Warren Dunn

Friday Potpourri

The image above reminded me that eating more plant-based foods is healthy. So I decided to give it a try. See below for “SHELTERING IN PLACE IS GETTING TO ME.”


This is from the label of a bottle of Zinfandel by Gnarled Vine vineyard of Lodi, California.

     “Old vines, gnarled and sculpted by time, produce small yields of intensely flavored fruit.  Every vintage is a rebirth of rich varietal character and a unique expression of the land.”

     I have read wine bottle labels for years, and am usually amused by the lengths the vintner goes to explain how the wine smells and tastes.   I’m not saying they’re wrong, but it does occur to me that sometimes they try too hard.   That’s why the label of Gnarled Vine struck me as not only true but rather elegant.    


     I probably watch too much cable TV and the politically-oriented shows.   I can’t justify it and won’t try.  I’m a political junkie.   But one thing I am always distracted by when she is on is Ashley Parker’s smile. 

     Now there are a lot of young, articulate, and well-informed women on these shows and what they have to say is helpful in understanding the issues of the day.   But Ms. Parker’s smile, when she chooses to flash it, lights up the room.  It’s a million-dollar smile and I wish she’d use it more often.   But perhaps that would detract from the seriousness of the things she has to talk about in this appalling world we’re living in at the moment.


     Who doesn’t like a big juicy hamburger?   My doctor for one, especially those that have more than 500 calories and are almost half fat.  

     Don’t get me wrong; he has nothing against beef or anything else in moderation.   But whoever heard of a moderate hamburger?   That’s why the ad above captured my immediate attention.  I permit myself one big juicy hamburger once a year, around the 4th of July, because I think of it as my patriotic duty.  After all, my great-grandfather was a modest Oklahoma cattleman and he would really be pissed if he was around to monitor my eating habits.

     So, when the plant-based burgers came out, promising marbled juiciness and complete protein, I urged Carole to buy one and let me give it a try.  Now this is a BIG STEP because I never, never, never, suggest anything for dinner, always relying upon Carole.  (I do believe the three most important words to use in keeping a marriage strong are not “I love you,” but are, instead, “Let’s eat out.”)  Carole, a good sport in all things most of the time and always willing to try anything once, agreed and one day I discovered two patties in the refrigerator that suspiciously looked like hamburger patties.   It took me two weeks to work up the courage to ask her to cook them.  (Obviously, before my head gets handed me by the gentler sex, I could have cooked one for myself, but that would have required that I become familiar with the dials on our new stove.)  

     During the two weeks that I thought about eating one of the patties, I read the ingredients in this pretend hamburger I was going to consume.   There’s a lot of them:  water, pea protein isolate, expeller-pressed Canola oil, refined Coconut oil, Rice protein, Natural flavors, Cocoa butter, Mung Bean Protein, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, Apple extract, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Vinegar, Lemon juice concentrate, Sunflower lecithin, Pomegranate fruit powder, Beet Juice extract (for color).

    Can’t you just see the recipe in Julia Child’s all-purpose “Joy of Cooking:”  a teaspoon of Methylcelulose.   A pinch of Mung Bean Protein.  A tablespoon of expeller-pressed Canola oil?   Ok, OK. I realize we humans are all just a bunch of chemicals in our make-up, and anyone who could put all that stuff together and have the nerve to call it a hamburger is a whole lot smarter than me.   Nonetheless, what is Pomegranate fruit powder doing in my hamburger?

     I began to get into the swing of this adventure in dining by thinking about what would add to the occasion.  Well, I forego the usual Pinot Noir and always have a beer with my hamburger.   So what would be more fitting than to have a non-alcoholic beer with my non-beef hamburger?   Since I had no beer in the apartment, I dashed down the hall to the apartment of Vicky and Phillip Auchincloss, knowing that Phil, who sensibly doesn’t drink, had a non-alcoholic beer and begged and bagged one.

     Why stop there?   I decided that if I was having a pretend hamburger, I would accompany it with a huge slice of tomato.   So I asked Carole if the next time she went to the supermarket she thought she could find a pretend tomato. “I guarantee it,” she answered.   “Then could you pick up some frozen French fries to go with my pretend hamburger?”   That was a bridge too far.  She came back with a couple of white corn ears.   “Can’t guarantee they’re Silver Queen, so they ought to do.”

     The BIG DAY came.   I watched the entire proceeding and noticed that the two patties, cooking in a fry pan, were actually extruding something that looked like GREASE.   Ah, things were on the right track.  The aroma, however, was not everything I could hope for.  I thought I could detect the faint odor of burning lettuce.  But that was just a product of an over-active imagination. 

     Finally we were seated.   I took a big bite of my “hamburger” loaded with tomato, pickle, katsup and real lettuce. 

     The corn was great. The beer was something…

     The hamburger was…well, OK.   It achieved it’s purpose.  It reminded me of beef.         


     Most of us Americans understand that so much of the world thinks less of the United States than it did just a few years ago.  Some may even feel a bit sorry for us.  

     But don’t give up on us.   Most of us are not xenophobic racists.   Most of us want exactly what you want: a secure and safe world in which to raise a family and live productive lives in peace.

The vast majority of us are not gun nuts. That doesn’t mean that some of my closest friends don’t own a gun (I don’t), but they’re not nuts.

     Most of us still feel that America is great, not so much because of our military strength and general prosperity.  In fact, some of us feel that we’ve thrown around our weight without really understanding what we were doing.  Most of us realize are that too many of our fellow citizens who are not well off and need help.

     Our history shows that we try to fix what’s wrong in our society when things get bad enough.  We’re still working on some of those things.  But most of us do understand that in order to make America a good place to live means we must come together and insist that something be done to make it better.   Sometimes that takes too long, but we keep trying.      So, there is much America still has to offer the world and we ask that you just bear with us until November.


I’m reprinting in full this letter to the editor of the Times from a writer in San Diego because I think it has some useful information. But I also have to wonder if the writer realized the implication of his conclusion.

Re: “How Bad is Unemployment…?”

There is continuing good news on low Covid-19 numbers and more evidence for reopening the United States and reversing the rapid economic slide into what you call “the worst devastation since the Great Depression.” As of May 11, there were 1,347,936 cases, or just 0.4 percent of the population, and 80,684 deaths, or a minuscule 0.02 percent of the population, according to the Stats Covid-19 Tracker.

Get people back to work, restart the economy and address the needs of tens of millions of children going hungry. The unemployment and economic news provides continuing evidence for getting back to work and halting the downturn. As you report, lower-wage workers and minorities are suffering the most.”

I would have read the letter as a statement of a position shared by many until I reached the last sentence. The writer is accurate in his assessment of the impact on lower-wage and minorities. I would hope he would advocate that they be adequately protected from exposure to Covid-19 when they do return to work. If not, is the writer suggesting they are dispensable, since they work in crowded slaughter houses and other physically demanding jobs demanding close proximity?

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