Eating meat kills
I haven't tried Linda McCartney's mass-marketed vegetarian dishes, and am not tripping over myself to do so. My last foray into mainstream vegetarianism -- the European trial-balloon veganburger at McDonald's in Amsterdam -- was a bit disappointing, and I left behind on my table a small mountain of paper, plastic and styrofoam.
McNichol presents some valuable information in the article; I especially appreciated his summary of the shift away from food production for local and regional markets, and his wit in putting down both Linda and her dishes brought numerous smiles to my lips. But while he rightfully writes about fat and salt content, the article reflects no awareness of the importance of the movement to wean ourselves away from the animal-products diet that's depleting the water tables, multiplying pesticide pollution, making us dependent on foreign oil and the wars needed to keep the supplies coming, gobbling up nonrenewable resources, causing deforestation, and bringing intense suffering to staggering numbers of slave animals who seem to value their freedom, their pleasures and their lives much as we do. Such cheap-target journalism doesn't help move us away from the Standard American Diet (SAD).
If not for the author's species-centric blind spot, his demagoguery and his embarrassing infatuation with his own cleverness, the article could have been a good one. It's bad enough having Newts in Congress and Rushes on the airwaves. Please spare us diet-reform reactionaries front-paged in SF Weekly. Just give McNichol what he and the subject well deserve -- a short to moderate-length article in the food review section.
Billy Ray Boyd
Let it be
I was struck by the biting tone of Tom McNichol's "Bland on the run" (Feb. 15). While I think the idea for the piece was a brilliant one, you might have found a writer without the obvious anti-McCartney bias: What was getting the review here, anyway? Paul McCartney, the Beatles, the Beatles' wives, Wings or Linda McCartney's food?
What does McNichol mean when he says, for example, "Why would anyone who married into the Beatles have her own line of frozen foods?" What does that have to do with anything? The tone of this remark and others to follow suggest that McNichol either thinks that wives of the Fab Four should remain in the shadows where they belong, or that since the only conceivable motive for launching a business must be money, self-respecting Beatles' wives -- with plenty of their husbands' dough already -- should relax and enjoy.
But the crux of the issue is that Linda McCartney's food should have been evaluated solely on its merits (or, yes, lack of them), and not attached to the coattails of her husband's. The accompanying sidebar, "Food you can lose," came closer to the article's purported intent, but even then McNichol just couldn't resist the occasional jab at the duo's pop-music history. The relentless shots at Wings throughout the article, while perhaps deserved, strayed from the suggested focus of the story: Are the fabled frozen entres any good? Or good for you?
The dramatic photograph of McCartney's Fettuccine Alfredo tipping the scales on a Big Mac should not be news to any aware food consumer: Fettuccine Alfredo has always been a walking heart attack, McCartney's or otherwise, and in case you didn't believe it, the Center for Science in the Public Interest told you so last year. Most of us who look for new and innovative nonmeat food products knew from the start that McCartney's dishes were never going to grace our freezers.
Even McNichol's evaluation of Linda McCartney's use of her high profile to market these frozen dinners treads on spurious ground; celebrities have been doing exactly what McCartney is doing for years, bringing all kinds of personal agendas to the public's attention, commercial and otherwise. Criticize the practice in general -- and it's entirely appropriate to question McCartney's motives -- but be fair and keep playground politics out of the deliberation.
The personal attacks on McCartney, her husband and his career, and the motives behind the meatless entrees deserved more than mere speculation and cynicism: The objects of McNichol's scorn deserved an opportunity to respond. Where was it?
More Linda, warmed over
I've recently returned from a vacation and have just gotten around to your February 15 issue with, I assume, all the major changes you intend for the near future. I was poised to fire off a flame concerning the lack of Smart Feller and especially Jack Boulware. Thanks for keeping them around. They are the main reasons for my picking up the Weekly.
The Tom McNichol article ("Bland on the run") was brutal and heavy-handed. I loved it! I've seen the letters in the February 22 issue and I suppose the majority of your mail was against McNichol's content and tone. Let me say this as a vegetarian, animal rights activist and music lover: He's only just scratched the surface of the disgust and contempt I feel for Linda and her foodstuffs. Objectivity and balance are not what I'm looking for in a local weekly feature. Good journalism and solid writing skills are.
It's called humor
Tom McNichol's "Bland on the run" is the funniest thing we have ever read in SF Weekly. McNichol is a great humorist who actually knows how to write (or has a great editor). It was fabulous to see such a long humor piece for a change.
We were shocked, however, at the backlash toward his article in your Letters section last week. We don't know if you didn't receive any letters of support or you simply chose not to run them. But everyone who reamed him seemed to be either crazy, uptight, humorless or constipated. To all of those who responded last week, we would just like to say: Hey Dudes! Take your sad comments and make them elsewhere. All you Eleanor Rigbys and Father McKenzies need some serious Help!
The Beatles and Wings lyrics in the story were hilarious, not "trite and distracting" as one woman wrote. They transformed McNichol's solid investigative report into a sublime commentary on the relationships between food, capitalism and popular culture. Equally delightful was his constant deflating of Linda McCartney, a rich groupie who never did anything but ride the coattails of a successful man. If we can't make fun of the fact that one of the wealthiest women in the world is attempting to corner the market on cholesterol, then perhaps we deserve all the frozen burritos we can eat.
There's this new thing, people -- it's called humor. Look into it.
Maria Sample, Matthew Schmidt
Citizens for a Funnier America
What gives at Liberty?
That article on Linda McCartney's frozen food line was ridiculous. It was unreasonably sarcastic, spent too much time on garbage like complaints about Wings, and ... who cares? Looking at the letters that followed, I see that many agree with me. I can't imagine what you are trying to do here.
Liberty Caf -- reviewed in the same issue ("Give me Liberty"): I went there last night, and it was subpar. No bread. A salad for masochists; bitter greens and perhaps a half-teaspoon of dressing? Duck confit almost too salty to eat. Distant service. Your reviewer -- did she, perhaps, mention in passing about the change of management at her house of employ, and get a better meal than I? I sure hope not.
Cut the cutesy
I appreciate that Barbara Lane, your new restaurant reviewer, is trying to acknowledge the large gay readership of SF Weekly by describing a couple of restaurant patrons as "womyn" ("Give me Liberty"). But let me give her some advice: Darling, if you're very, very charming, some of us might let you call us bull daggers, dykes or muff divers. But cut the cutesy, patronizing stuff. It won't get you far in this town.
Also, just thought you might like to know that your two recent cover stories are fodder for jokes all across town. Frozen food and orchids? What next? Is this what qualifies as journalism in the world of New Times?
Gnow you gknow
The restaurant listings are a nice idea, but how about some bylines so we know whose opinions they express?
And by the way, Zuni Cafe's gnocchi don't have anything to do with potatoes. "Gnocco" means dumpling, and Zuni's dish is gnocchi alla Romana, a gratin of semolina dumplings.
Editor's note: Associate Editor Barbara Lane writes the restaurant reviews, as noted at the top of the listings. She stands corrected on the definition of gnocchi.
Cuban time capsule
Daniel Mangin's review of Strawberry and Chocolate ("Sentimental journey," Feb. 8), while good, would have benefited from a deeper knowledge and understanding of the Cuban dictatorship and its repression of the Cuban people.
As for "the hug": I've known in my lifetime -- spent partly in Cuba, Spain and most recently Mexico -- many gays and a couple of straights, who, being hopelessly romantic, idealize a love whose mere proximity is, in itself, achievement; satisfaction even. While I personally find that type of romantic idealization somewhat outdated -- and useless -- you should remember that Cuba has been in a time capsule for 36 years, and the circumstances there are ripe for realismo mgico. Something that a gay Garca Marquez might develop well to your liking.
In another vein, the protagonist of Aventurera is Ninon Sevilla, a Cuban actress better known for her rumba and conga abilities. She lives in New York City's Upper West Side, quite happily I'm told.
Please accept my comments as intended with kindness and not to put you down. But you see, not knowing what Ibero American culture was (and still is) limits your scope.