on not throwing the baby out with the bath water

I have written quite a bit recently about plant-based meat substitutes. For six months after my surgery in February I was not allowed red meat, and those products helped satisfy my cravings. I am once again allowed to eat red meat, but those products are still a part of my diet and cooking habits.

Beyond Meat Burger packageThere has, however, been something of a backlash against the Beyond Meat, Impossible, and LightLife products. I see items pop up on social media and in suggested stories on my Google iOS app. My good friend Farrell has railed against them on Facebook. In one CNBC article, John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods, said that these products are highly processed and not terribly healthy. The Impossible product has been criticized for being made with highly processed soy.

LightLife BurgerBut let’s back up a minute. Beyond Meats says its burger product contains a blend of pea, mung bean, and rice proteins. The LightLife product is somewhat similar. Processed, yes, but healthy vegetable products. And these products are far healthier for the environment, as Mackey admits. The CNBC article states, “According to a study commissioned by Beyond Meat with the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan, a plant-based burger generates 90% less greenhouse gas emissions, requires 45% less energy, has 99% less impact on water scarcity, and 93% less impact on land use than a ¼ pound of traditional U.S. beef.”


It was back in 1971 that Frances Moore Lappé, in her groundbreaking Diet for a Small Planet, pointed out that animal products are a highly inefficient way of getting protein. And within that realm, beef is far and away the most inefficient. Folks, one reason (among many) that the Amazon is burning is our insatiable desire for beef. Getting our protein from plant-based sources is far easier on the planet. These products will continue to evolve and improve. If people can shed their lust for beef by eating these products then we ought to give them a fair shake.

Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water.

sacrificing quality for price

old razorIt was a year ago at this time that we were getting ready for Terry’s Knee surgery. At the same time I needed to get a new set of blades for my Norelco electric razor. When I checked the prices on Amazon I was taken aback by cost of replacement blades. I could buy a new razor for that price, I thought. So I did. I bought a low-end model.new razor

Big mistake. I never liked the feel of the razor in my hand and the shaves I got were not all that great.

Now here it is a year later. I went to Amazon to buy replacement blades. No Norelco blades came up for that razor. What did come up was a third-party set of blades with really poor ratings. So I checked the Norelco web site. No blades for that razor on the Norelco web site either. Really? Really.

So I took the opposite approach. I ordered a mid-range Norelco razor. Not the cheapest, but not the most expensive. Something right in the middle. I’m quite happy with it. It gives me a close, smooth save.

Sometimes it’s not a good idea to sacrifice quality for price.

When Christians Were Jews

When Christians Were JewsWhen Christians Were Jews: The First Generation
Paula Fredriksen
Yale University Press (October 23, 2018)
272 pages
Kindle edition $9.62, Amazon Hardcover $19.02

Although this book is published by Yale University Press, it is definitely a popular book. It wasn’t written for the scholarly community. It is, however, very heavily annotated. Nearly half the book is footnotes, bibliography, and other end matter.

Fredriksen discusses the first generation of the followers of Jesus. She talks about the Essenes and how their notion of the end time varied from and was similar to that of the followers of Jesus. She discusses the discrepancies between Paul as he is portrayed in the book of Acts and how he writes about himself in his letters. She explains how it was not Jesus who had the Romans upset, but the crowds he incited. The Romans were always nervous about angry crowds.

I have a couple of problems with Fredriksen’s approach. She places the books of Luke and Acts (written by the same author) in the early second century, when most scholars place it at the end of the first century. She uses the Revised Standard Version of the Bible for her English translation, which is odd. The RSV was published in 1949, while the New Revised Standard Version was published in 1989. The latter is regarded as a solid, reliable translation, so why she uses an earlier one baffles me.

There is one oddity with the footnotes in this Kindle edition. Clicking the footnotes takes you to the footnote section in the back of the book. In all other Kindle books that contain footnotes which I have read in the last couple of years the footnote appears as a pop-up. Very odd.

The book had some interesting insights, but there wasn’t really anything in it that I hadn’t picked up elsewhere.

Trick Mirror

Trick Mirror coverTrick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion
Jia Tolentino
Narrated by the author
Random House Audio, August 6, 2019
$22.05 for Audible members, more for non-members
purchased with an Audible credit

There is a perception that for many woman of the Generation X era feminism was not a compelling or urgent cause, as they felt comfortable being able to create the lives and careers that they wanted without any significant barriers or obstructions. This may or may not be true, but the perception exists.

Things seem to be different for the Millennials  If Jia Tolentino speaks for her generation then feminism is front and center for Millennial women. Tolentino, a culture critic for The New Yorker, is sharp and insightful in this collection of essays. The author is literate and perceptive, never holding back in expressing her own opinion. The book is timely, including multiple discussions of the repercussions of the 2016 election along with mentions of public figures such as Kate Middleton and Megan Markle. Tolentino knows her literature, nineteenth century, twentieth century, and contemporary. She is well versed in the writings of Simone de Beauvoir and Gloria Steinem. She writes about appearing in a reality television show while in high school and about how Queen Victoria’s wedding had a profound effect on how weddings have been performed since.

Throughout her essays Tolentino describes how women have not made the gains that society perceives them to have made, and how their rights and autonomy continue to be under attack. The final essay makes clear that Tolentino has no use for marriage. She argues that historically marriage  has benefitted men and has been detrimental to women.

The fact that Tolentino reads her own essays in this audio version made the book all the more engaging for me, but I believe it would be just as effective in print, either paper or electronic. If you want to know what one segment of the Millennial generation is thinking this book is the ideal place to start.

The Grammarians

The Grammarians coverThe Grammarians: A Novel
Cathleen Schine
Sarah Crichton Books (September 3, 2019)
272 pages
Kindle edition $13.99, Amazon hardcover $22.99

This novel received some excellent reviews, and those reviews are well-deserved.

The book is about a pair of identical twins, Laurel and Daphne, who share a love for language and words. Their connection is made clear in their names. In Greek mythology the nymph Daphne is turned into a laurel tree.

When the two were very young they had their own secret language, which was unnerving to their parents and their psychologist uncle. All were relieved when they were old enough to begin speaking English. The two shared pretty much everything as children, and as high school graduates attended three years of college together after spending their freshman year apart. (It was Pomona College, in fact, one of the Claremont Colleges, as is Pitzer College from which I graduated. This gets all of a one-line mention.)

The novel is only one-fourth complete when the girls, now women, are college graduates and have begun seeking careers, or at least work. The two both meet their future husbands at about the same time and have a double wedding. They both live in New York City as they start their working lives, Laurel teaching kindergarten and Daphne working at an alternative weekly newspaper (something I myself have done). Over time they grow apart and eventually stop speaking.

The final ten percent of the novel covers a period of several years and is somewhat of a jumble. It is almost as if the author was only allowed a certain number of pages for her book and had a lot she wanted to cram into those final pages. In the end things come full circle and loose ends are tied up, if not in a totally satisfying manner.

This is not the perfect novel, but if you enjoy language and words you’ll likely find it worth your time and money.

our lonely grill

gas grillAutumn began a week ago today. Summer came and went quickly. In fact, I don’t know where it went. And not once this summer did we use our outdoor gas grill.

The reasons are many. The summer started off mild and we didn’t feel the need to grill outside. We had a new stove with a grill burner and I loved using it with our grill pan. I enjoyed the fact that I had much more precise temperature control than on the outdoor grill. Then there was the fact that I was not allowed red meat until the third week of August on account of my surgery . No grilling hamburgers. By the time it started getting hotter and we thought about maybe grilling Terry was not up to the task of cleaning the thing. And any attempt I might have made at cleaning it would have been woefully inadequate.

So it’s autumn and our grill sat covered all summer. We’ll think about this again in the spring.


Vida coverVida
Marge Piercy
PM Press, 433 pages
Kindle edition $9.99
purchased on sale for $3.51

It had been many decades since I had read a Marge Piercy novel, and I thought I was due. Piercy is not a literary novelist by any means, but she has her niche and her following. While she has written historical fiction and speculative fiction she is best known and most appreciated by her followers for her contemporary fiction about feminism and political activism in the sixties and seventies.

Vida, originally published in 1980, is classic Piercy. The title character is an activist from the sixties who has had to go underground due to her bombing attacks on military-related targets. The novel moves back and forth between her activist years in the sixties and her fugitive years in the seventies. While the book describes her actions as a leader of an anti-war organization and chronicles her constant travels, requests for money, and pleas for shelter, the novel deftly portrays her many relationships. And she does have many: her ex-husband, her current lover, the many members of the Movement (always with a capital M), and especially her sister. The relationships resonate as real and believable and the plot is an effective page-turner.

In the end Piercy leaves one hanging. Loose ends are not tied up and much is left unresolved. But the journey to get there makes for engaging and entertaining reading.