Just say no to ersatz meat
Your cutesy "isn't life funny?" piece on Quorn (Kitchen Sink, June 12), the British meat substitute that recently debuted at natural food stores across the nation, glosses over a tragic shortcoming of our modern food economy: its propensity to respond to consumer demand for healthy alternatives to saturated fat- and cholesterol-laden meat with "value-added" industrial foods that, nutritionally speaking, are only marginally less offensive than the products they're intended to replace.
But what else should we expect from a system that leaves crucial decisions about food production (i.e., what, how, and why) to an increasingly small group of transnational corporations that place their own economic self-interests ahead of social and planetary needs? Whole, local, organically grown vegetables and grains produced under humane working conditions? B-o-r-i-n-g! Where's the gee-whiz techno-thrill (not to mention profit) in that? Better to concoct huge vats of ersatz meat, add a little salt and oil, and pawn the result off as a "healthy" substitute for foods that no one needed in the first place.
Indeed, with Quorn, AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical giant and onetime herbicide manufacturer (the company divested its agrochemical division to form Syngenta in 2000) has supplied us with a predictable techno-fix substitute for the meat-centered fare that has come to predominate the American diet over the last fifty years. But why quibble about such technicalities? As your piece intimates, even "natural" food retailers like Whole Foods are more than happy to line their shelves with a host of highly processed foods of dubious nutritional value, many of which are now being produced by "natural" and "organic" subdivisions of major food conglomerates. PepsiCo's Frito-Lay unit, for example, is currently test-marketing natural and organic versions of snacks like Cheetos, Tostitos, and Sun Chips. The only thing separating these products from their conventional counterparts is a thin veneer of "natural, healthy" marketing hype. But as the natural food business sees it, there's gold, i.e., higher profit margins, in them thar' Quorn. Sadly, healthy "primitive" foods like brown rice and celery just don't glitter as brightly.
Rich Ganis, Policy Director, Center for Informed Food Choices, Oakland
And for you endorphin aficionados
Not a bad article (Planet Clair, June 12), but you did fail to mention one major cause for H withdrawal: The opiates that fit so perfectly into endorphin receptors actually convince your bod that it no longer needs to manufacture endorphins (defined in my cheesy little paperback Webster's 2 as "any of a group of hormones with tranquilizing and pain-killing capabilities that are secreted by the brain"). When you stop doing smack, it takes about two weeks for your physiological system to realize what's going on. That is, two weeks without your body being capable of blocking the pain that accompanies all of us throughout life. There's more on this subject for those who want to know, but they can look it up themselves ... this is a letters column, not an encyclopedia.
Paul A. Resico, San Lorenzo
Inside the gangster attitude
I read your article, "Lost Generation" (June 12). It's interesting that many young Asians learn the gangster attitude from their ghetto environment, and that their immigrant FOB parents are partially responsible for this.
I've made some observations of my own on this social situation. Quite a few middle-class Asians also exhibit similar gangster behavior. Their neighborhoods are suburbs and good cities, not ghettos. I'm certain that they are not affiliated with a gang either. Nonetheless, they have the gangster clothes, fancy cars, spiked and dyed hair, and the unmistakable gangster attitude. Their second-generation parents have decent white-collar jobs and constantly share in laughter and fun with the family. So how can they have a gangster mentality? I believe these youths lack parental guidance, just like the people you interviewed. The pendulum swung back too far the other way. Instead of an abusive household, there is a lackadaisical household where anything goes. Neither set of youths has the proper combination of parental care, nurturing, friendship, teaching, guidance, or direction in life. When parents fail, television and friends become teachers. Television is dominated by professional sports whose athletes embody the gangster attitude. This coupled with friends who are also in a similar situation creates a powerful circle of influence that nurtures that attitude.
It is difficult for young people to aspire in this world even when their parents give them an advantage. Unfortunately, there are parents who are doing their children a great disservice because they are capable of doing the right thing but they fail to do so.
Name withheld by request, Castro Valley
Love is not enough
Thank you for writing this eye-opening piece. As a young Vietnamese girl, I often feel that Southeast Asians are marginalized by the government and by other races. After your article, I hope that others will start to realize that Asian Americans are not all rich and obedient. I agree with "Trung" on the issue of requiring parents to attend counseling with the "offenders." Oftentimes non-English-speaking parents, especially Vietnamese, love their children, but are clueless about how the US governmental system works and unable to understand or help them; if they are required to attend parenting class, then maybe they will learn to respect their children's needs. Yet the counselors should do home visits or work visits to accommodate the parents' schedule.
Xuan Linh Le, Berkeley
Puncturing the Piedmont profiteer
In a vitriolic June 19 letter, turbodeveloper Patrick Kennedy attacked Berkeley resident and activist Howie Muir for opposing oversized development projects "two blocks" or further away from Mr. Muir's home. (Horrors!) The same letter gratuitously attacked Berkeley City Councilmember Dona Spring for trying to ensure fair notice of development applications.
Wait a minute.
Although Mr. Kennedy snookered you into running his letter with a "Berkeley" byline, he lives in Piedmont. That's at least five miles from the central Berkeley targets of his most controversial development gambits. His view of the hills isn't blocked by his oversized, market-rent "Gaia" building in downtown Berkeley -- ours is. And to say that affluent Piedmont has shown little urgency about building affordable housing would be an understatement of blockbuster proportions.
The day Mr. Kennedy plops a skyscraper full of subsidized Section 8 units into his own mansion's backyard, I'll start believing his pretensions to be a populist instead of a profiteer. Until then, I'm grateful for Ms. Spring's and Mr. Muir's efforts to achieve balanced development that respects all Berkeley residents' humble yards and views.
Michael Katz, Berkeley
What Dona Spring was thinking
Kevin Zwick of Affordable Housing Associates criticizes my votes on two affordable housing projects (Letters, June 19), wondering "what Dona Spring was thinking" on those particular votes. Here's what:
Regarding the vote on the senior housing project at 2517 Sacramento, Mr. Zwick seems to be unaware that I did make a motion to support the project with two fewer units on the fourth story (the site is zoned for three stories maximum). This seemed to me to be a reasonable compromise, one that was arrived at through City-sponsored mediation with the surrounding residents. In addition, I voted for the City providing this project a $1.8 million subsidy as well as 27 HUD apartment subsidies that will allow AHA almost market-rate rents.
In 1995, I could not support allocating HUD funding of the single-room occupancy (SRO) project as proposed on University and Shattuck. The reason was that this SRO had been closed down after it deteriorated into a drug-shooting gallery. The surrounding residential and commercial neighbors were in opposition as it was located by three other SRO's, with some of those units leading to drug-related public safety problems. I did not think the proposed project was well-enough planned or serviced to prevent serious future drug- or alcohol-related problems.
In her letter (June 19) responding to the May 29 7 Days, Carol Denney continues to misrepresent my role in Measure O (the 1994 panhandling ballot measure). One of the primary reasons why the council subcommittee report incorrectly stated that I was recommending the panhandling proposals (when in reality I only agreed to have a public hearing on these proposals) is because of Shirley Dean. Ms. Dean, who was in competition with Fred Colignon (the other member of the council subcommittee) for support from the business community in the upcoming mayoral race, demanded that the city attorney's office rush the report to council so that the panhandling restrictions could be voted in before the holiday shopping season. It's Ms. Denney's memory that is "pure agenda" -- not the Express'.
Dona Spring, Berkeley
Seven Days - March 28, 2:21 PM
Seven Days - March 27, 1:16 PM
Seven Days - March 27, 11:33 AM
Seven Days - March 27, 7:46 AM
Seven Days - March 22, 5:57 PM