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Opinion Readers critique The Post: Strong feelings on food (especially garlic powder)

Every week, The Post runs a collection of letters of readers’ grievances — pointing out grammatical mistakes, missing coverage and inconsistencies. These letters tell us what we did wrong and, occasionally, offer praise. Here, we present this week’s Free for All letters.

Even artichokes can be ‘exotic’

There’s a problem with G. Daniela Galarza’s July 14 Food essay, “The problem with calling food ‘exotic’ ”: It tried to impose a negative connotation on a useful word that is steadfastly neutral.

According to the dictionary, “exotic” refers simply to something foreign or unfamiliar. As the definition indicates, “exotic” is always relative to the geographical and cultural location of a given person. For me, the word has always had a strongly positive connotation, tugging at my cross-cultural curiosity.

Until I went to college in California and tried one for the first time, artichokes were exotic, but I loved them at first bite. For some people, basil, thyme and rosemary are exotic. Try them, you may like them! Same for hoisin, sriracha or merkén.

Galarza made it clear that, for her, “exotic” has a strongly negative connotation — as in “expressing disgust or disdain” — and she went so far as to claim that using the word “reinforces xenophobia and racism.” In doing so, she negated the argument for cross-cultural curiosity and openness that the essay otherwise seemed to be trying to make.

Please, let’s don’t ruin a perfectly good word in the name of some kind of new politico-culinary correctness.

Bruce A. Byers, Falls Church

Garlic powder stinks (in a bad way)

I can’t believe a food writer could be so wrong! In his July 14 Food essay, “Not only is there no shame in garlic powder, it should be a go-to,” Aaron Hutcherson defended garlic powder.

Go to your spice rack, remove the cap from your garlic powder, and inhale. It’s stale, even rancid.

Yeah, I know, I know. Buy the smallest jars of any spice and throw them out often, if I haven’t used them recently. But garlic salt or powder goes bad quickly.

As an Italian cook, I never touch the stuff. People should use a garlic press if chopping is bothersome.

Ray Arnaudo, Mountain View, Calif.

Unhelpful hints for the planet

The headline on the July 7 Hints From Heloise Style column, “For easy cleanups, a messy cook covers her counter with paper or plastic wrap,” caught my attention. The first hint was to cover the writer’s counter with wax paper or plastic wrap because she was a messy cook. This allowed her to toss the wax paper or plastic wrap in the trash for a quicker cleanup. So, if we all thought this was a great idea, how much more plastic and paper trash would be added to our overflowing waste dumps?

James Hauger, Rehoboth Beach, Del.

An Olympian’s lifelong loyalty

The July 13 Sports article “Smith’s take on Tokyo: ‘I think things will happen,’ ” which cited former Olympic sprinter Tommie Smith’s comments about the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and was accompanied by that famous 1968 Olympics protest photo, was one of many articles that unfortunately left out the third participant on the podium. He was Peter Norman.

The story of that Australian sprinter, Norman, whose record, according to media accounts, holds in Australia, adds even more moral power to the 1968 protest.

That fast Australian, who supported Smith and John Carlos on the podium, returned home to suffer many of the same cruel threats and indignities Smith and Carlos endured over the years and was officially ostracized and sometimes forced to work in menial jobs until he died. He was loyal to the others and their cause until the end.

For me, it was quite fitting, perhaps even poetic, that Smith and Carlos were noted in the media as pallbearers, holding his casket and leaving the church at his funeral. People, including me, who have been inspired since 1968 by the acts of courage and sacrifice shown by Smith and Carlos should be even more inspired now, knowing that Norman stayed loyal for the rest of his life to what they all stood for that day.

David L. Evans, Arlington

It’s the Olympics, not the SAT

Regarding the headline on Mike Wise’s July 13 op-ed, “Holding these Olympics is about avarice, not the athletes”:

I think the last time I saw the word “avarice” was when I had to learn it in junior high school. I don’t ever recall seeing it or using it again until I encountered this headline. Why use such an esoteric word in a headline? Because it was on the op-ed page, I hope most readers would recall its meaning.

In my opinion, the more common word, “greed,” would have had a much greater impact.

Richard W. Hayman, Rockville

A Metro master class in composition

The photograph that accompanied the July 14 Metro article “Police call to ban some suspects from Metro” was a stunner.

Could it be the entrance to Radio City Music Hall in New York? Is it a detail of the Chrysler Building’s facade? No. Just a beautifully composed picture from a Post staff photographer with a great eye.

William Ulman, Annandale

That’s one way to keep things short

I am a Mets fan, which, in many ways, is like being a baseball fan. Traditionally, the Mets have countered boredom with tragedy, agony and farce — in other words, their bullpen.

George F. Will argued in his July 11 op-ed, “Baseball’s evolution just keeps striking out,” that baseball games are too long. But baseball games are not too long for me because I refuse to watch past the sixth inning.

I missed a lot of the worst of Armando Benitez that way 20 years ago, but I prefer to sleep at night. I don’t go to baseball games anymore for many reasons, but the length of games is not among them. In fact (not really), some of my favorite games are still being played. But ticket prices, handling fees, turnstile fees (E-ZPass), escalator tolls, urinal assessments and loans to pay for parking are cause for concern. Plus, I really miss Elio Chacon. I also miss old-style extra innings (see the Astros vs. Mets 1986 National League Championship Series). The best recent rules change was making pitchers face three batters. Pitchers ought to be able to do this. After all, isn’t their basic job to hit the first batter with a pitch, then walk the next two? In any event, a July 4 Sports article in The Post with an unbelievable six bylines, “Firm grip on the sticky stuff,” said the crackdown on pitchers using sticky substances is already helping batters. Pitchers use goo to grip the ball better, increasing its spin. The result is baseballs dropping through the air like watermelons falling off picnic tables. I suggest baseball ban cloning of monster-size pitchers and batters.

And get rid of the designated hitter.

Robert Seidenstein, Lawrenceville, N.J.

An introduction to modern manners

Regarding Lisa Selin Davis’s July 11 Outlook essay, “ ‘Guys’ isn’t a gendered word anymore. It’s fine to use with everyone.”:

People of good will who want to treat all others with respect might want to take into account the effect of language on the recipient. I do not want teachers to call students by names other than what they want to be called; groups of people should not be referred to by derogatory words.

A guy is a man. If women or nonbinary people do not object to being referred to as “guys,” that is, of course, up to them. But I am not a guy, so it feels more inclusive when people address groups I am part of as “people,” “folks,” “friends” or other words that respect me and the other members of the group.

Barbara Francisco, Silver Spring

Not the fun kind of summer boil

Regarding the July 11 news article “In Canada, crushing heat cooked shellfish alive by the millions”:

It seems to me that a billion sea creatures cooked in their native coastal habitat as the Western states baked in extreme heat brought about by climate change should be front-page news, not buried on Page A24. We are in a climate emergency, and people need to be confronted with this fact full-on.

Some people might think, “Extreme weather, big deal.” We have water and food shortages in our future. The loss of a billion mussels and clams trumps whatever is going on in Haiti, and, sorry, that gun ownership story, “ ‘The real damage,’ ” was not news.

Linda Miwa, Burke

The stories of sacks and statues

An old sack and an old statue. Photos of each were starkly juxtaposed on the back page of the Outlook section in the July 11 Book World and the front page of the Metro section. Together, they told a powerful story of our nation’s past and offered lessons for the present. They are timelier as some are attempting to whitewash our history instead of teaching it honestly.

Memorializing its painful history, the cloth sack passed down over generations was embroidered with a short inscription signed by a woman named Ruth in 1921 [“A humble cloth sack tells a story of enslavement and separation”]. It tells of her great-grandmother, Rose, an enslaved woman in South Carolina who gave the sack to her 9-year-old daughter, Ashley, as the little girl was being sold off at auction. The sack held a tattered dress, three handfuls of pecans and a braid of Rose’s hair. Rose told her daughter, “It be filled with my Love, always.” Mother and child never saw each other again.

The other photo was of a weathered bronze statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee being hauled away from its public pedestal [“A fraught symbol, carted away”]. The rosy version of history I was taught at a Virginia elementary school named for another Confederate officer suggested Lee was a great historical figure who should be revered today with statues of his likeness and with schools and roads that proudly bear his name. There was no mention of how Lee dishonored his sworn oath at the U.S. Military Academy to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.” Nor were we taught that it was Lee and his fellow treasonists who were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans, all in the name of the constitution of the Confederate States of America, which explicitly banned outlawing slavery.

Rather than distorting history, true love of country means understanding both its greatness and its failings, and applying lessons learned from both to continually strive for a more perfect union for all. To get there, we need to teach the complex history of the nation’s cloth sacks, not the simplistic myths of its bronze statues.

John F. Fitzpatrick, Arlington

A cycle of oversimplification

In his July 4 Arts & Style review of “A Group of Related Things” at Culture House, “Creative twists celebrate the art of the game,” Mark Jenkins characterized Sarah Irvin’s evocative work on parenthood as deliberately cool and detached. Such an oversimplification of a complex subject matter revealed an antiquated understanding of art and quite a limited perspective on the human experience.

Opening with an anachronistic reference to Mary Cassatt, Jenkins framed Irvin’s work as minimal and “clinical” by comparison. Beyond the obviously strange link between an Impressionist painter and a contemporary hybrid artist, this frame sets up “motherhood” as the common denominator, with a clear preference for 19th-century expectations. Jenkins’s short timeline from Cassatt to Irvin skipped more than a century of progressively radical artistic research into reproduction, parenthood (yes, these are different) and familial love. Irvin’s work evokes the labor work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles and Mary Kelly and the iterative performance objects of Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Ann Hamilton.

The oversimplification of work about family bonds — the easy reduction of the topic to bath-time cuddles and warm blankets — is a tired and dated reinforcement of “women’s work.” Parenthood is by necessity an incredibly complicated experience, one that encompasses the full range of human response. Irvin’s artwork taps into that range: It is haunting, deeply felt and complex. And if we really want to dig into Jenkins’s initial comparison, we could argue that Cassatt, who during her lifetime also struggled with the media’s oversimplification of her subjects, would find camaraderie rather than bewilderment in Irvin’s work.

Tracy Stonestreet, Richmond

Put Xi’s words in context

The July 6 editorial on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s July 1 speech, “ ‘Heads bashed bloody,’ ” treated China as a rapacious country out to bash foreign heads bloody. In doing so it distorted the language Xi used. His words and imagery regarding “a great wall of steel” are drawn directly from China’s national anthem, which was the country’s most popular patriotic song during the war against Japan in the 1930s and 1940s. Its first stanza calls on all Chinese who refuse to be enslaved to use their flesh and blood to build a new great wall, by implication to resist Japanese aggression. Xi drew on this language in his speech, substituting “great wall of steel” for “new great wall.” Even the resisting enslavement language in the anthem was retained. The word “subjugation” in the English translation is literally “enslavement” in the Chinese term used. It is the enslavers, not the Chinese, who bash their own heads bloody against the wall. Whatever the merits or demerits of Xi’s speech, at least his language should not be taken out of context.

J. S. Roy, Bethesda

The writer was the U.S. ambassador to the People’s Republic of China from 1991 to 1995.

More than just a ramshackle ship

The July 9 obituary for Norman Bernstein, “D.C. developer and philanthropist pushed for housing desegregation,” said that after “World War II, he and his brother were part of a business group that raised $40,000 to buy a ramshackle Chesapeake Bay steamship for the Haganah, a Zionist paramilitary organization.” For those of you who don’t know what Bernstein bought, it was the flagship of the Baltimore Steam Packet Co., a fleet that later became known as the Old Bay Line.

The flagship steamer was named for its former president, S. Davies Warfield, who had worked painstakingly to put the Old Bay Line back on the boards after World War I. Warfield plied the waters of the Chesapeake Bay until the ship’s name was changed by crudely painted letters on hung canvas banners trumpeting Exodus 1947 as it began flying blue-and-white flags for its most fateful and special mission — delivering Jewish home-seekers.

Although licensed to carry no more than 540 passengers, 4,554 Jewish would-be immigrants had secretly boarded the ship at Sète, France, for British-controlled Palestine. Exodus 1947 outran one British destroyer in leaving France and as a blockade runner encountered a larger British fleet meant to frustrate its mission. Afterward, some wanted it kept as a floating museum, but fire damage in 1952 was too severe, resulting in Exodus 1947 eventually sinking. Bernstein in his time had changed world history.

Gordon S. Creed, Washington

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