Chris Martino: A man and his meat.
  • Chris Martino: A man and his meat.

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Of the many flaws in the philosophy of Ayn Rand, one of the simplest but most damning is this: Rand argues that no human should be forced to work for the will of others. In Rand's perfect society, every human would find the one thing they love, and do that thing with passion and without compromise. Here's where the counterargument comes in: Rand's books are full of passionate captains of industry and architects and engineers, but no human being ever born on this planet truly wants to be an uncompromising, passionate janitor above all else, or a mailman, or a line cook. In real life, you often have to buckle down and do your work because it's a matter of survival and because the job needs to be done.

Tucked away in the middle of Atlas Shrugged, Rand mounts a tiny defense against this argument when her protagonist, Dagny Taggart, eats at an out-of-the-way diner. "Dagny sat at the end of the counter," Rand writes, "eating a hamburger sandwich. It was the best-cooked food she had ever tasted, the product of simple ingredients and of an unusual skill." She looks at the chef, who wears "a cook's white jacket as if it were a full-dress suit. There was an expert competence in his manner of working; his movements were easy, intelligently economical." When he tells Dagny he's thinking of leaving the fry cook business, she scolds him: "You're too good at your job to change it. You shouldn't want to be anything but a cook."

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Obviously, Ayn Rand was a terrible food writer; like much of her writing, her description of the "hamburger sandwich" reads like a matter-of-fact account of a pap smear that went surprisingly well. But here's the point I've been working toward with all this: I just ate the Santa Maria tri-tip sandwich ($10) at Martino's Smoked Meats & Neighborhood Eatery in Phinney Ridge, and I think it's the kind of Ideal Sandwich that Dagny was enthusing about in Atlas Shrugged...

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