copyright Bill Widener 2000

Rants & Raves

Dear Ace,

I'm glad to see that the magazine print the rants and ravings of lunatics. I'd been wanting to dine at Helios, or read a review of it, but I missed that week. Instead [6/22/2000] I was treated to the rambling opinions of Mr. Arnold, who no doubt believes he should become a new contributing restaurant critic.

I'm curious how his study of Bauhaus affected his dining experience. Maybe he should open his own restaurant combining all his interests. Forget the stuffed grape-leaves... we'll have "Gropious-Leaves"!

I found his criticism of a criticism to be more pointless than even this twice removed opinion letter. My letter here condemns his rambling arrogance. His letter seems to a self-mockery, listing limitations that would bar him from giving any new restaurant a chance.

I look forward to my first meal at Helios, secure that such a name-dropping fool will not be at the table next to me, endlessly complaining. Kudos to Ace for printing the naysayer's opinion, no matter how condescending it is.

Michael Crow

P.S. - Love the mag. Need to update the online edition though.

I really enjoyed your refrigerator story [Fridges of Fayette County, June 15] and was surprised to see it provoke angry responses in your letters. Much less the idea that the article was designed to show "we can afford these restaurants and you can't."

What? How do you get that?

Seems your letter-writers have a lot of insecurities to work out.

Your article didn't even use any restaurant reviews, so why the personal attack on one of them?

But that brings me to my point. What Lexington needs though, is a decent food critic. How about it Ace?

Jeff Little

The Point Being

A friend recently called my attention to an article entitled Blood Suckers [In Media Res] which appeared in the June 8 edition of your publication and I am puzzled by the unflattering critique of LeDatta Grimes' series about Shon and Kristi Newton.

Ms. Robinson is entitled to an opinion but it seems to me that her attack is particularly vicious and I can't understand her motive. Surely that's not a taste of sour grapes I'm sensing. LeDatta is probably imperviouis to the review. She should be proud to be given a by-line on the front page of the Lexington Herald-Leader. After all, a fellow staff member, Joel Pett, is slammed fairly consistenly and he recently won a Pulitzer Prize.

My concern is for the newly wed Newtons. They can read, you know, and initially they were hurt by what they perceived as a disregard for their feelings. They are, however, very forgiving and assume Ms. Robinson's low opinion is due to a lack of knowledge of their situation.

Over 250 family members, friends, co-workers, teachers and counselors attended their wedding. I heard nothing but praise for LeDatta's stories. They have been an"7öEyratè"n!Ç' many people who, because of special circumstances in their lives, face a myriad of challenges on the difficult road to independence.

At the reception, a covey of giggling girls jostled each other in their quest for the bride's bouquet. A grinning young man in a wheel chair was the good-natured envy of friends when he managed to catch the garter. These young people danced and they laughed and their shining faces were filled with delight and with hope. You should have been there-your heart would have sprouted wings and soared. It's too bad Karla misses "the point."

Virginia Long

via email

For those who missed the piece, Robinson's "low opinion" was strictly confined to the poorly-written, melodramatic, exploitative nature of the series; she exhibited nothing but respect for the couple profiled. For example, she would never have written something as condescending and insensitive as "they can read, you know."

Letters Policy: Ace LOVES to publish our mail (250 words or less please); please include name and daytime phone. No photocopies. No bulk mail. First come, first served. We may edit for space and grammar; we will limit frequency; and, on popular issues, we may print one or two letters to represent a segment of public opinion. Private correspondence should be labeled “NOT FOR PUBLICATION.”

Mail: 486 West Second St , Lexington, Ky 40507


Tastes Like Chicken

Whatever the technological or quantitative gains, this industrialization of farming has been costly, and it will continue to be. Most of the costs have been "externalized" - that is, charged to nature or the public or the future. The response to this in the land grant universities has been applause.

-Wendell Berry

Is a "99 cent chicken sandwich" really a goal we've agreed to as a society?

According to at least one of the sources in this week's cover story, we have. At least it's one of the justifications offered for factory farming.

Apparently, we've become so addicted to cheap, convenient food, that we are now being held hostage to the factory farm lobby - offering subsidies and picking up the tab for cleaning up their messes (very literally).

The argument goes like this, "if we don't toady up, they'll leeeeeeeeaaaave."

Here's a thought: let 'em.

North Carolina didn't stand up to the hog farm lobby when they had the chance, and now their state is, well, to quote some of its citizens, "swimming in hogshit." Hurricane Floyd was dubbed by many who participated in the cleanup, "a shitstorm."

Chicken farms have gained just as pleasant a reputation in Georgia.

These are industries that do almost nothing for the economy. They hire unskilled labor and pay subsistence wages. The conditions for the animals are abysmal. The terms for the farmers (who essentially "contract" out their farms and labor to major companies) are comparable to servitude. They pollute the water supply (not to mention the air), and they rarely clean up after themselves unless they are forced to.

Hmmm. Sounds pretty seductive.

At issue right now are the 250 or so Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) located in Kentucky, and who's going to be responsible for what.

In a break with tradition, we're going to go along with Governor Paul Patton on this one.

This past winter, he issued a regulation that spelled out where these operations could be, and put some of the onus for cleanup on the companies (as opposed to the farmers, who'd been shouldering the entire load). This regulation is set to expire in August, and opposition to its renewal is mounting.

Contract farming is a lose-lose proposition for the state. Contract farmers lose. Small farmers lose. Workers lose. Communities lose. Animals lose.

About the only people who don't lose - according to its proponents - are the industries themselves, and the consumers who are addicted to that all-important 99-cent chicken sandwich.

Maybe it sounds elitist, but I, for one, don't want to eat a 99 cent chicken sandwich. Whatever it took to enable a producer to offer me that sandwich for under a buck includes activities I know I can't support in any ethical, culinary, economic, societal, or nutritional sense.

Even the men in my family - all old-fashioned, conservative, bloody-steak-eating farmers - won't have anything to do with processed chicken.

My dad has an old buddy who swears by the restorative properties of Campbell's chicken noodle soup. He eats a can every day, and insists it's what keeps him young and thin. My dad - who's about as far as you could get from a card-carrying PETA member - says if that's what it takes, no thanks.

He admits he's never actually eaten this product, but he tells me, "I think if I had to open that can, and I had to get one whiff of the utter misery those chickens had to go through... and I could smell that... It would make me puke."

And sometimes, a good bout of nausea is just nature's way of telling you to do the right thing.