January 3, 2019

Dear friends,
I remember packing raw chickens in dry ice at breakneck speed to make the final Fed Ex pickup of the day. The birds were going to a food lab in Columbus to determine how the chickens in Akron supermarket chickens stacked up against the national average of salmonella in chicken. (Result: about 30 percent were contaminated, same as nationwide).

I remember the day a photographer coaxed me into a fort built from hundreds of my cookbooks for a picture to go with a story about cookbook collecting. Before he could snap the photo, the heavy rear wall of the fort toppled onto me, bruising a shoulder and almost burying me.

I remember interviewing a nice guy in a kitchen absolutely trashed from an apparently intense cooking session. Although the photographer had a tough time getting a serene shot, I loved the guy’s green chili stew. For years afterward I imagined the scene when his wife got home from work that day: You let them photograph this??

I remember naming the sauerkraut ball Akron’s iconic food, and Gino’s its best pizza. I remember generous chefs who shared their knowledge and recipes and readers who shared their life stories.

In 24 years as food editor of the Akron Beacon Journal, I amassed a lifetime of memories. I held the position from September 1982 through November 2006, the latest in a line that stretched back to the 1800s. Standouts along the way were Glenna Snow (1932 to 1946) and Polly Paffilas (1961 to 1974), but all 12 of the food writers whose bylines I unearthed in the newspaper archives helped Akron-area readers shop and eat better and more knowledgeably.

Today I’m asking what YOU remember. I am writing a chapter on the Beacon Journal’s food coverage as part of a history of the newspaper untaken by my colleagues. The eventual book will be published by the University of Akron Press. I would like to include readers’ comments on what they liked (or disliked) about the Food section.

I know what I think — the design, artwork and photography were some of the best in the country, and the content when I was writing the section was the result of much blood, sweat and tears.

But what about you? Are there any articles you especially remember? Were you helped by any of the nutrition or food safety advice? Did we make you laugh occasionally? Did any recipes become favorites? In sum, what made the Beacon Journal’s food coverage special?

Many of the recipes I printed became favorites of mine. Among the treasured stack I keep in a mixing bowl in the kitchen are recipes from readers, chefs and cookbooks, along with a handful of recipes I created. Do you have a favorite? The following bread pudding recipe is one of mine. It is from reader Geoff Hewitt, who was profiled in an In the Kitchen column in 1988. The addition of pecans and shredded coconut puts his version over the top.

1 long loaf French bread
1 cup chopped pecans
4 cups milk
2 cups sugar
1 stick butter, melted
3 eggs
1 tbsp. dry sherry
2 tbsp. vanilla
1 cup raisins
1 cup shredded coconut
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Tear the bread into pieces of various sizes and let air-dry for three days. Spread chopped pecans on a baking sheet and toast at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Combine all ingredients except bread and mix well. Add bread and stir well, using your hands to thoroughly mix the ingredients. The mixture should be quite moist but not soupy. Add more milk if it appears to be too dry. Pour into a greased, 9-by-13-inch baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for one hour and 15 minutes. Serve warm with bourbon sauce.

1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/2 cup bourbon or other liquor

Stir butter and sugar over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in egg yolk. Stir in bourbon gradually. Heat until warm but not boiling. Spoon over individual portions of bread pudding.

What I cooked last week:
A bone-in half ham (shank) with honey-mustard glaze; ham, potato and butternut squash soup; ham quiche. (Eternity is two people and a ham.)

What I ate out last week:
Baked brie en croute, marinated chicken kabob, steamed rice, couscous, green salad and a cut-out cookie at my niece, Heidi’s; chicken pad Thai at Giant Eagle in Cuyahoga Falls.

From Dorothy G.:
“The West Point Market Cookbook” by Russ Vernon is for sale on Amazon.

Dear Dorothy:
I was stunned to see how much the book has soared in price since it was published in 2008. Used copies are going for as much as $132 on Amazon, although a number of more reasonably priced copies in good condition can be had for $25 to $30. Again, I would check the shelves at the Bookseller in Akron first.

From Bill B.:
A book you said you want to get, “The Flavor Matrix,” sounds good. Have you read “The Flavor Thesaurus”? It is what the title says it is: Synonyms and antonyms for flavors. I also recommend “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” by Samin Nosrat. Both books are great for understanding flavors.

Dear Bill:
I currently am watching the four-part documentary on Netflix based on “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.” It is entertaining and instructive. As for “The Flavor Thesaurus,” that sounds like a good book for a restaurant critic. Personally, in my years of reviewing I was always searching for a new way to say “mediocre.”

From Karen B.:
It’s good to see that you were recently at Sushi Katsu (in Akron’s Merriman Valley). We were just talking about it yesterday! My son and friend had both been there but it was years ago, and they really enjoyed it. I told them I wasn’t sure how it is since Tony left but apparently it’s pretty good if you were there. Any other thoughts?

Dear Karen:
Tony and I go at least once a month. The sushi is very good. Tony taught the chefs before we handed it over. Sometimes there will be something not up to Tony’s standards, and he will make the chefs aware of it. The sushi is more adventurous under chef Tin than it was under Tony, who is a sushi purist. The tired decor, which Tony wouldn’t let me change, is sleek and modern now. Go! Enjoy!

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