Food fright

I've been saying good-bye to far too many things that I'd been looking forward to taking for granted.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles sold the Self Help Graphics building in East L.A. right out from under the non-profit. "Witchblade" comic-book creator, Michael Turner, passed away last week at the age of 37. I may not have been a great fan of his work, but, like every other geek, knew the story of how he broke into the comics business in 1993 after attending a Comic-con convention.

Yesterday, Kevin shared news that the Los Angeles Times may cut the Food section! How can they even contemplate such an act. If Mark Sarvas over at The Elegant Variation can suggest improvements for the Book Review section, then it is time to lobby for the Food section. The Food section is the last piece of my childhood left in this town. The powers that be canceled LA TV legend "Hobo Kelly," yanked TV horror host "Grimsley Presents" off the air in the late '70s, and closed Bungalow News in Pasadena.

If Mr. Zell and Co. trim the Food section, there will be hell to pay. Managers should never underestimate the Food section as it attracts an engaged and loyal readership. I recently cleaned out my mother's kitchen cabinets, which were stuffed with Food section clippings from as far back as the '60s. I know that she's not the only recipe obsessive in the Southland.

The food pages are one of the most interactive parts of the paper. Where will people find answers to culinary quandaries such as how to prepare dishes like the ones that they enjoy at places like Caf des Artistes? The Food section was a blog before there was even an Internet. Without the Food section, how will consumers maintain a balance of power against celebrity chefs gone wild without restaurant reviews written by Good Cop, S. Irene Virbila, or Bad Cop, Leslie Brenner?

Sure, the the Pulitzer Prize nomination committee has yet to recognize LAT food reviewers, but who can really compete with the inimitable Jonathan Gold? That doesn't mean Angelenos don't love the Food section any less; indeed, in May the Association of Food Journalists awarded a prize to the section for Best Newspaper Food Section (Circulation 300,001 and over). Staffer Russ Parson also won the Best Newspaper Food Feature (Circulation 323,001 and over) prize for his piece on the squid fishery industry, "Lights, Nets, Action." And don't even think about yanking out the test kitchens. Test kitchen manager Noelle Carter and director Donna Deane are vital to the enterprise. Vital. Their crackerjack quality assurance department is the only thing that separates the Tribune Co. and its shareholders from the puking masses and their lawyers.

Once upon a time, the Times Mirror Company had a publishing company designed to publish the newspaper's best work. The Food section provided most, if not all, of the content for quality cookbooks like Betsy Balsley's Los Angeles Times California Cookbook or Rose Dosti's Dear S.O.S.: 30 Years of Recipe Requests to the Los Angeles Times . The Food Section can provide similar ancillary revenues in the future.

Contrary to East Coast misperceptions, Angelenos don't like change. It would be a shame to alienate one of the paper's remaining fan bases. If the LAT axes the Food Section, I just hope the top brass remembers that Food section fans also know how to wield cleavers.


More by Adrienne Crew:
Misquoting Dorothy Parker
A taste of Henry Rollins
A cash cook-off
Celebrating Marion Davies in Santa Monica
Visiting Dawnridge with Hutton Wilkinson
Previous Native Intelligence story: Sex on my mind as librarians take over the Anaheim Convention Center

Next Native Intelligence story: Beyond Baroque in another bind*

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