If you do it right, the melange thickens into a large semi-rigid mass from which hunks can be peeled off and formed into burgers; I have a little press that makes perfect burger pucks.

And you ask… what does it taste like?

Whatever you want it to. Hot dogs and sausages don’t taste like anything until spices are added: often smoked paprika, which by chance is just the spice you add in most black bean burger recipes.

That, and a good chili powder, and chopped onions and frankly you’re going to end up with something that tastes better than most “real” burgers. Fry ‘em up — you can bake them, but I’m me — and they even turn a respectable golden-brown color thanks in part to those spices.

Eat them then and there, or freeze them and bring them back to life later with two minutes in the microwave. The wife and I make cheeseburgers with them on whole-grain bread together with avocado and tomato. We get all our aminos, and it never gets old.

And if it does, crumble them and throw them into the pasta, or make nachos with them, or tacos, or just eat ‘em like a hamburger steak with a side of whatever you want. The consistency, the “tooth,” is comparable to that of today’s average beefburger.

It’s easy; it tastes great; no animal has to live a short life in squalor just to die in a slaughterhouse. No greenhouse gases are generated. No questionable “recovered meats” or pink slime can ever be on the premises.

I’m not an official vegetarian — my wife is — but I’m getting there. I think the last straw came when scientists revealed that pigs were smart enough to play simple video games. What else do we not know about the “dumb animals” we eat? I’ll miss salami; but I’ll live, and well.

All I needed to get to this point was time on my hands — first COVID working-at-home, then retirement — and a sheaf of veggie burger recipes I was going to get around to some day. The day came, and I got around to them.

And why not, when you can get 20 of them for three or four dollars of raw material? They taste like the ones in the supermarket; after you freeze them, they microwave just as easily. And once you get your production line going, why do less than 20? Why not 40? Aim for the moon! Veggie burgers for everybody! I’m already experimenting with garbanzo burgers.

But I do get the problem: people don’t have the time. It’s not just a hard world, it’s one that wants to steal every spare second from you. Who has time to make veggie burgers when you just want to collapse at the end of the day, and the weekend is already full of laundry and chores? Easier to kick over six bucks to the corps for four frozen disks. Like they want you to.

So I have this thought. Raising livestock accounts for 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gases worldwide. And all that livestock consumes a lot of feed — very inefficiently, up to several pounds of grain required for a pound of meat — in a world where crop failures are becoming more and more common. People may need the produce of those fields directly. I would bet on it.

From these thoughts comes a proposition: call it “government burgers.” You remember “government cheese” (aka gubmint cheese) in the ‘80s? The feds distributed free cheese made from milk that the government had bought to support milk prices and then stockpiled; the stockpiles were huge. It went to recipients of government aid as a consolation prize for Reagan-era cuts to food security programs. And it wasn’t all that good.

Government burgers wouldn’t be free: but what about ten bucks for a bag of 20, subsidized by the U.S. gov? Yeah, people like their meat, but a serving of tasty protein you can melt cheese on for 50 cents? And microwave in two minutes? People’d be lining up; save money, save time, save a bit of your lives and maybe even your health.

Demand for meat would drop; greenhouse gas emissions from the raising of livestock would drop. President Biden, you wouldn’t have to wait 10 years for the technology to arrive.

It would cost some, but so does everything. Besides, we’re supporting big agriculture already by paying them to support commodity prices by growing — nothing. Why not make them earn that money by growing veggie burger raw materials? Why not employ people by setting up distributed factories everywhere? Did I mention that veggie burgers are dead easy?

I hear the yabbuts gathering (“yeah but,” “yeah but,” “yeah but”), and you do have points. But unless you’re going to tell me this is completely impossible under all circumstances, let me say this: we’ve got to think outside the box if we’re going to live. Corporate power and the global oligarchy have already got us in that box, and they nail it shut tighter every day. But one of these days that box is going to catch fire with all of us inside. Unless we start knocking out the slats right now.

Government burgers; cooperative ownership; taxation of billionaires; the social means to produce the healthy, well-educated new generations that civilization must have to survive. It’s ALL outside the box. It’s ALL yabbut food.

But the only way to survive is will be to think crazy thoughts. And to understand some ideas are only crazy if you accept the world as it is. Which will kill us.

And now I’m going to have a burger. Actually, tonight it’s some sort of nacho/chili burger thing. It’s up at the top.

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