You will search the Sun-Times in vain for any comment on yesterday’s story that the Food Section is ending its Wednesday food section today (or at least we searched in vain— if you find it, let us know). Though inside the food media terrarium, that has been verified by a number of people who would know at least something about what’s going on there. But the Sun-Times actually has acknowledged the fact and given a sense of what’s to come— bizarrely, after ignoring press inquiries from all manner of local publications, including some staffed by their own contributors, they did send a statement to just one place: New York-based website The Daily Meal (which has begun upping its Chicago content, but still, is not where we’d first think to look to find out what the Sun-Times is up to).
The food section is being replaced next Wednesday with something called TASTE, which will combine “new food-related content, such as a weekly Menu Planner and a DeVine Wine column, with new advertising opportunities to gain revenue for the company.” That latter is the key, as the section will not be produced by the paper or local writers so far as we know, but outsourced to something called Custom Media Solutions, of whom we can find no verifiable information online, but about whom we can probably guess a lot from the fact that they’re in the business of solutions, rather than, say, journalism.
And so today is the last day of the Sun-Times’ Wednesday food section as it’s been known since the days that housewives took the streetcar to the local Jewel Tea Company to get Weetabix and Ipana toothpaste. Let’s salute it for the job it did well for many years, providing a very local-focused take on food in our time by some capable and distinctive local writers. On this last day, we have a baking column by Sandy Thorn Clark, looking at the recipes for Tres Leche Cake and Brown Sugar Refrigerator Cookies in a new Betty Crocker Cookbook; David Hammond, in the Food Detective column, looking at what it’s like to eat with all the senses but taste; Jennifer Olvera talking to local chefs about how they make modern takes on retro foods like 2Sparrows’ housemade Pop Tarts; a piece on coconut pie by Judith Dunbar Hines, and one on homemade pot pie by Jennifer Chandler.
Newspapers have been the same for so long, we don’t argue that they need change in many ways. But we won’t pretend that change doesn’t always lose something as well as gain something, when it happens, and the traditions that end today deserve notice.