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Faux Meats From SF Company Confounds Observant Roman Catholics

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Impossible Burgers
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Observant Catholics are debating the Lenten rules around faux meat from San Francisco-based Impossible Foods.

The Bay Area is arguably the epicenter of faux animal products: There’s Impossible Foods in Redwood City, Berkeley-based Air Protein, and San Francisco’s Just. The region is also home to a sizable number of Roman Catholics, who as of Wednesday, are observing the season of Lent, a 40-day period between Ash Wednesday (that was yesterday) and Easter (Sunday April 12). As part of that observation, adult Catholics are expected to abstain from the consumption of land animals on Fridays, but the brave new food world has posed some questions for believers. Can one follow the rules of Lent and still dine out on an Impossible Burger? According to religious leaders, maybe, maybe not.

So far, the Catholic Archdiocese in areas like San Francisco, Marin County, and the East Bay have not released any official guidance on the matter, directing Eater SF to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which says that “abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs — all of which live on land.” Concerned Catholics must turn to Chicago — which some might say is the real-meat dining distaff to SF’s fake one — for thoughts on faux TGIF orders of beef, pork, or chicken. Speaking with NBC Chicago, Todd Williamson, the director of the Archdiocese of Chicago Office for Divine Worship, says that ordering an Impossible on a Lenten Friday is a bit of a cheat, as the idea of the season is to make sacrifices.

“I can’t have meat on Friday, but I can have something that tastes exactly like a hamburger - everything about it is the same…you’re missing the point,” he says. Speaking with the Chicago Tribune, Rebecca Siar, director of campus ministry at St. John Paul II Newman Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, takes a more conciliatory approach. “The overall purpose of this Lenten practice is to give something up that is considered a disruption in our normal routine, an intentional sacrifice,” she says. “It all comes down to the intention and interior disposition of the individual.”

Retired priest Rev. Charles Bolser is even more relaxed on the matter, telling the Trib that the Friday meat rule is a “superficial law.” “How does that by itself change the way I live my life?” He asks. “Does it really help me concentrate on becoming a better person? Or is it simply, I’m obeying the rules?”

Despite those arguments, it might be an Impossible task to get Williamson to budge. He tells the Trib that “What’s behind the whole tradition in practice is to go without in order to be in solidarity with those who are hungry, with those who can’t afford meat.” As restaurants like Burger King typically tack on an additional fee to replace meat with Impossible’s product, that solidarity with the poor might be harder to find when one trades real flesh for the fake variety.

And in other news...

  • Jason Droege, the head of San Francsico-based Uber’s “Eats” food delivery service, is stepping down. In a statement, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said that his replacement, Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, would bring Eats “into its next phase of more profitable growth.” [Quartz]
  • Amateur detectives take note: Napa Valley’s wine train is offering “Murder Mystery Tour” packages through December, in which passengers dine on “a multi-course gourmet dinner from executive chef Donald Young” while they solve a crime. [East Bay Times]
  • Ora Wine Bar is gearing up to open at 1519 Polk Street, in a former See’s Candies right next door to Swan Oyster Depot. [Hoodline]
  • Out the Dough, an East Bay company that makes raw — but still safe to eat — cookie dough desserts, is opening a flagship location in Concord on Saturday. [East Bay Times]
  • The Berkeley-based Earth Island Institute has filed a lawsuit in San Mateo court against food and drink producers like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Mars, Crystal Geyser and Mondelez, saying that their packaging has polluted the waterways of San Francisco and Monterey. [SF Chronicle]
  • The Castro Theatre has sourced its popcorn from the same Sutter County farm for the last 15 years. [SF Weekly]
  • Two former Sacred Heart kids have opened a neighborhood bar in the Parkside called Karl’s Beacon, saying “we want it to be a beacon in the fog, a beacon to old SF folks.” [Hoodline]

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