I wonder if Fela hated vegetarians too.

Yesterday was a beautiful, hot, sunny day, which I spent joyously romping about the garden in Carhartts, getting dirty and sweaty and sunburned while my cooperative 10-month-old amused herself with mud and small pieces of rock and took extra long naps. The sun, the garden, and my long-awaited comeback as a whitewater kayaker have me feeling strong, fulfilled, and content*.

And so, having returned inside on a sunny afternoon to whip up some veggie burgers for dinner, feeling sassy, I cracked open a beer, cranked some Fela Kuti and started up the food processor. I was shakin’ my booty all over the kitchen when I remembered that I am pissed off at Fela.

If you call am woman
African woman no go ‘gree
She go say, she go say, “I be Lady o”

She go say, “I be Lady”
She go say, “I no be woman”
She go say, “Market woman na woman”
She go say, “I be Lady”

I wan tell you about Lady
She go say him equal to man
She go say him get power like man
She go say anything man do himself fit do
She go wan take cigar before anybody
She go wan make you open door for am
She go wan make man wash plate for am for kitchen

Up to here, you could be forgiven for believing that Fela was all psyched about African womens’ empowerment back in the 70s when he was founding the afrobeat scene in his underwear with that crazy bass saxophone. The (female) backup singers are all wailin’ “She go saaaaaaay I be lady O!”  and up till a few months ago, I was right there with them, thinking, “yeah, Fela! I be lady!” I even thought that if I had a boy I’d like to name him Fela, but Ben said that in French people would assume it was short for “blow job” so I let it go. Good thing I did, cause turns out Fela is NOT into the fact that the ladies are taking a cigar before anybody.

Despite his penchant for marriage (marrying all 27 women in his band), he was most definitely anti-feminist, and a bit chafed at the fact that in Africa, women were asserting their rights and could perhaps one day refuse  to cook his dinner:

She wan salute man she go sit down for chair
She wan sit down for table before anybody
She wan a piece of meat before anybody

Call am for dance, she go dance Lady dance
African woman go dance, she go dance the fire dance

She know him man na master
She go cook for am
She go do anything he say

But Lady no be so

Lady na master
Lady na master
Lady na master

I certainly don’t want to take away all the great things about Fela, his politics, and his music. But such adamant sexism is so disgusting – especially considering that his own mother was a leader of the feminist movement in Nigeria.

So I was conflicted, as I bopped around the kitchen; but then I decided to just have fun, enjoy my beer and fire up the BBQ. Because no matter what he thought about what women should and should not be entitled to, his music is over the top awesome, and you’d have to be a pretty dour feminist to keep your own booty from shakin’ to Fela.

And so, in honour of spring, BBQ season, cold beers, not breastfeeding any more, and principles sometimes ignored, here is a recipe for really tasty veggie burgers that whip up in a flash and even carnivores love (I don’t know about sexists, though). I adapted it from a recipe on 101 cookbooks, taking out the cashews and upping the mushrooms. I liked it better than the original (moister) but hers are also really good.

Tofu- Mushroom Burgers

350 g extra-firm tofu, cubed

2 large eggs
1/2 cup  bread crumbs
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1. Throw everything in the food processor and process till sort of chunky yet not too chunky and not pasty:

You’ll probably have to scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple times.

2. Form into patties (makes about 8 patties) and grill on the bbq about 5 minutes on each side over med-high heat (use a bit of oil if frying in a pan)

ready for the Q

3. Dress as desired. Avocado and mayo are killer.

4. Uncooked patties freeze well, I’d say up to a month.

A couple of PS’s:

PS  here are a couple of links about Fela’s life and beliefs, which are really interesting….



*PPS: having broken my hand while taking boats off the car, I can no longer: garden, paddle, cook, or type. I’m pecking away one-handed now to finish this post and bid you all a fond “hasta luego” – hope the summer finds you surrounded with tomatoes, water, and iced tea. I’ll be back when I can!! 


3 thoughts on “I wonder if Fela hated vegetarians too.

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