You might have discovered it while twirling the AM dial— suddenly, among the sports games and the late night political ranters, there came a voice, unmistakably professorial, engaged in what might have been a late-night dinner party among university types. This was Professor Milt Rosenberg’s nightly program, the best interview show on radio, not on public radio but on one of the oldest and largest commercial stations in the country— a holdover from another time when local radio stations were actually local and did things like give college professors late night airtime to offer, essentially, free education to any steel worker or cab driver willing to tune it in. (WGN’s own website called it “utterly implausible radio,” and a more damning indictment of American media is hard to imagine.) Now, after 39 years, Rosenberg’s show will end abruptly with Thursday night’s broadcast. Okay, but what makes this a food story, you ask?
Simply that among the many things the 87-year-old Rosenberg, a retired professor of psychology from the University of Chicago, liked to talk about was food. And when he did so, it tended to be more than just the usual writers talking about the hot places of the moment, since for one thing, 87-year-olds rarely care that much about the things that are buzzing among much younger people. That could open up a generation gap on air (as we noted about a recent discussion about molecular gastronomy with Mike Sula, Julia Kramer and Penny Pollack) but on the whole, it’s refreshing any time you get to hear from someone with a longer perspective than this instant in our media. In fact, our friends Dr. Bruce Kraig and Cathy Lambrecht, of Chicago Culinary Historians and the Greater Midwest Foodways Association, were more likely to turn up on the show talking culinary history and sociology than most reviewers with deadlines were.
If you dig through the archives at WGN (who knows how long they’ll stay up?) you’ll find various food-related shows, and we venture to say any of them is worth an hour of your time. Robert Feder has more on the story behind Rosenberg’s exit from the station (which his ratings generally outpaced) here.