It is said that nothing is certain in life but death and taxes. But as one who has spent a lifetime cooking, I know there’s another inevitability, one that presents itself at mealtime, often in a plaintive tone:
What’s for dinner?
For 45 years, the Taste section has tried to answer that question. We’ve headed to your kitchens and those of chefs. We’ve walked the Back 40 with farmers and the supermarket aisles with grocers. We’ve picked over produce at the farmers markets and over bulk foods at the food co-op.
We’ve answered questions from home cooks and asked our own from those far wiser.
In fact, as a food section we have cooked our way through history — our history, as Minnesotans and Americans — as only those in search of the next meal can.
Forty-five years may not seem like much in the evolution of the world, but when it comes to the changes in our local food supply during these years, there is reason to gasp.
That leap from frozen and canned foods to fresh produce in almost limitless variety? The global blend of flavors from around the world, now at our fingertips? The abundance of choices, prepared or otherwise? We will never cook — or eat — the same.
There were lean years in the mix, of course, meat boycotts and energy crises, recessions or personal challenges among them. And there were dietary concerns — fat, carbs, calories and cholesterol, allergies and simple preferences. The Taste section dealt with them all. And still we cooked and occasionally branched out to restaurants because, at the end of the day, we all had to answer the same question: What’s for dinner?
Thanks for joining us on our wild and entertaining journey. Let the adventure at the dinner table continue.
• Headline on an article on snacks: “Hubby comes waddling home from the office to a wife doing her best to keep him in good health and shape.”
• A photo feature on bathrobes: “A robe in which it would be appropriate to wave goodbye to one’s husband or greet the milk man.”
• Suggestions for sending Christmas foods to troops stationed in Vietnam.
• A column by Julia Child runs; first called “The French Chef,” it is changed soon to “Voilà.”
• Wine column runs weekly from the section’s earliest days.
• The first of many annual food stories details what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers.
• The Star’s Metro Poll notes that nine out of 10 city shoppers save trading stamps.
• A monthly reader recipe contest is launched; runs well into the 1980s.
• Headline: “Tea parties needn’t feature tired menus; try something like apricot ham squares.”
• Editor Beverly Kees spends a month eating her way across France and devotes an entire Taste issue to her food experiences.
• A new column, “Value,” highlights weekly prices on various supermarket commodities and offers shopping tips. It runs for nearly 20 years.
• A yuletide White House: What the Nixons will eat for Christmas dinner, with recipes: mincemeat pastries, spicy cranberry sauce and blue cheese dressing over fruit cups.
• Industry conducts test on safety of microwave ovens.
• A column that retrieves recipes from restaurants, at the request of readers, begins with ones for French dressing from the Flame Room and Beer Cheese Soup from the Leamington Hotel’s Norse Room.
• Reader Exchange begins, where readers write in asking other readers for help with lost recipes. The first recipes are for corn tortillas and baklava.
• An ambitious special section examines the culinary traditions within Minnesota and explores foods from 16 ethnic groups.
• Consumers form co-ops for buying organic foods. An official from the Minneapolis district of the Food and Drug Administration reports, “There is no significant or general difference between the residues found in so-called organic foods and other foods. The only difference is the price.” North Country Co-op is the first. By 1980, there are 10 in Minneapolis and a dozen in the suburbs. A decade later, as co-ops struggle to survive, they become more like supermarkets and stock shelves with spring water, coffee beans, Dannon yogurt and Haagen-Dazs ice cream. The genre hits its peak in the Twin Cities with 31 stores in 1982; by 1985 the number is 22. By 2014, there are 14.
• Recipe for green bean casserole first appears.
• Taste visits the food traditions of nine Minnesota towns and counties (booya in St. Cloud, fish cakes in Cook County), a series it would follow for several years.
• Supermarkets provide expiration dates for their perishable and nonperishable food.
• Vegetarian cooking with the seven-member Lincoln Goldman commune in St. Paul, and the Communion Restaurant in Minneapolis.
• “Haute Cuisine” issue includes recipes for canard a l’orange, escargots bourguignon, lobster thermidor, vichyssoise, crêpes Suzette, beef Wellington and Grand Marnier soufflé.
• Both Dayton’s (via Supervalu) and Red Owl introduce a shop-by-phone service, a precursor to later grocery delivery services.
• Skylab astronauts dine on lobster, ice cream, veal, pork and scalloped potatoes. Meals cost $25, considerably less than the $50 spent during the Apollo missions.
• A 16-page section includes 11 full pages of supermarket ads.
• The energy crisis yields a story on cooking two meals at once. A reader exchange offers recipes for no-bake cookies.
• First Taste profile of a person of color: Zelia Lockett, a nutrition program assistant with the Agricultural Extension Service of the University of Minnesota.
• The state leads the nation in low-fat milk use.
• A much-talked-about recipe for carp wieners is published.
• More energy conservation: “Electric skillets use about one-third as much electricity as an eight-inch electric range element and considerably less than an electric oven.”
• Suburban growth reduces the number of raspberry farms that once made Hopkins the raspberry capital of the world.
• Restaurant reviews appear in Taste. The first ones are of the Amalgamated Eating and Drinking Co. Underground in St. Louis Park, the Haberdashery in St. Paul and Charlie’s Cafe Exceptionale in Minneapolis.
• Twin Cities Gourmet, a new column that profiles an area cook (and a precursor to the Tastemaker column) debuts, with a look into the kitchen of actor Wendy Lehr.
• How to feed a family of four on $40 per week.
• Profile of Pham Ngoc Huong, one of the thousands of Vietnamese refugees who had recently settled in Minnesota.
• Minnesota inches toward the metric system.
• The nation’s bicentennial is celebrated with special sections exploring the culinary traditions of the 13 original colonies.
• Bag-your-own grocery shopping comes to the Twin Cities with Red Owl’s Country Store chain, which had been preceded by CUB (Consumers United for Buying).
• Price Check, a column that compares the costs of 25-plus grocery items, debuts.
• Dr. Robert Atkins promotes his low-carb, high-protein diet book, “Dr. Atkins’ Superenergy Diet,” at Dayton’s.
• A first-annual “Dining Out” issue surveys 35 local restaurateurs, who name these as best restaurants: Charlie’s Cafe Exceptionale, Chouette, Murray’s, the International Rosewood Room and the Lowell Inn.
• First apparent use of the title Ms. appears in a profile of Pam Sherman, who would later go on to co-found the New French Cafe.
• The city’s trendiest restaurant, according to staff writer (and later editor) Ann Burckhardt, has these attributes: “To qualify, the restaurant must have all of the following: stained glass windows, plants in the windows suspended by macramé, unmatched chairs and lots of bean sprouts. Sgt. Preston’s fits the bill but somehow keeps it from being corny.”
• Co-founders Pam Sherman and Lynne Alpert are interviewed about their soon-to-open New French Cafe. “We wanted to try something that the Twin Cities didn’t have, a real French menu with a long list of hors d’oeuvres and no section of typical American sandwiches,” said Alpert.
• “You Asked for It,” a call for story ideas that became an annual effort for almost a decade, results in 125 reader suggestions, including interest in microwave meals.
• A guide to building your own salad bar mirrors the national dining-out craze.
• Restaurant reviews disappear from Taste, not to be seen again in the section for 20 years.
• The National Restaurant Association estimates that 37 percent of the nation’s food budget is spent away from home, and by the late 1980s it is expected to reach 50 percent.
• Taste devotes entire sections to New York City, San Francisco, New Orleans and the regions of China. In 2005, in a similar effort, it collaborates with the Travel section and looks at the same three U.S. cities plus Chicago.
• A survey shows that median dinner prep time in urban areas is 35 minutes. Seven out of 10 use convenience foods, mostly canned products. Nearly 20 percent said they don’t plan ahead, and half said they grab whatever is on the pantry shelf and heat it up. Two-thirds said they never cook for future meals.
• James Beard visits Minneapolis.
• A forecast predicts that by 2002 personal computers will create meal plans, compose shopping lists and provide nutritional content. Meat will be a luxury, eaten perhaps two to three times per week. Most protein will come from soybeans and legumes.
• Croissants hit the market.
• Nutritional information is now included with recipes.
• Workers building the Metrodome inspire a story on brown-bag lunches.
• Betty Crocker goes global, with Mexican and Chinese cookbooks, the latter written by local entrepreneur Leeann Chin.
• Taste gets a new look with the merger of the Minneapolis Star and the Minneapolis Tribune. The Tribune’s Food section, which had run on Thursday, begins appearing on Sunday.
• The Minnesota Grown campaign begins, an effort to promote state farmers and their products.
• Taste heads to Hibbing, Minn., to report on food relief to those hit by longterm unemployment.
• Taste profiles chef Paul Prudhomme, reflecting the popularity of Cajun cooking.
• Irradiation is approved for spices, and the FDA is expected to allow it in more food categories within the next year.
• A roster of local farmers markets lists 20. By 2009, there are more than 50; by 2014 there are 86 in the metropolitan area.
• With one in five households owning VCRs, Taste examines a newfangled video how-to-cook series.
• First story about Martha Stewart.
• New columns include ones on microwave cooking, special diets and quick cooking.
• Muffins are hot both for national retail sales and muffin specialty stores.
• Goat cheese replaces Brie in popularity.
• Food to Go, a new column that reflects the increasing availability of takeout food, debuts. The column is one of the first nationwide in newspapers to recognize the trend toward takeout. Its presence is an early Taste effort to reach out to noncooks.
• Local food professionals are introduced through two new columns: Meet the Chef and Cooking Teacher’s Best. Sunday Food (the former Minneapolis Tribune Food section) is renamed Sunday Taste.
• After 18 years, Taste’s poster cover tradition comes to an end because of the decreasing size of the section prompted by a steep decline in supermarket advertising.
• Precut vegetables find way into market; carrots most popular, rutabagas have limited appeal.
• Salmonella in eggs first discussed.
• Three-part series analyzes school lunch.
• Taste celebrates 20 years with all-history issue.
• The first of a series of seasonal menus begins.
• A healthful cooking column debuts.
• Pierre Franey’s syndicated 60-Minute Cooking column debuts; it runs for three years.
• Local author Antonio Cecconi writes “Betty Crocker’s Italian Cooking.”
• Tomatillos, jicama, couscous, cilantro, coconut milk and black beans, considered exotic a decade earlier, have become so mainstream they are found among the recipes entered in the Pillsbury Bake-Off, a contest that has served as a barometer of the country’s tastes. Supermarkets become more multicultural, too. In the 1970s, the typical produce aisle contained 65 varieties; by the ’90s it contains as many as 300, prompted in great part by the influx of Asians and Hispanics, the nation’s two fastest-growing ethnic groups.
• Barista, macchiato, Americano and espresso are defined as the coffee culture sweeps the country.
• St. Paul author Lynne Rossetto Kasper publishes her much-heralded book, “The Splendid Table.”
• The sale of bottled water explodes, increasing 500 percent between 1980 and 1990. By 1992, Americans were buying 2.3 billion gallons of bottled water.
• A list of the winners of food competitions at the Minnesota State Fair starts a tradition that continues today.
• Lynne Rossetto Kasper launches public radio’s “The Splendid Table” at Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul.
• Community Supported Agriculture takes off nationwide. (In a CSA, a farmer sells shares of the summer’s harvest in advance; buyers then receive a weekly share of the farm’s produce.) In 1986, only two such farming programs operated in the country. In 2014, there are 37 farms in the 11-county metro area.
• A redesigned Taste includes a new, easy-to-clip recipe format.
• Desperation Dinners, a syndicated column, debuts.
• Annual wine issue debuts.
• Julia Child signs books at Dayton’s.
• Taste goes online and readers can search through thousands of recipes, available on the Star Tribune’s new website, startribune.com/taste.
• Home meal replacement — i.e. in-house prepared foods — catches on at supermarkets.
• The popularity of brew pubs is growing, from 26 nationwide in 1988 to 1,000 in 1996.
• The fictitious Betty Crocker gets a new look, painted by John Stuart Ingle, a professor of studio art at the University of Minnesota, Morris.
• A Roper Poll finds only slightly more than half of all American families eat together five or more days per week.
• Cook’s Lesson, a practical cooking guide, debuts.
• First profile of Emeril Lagasse, an early Food Network star.
• Taste visits the White House and interviews chef Walter Scheib.
• Of the century’s 100 best foods, the top five are the hamburger, pie, French fries, cold cereal and the peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich.
• Taste gets a major makeover and aims to reach more noncooks. A note from editor Lee Svitak Dean says, “We may not all cook, but we do all eat. So we’ve rethought our food coverage to reflect those meals in all their varied forms.” New columns include those by a freelance wine writer and a weekly dessert recipe from staff writer Al Sicherman. Restaurant reviews (beyond takeout) are back in the section, and food stories from the news pages are summarized. The section, moved to Thursday from Wednesday and features lots of color photography.
• A report on Somali dining reflects the recent influx of 20,000 immigrants to the Twin Cities.
• The Minnesota State Fair boasts more than 30 foods on a stick.
• Taste parodies the horror film “The Blair Witch Project” with an issue called “The Baby Ruth Project.”
• A local architect draws plans for a gingerbread house for bakers.
• With the turn-of-the-century (Y2K) approaching, sales of French Champagne go through the roof, and consumers store food and water in case of computer glitches predicted for the millennium date change.
• To mark the century’s end, Taste looks back at typical foods from each of the past 10 decades, including grasshopper pie (1960s), quiche Lorraine (1970s) and tiramisu (1990s).
• Cooking schools proliferate in the Twin Cities.
• An Online Cook column begins, steering readers to interesting food-related websites.
• Taste visits Texas and looks for the flavors of the Lone Star State as George W. Bush moves into the White House.
• The influx of Hispanics is apparent with five new Mexican bakeries in south Minneapolis alone.
• Taste looks at foods produced in the state.
• Local cooking instructor Raghavan Iyer writes “Betty Crocker’s Indian Home Cooking.”
• Taste travels to Cuba with restaurant critic Jeremy Iggers, who is nominated for a James Beard award for his tale of dining intrigue.
• The state of hunger: With one in 22 Minnesotans receiving assistance from a food shelf, Taste examines a dozen local agencies involved in the fight against hunger.
• Nigella Lawson’s syndicated column debuts.
• Taste is named best food section for large-circulation newspapers by the James Beard Foundation.
• A series examines local, sustainable agricultural methods involving meat production: “Clean” pork, free-range chickens and pasture-raised cattle.
• The four-part “Cucina Italiana” series, by staff writer Bill Ward, maps out a seasonal journey of Italy’s regions. The series goes on to win the James Beard award for best series and several photography awards.
• “A Healthier You” series tackles the issue of obesity and its health effects. It’s a James Beard award finalist.
• Taste gives the Twin Cities restaurant scene two stars, and offers suggestions for improvement.
• The annual holiday cookie contest debuts.
• Taste bestows its first Restaurateur of the Year Award, to Josh Thoma and Tim McKee of Solera in Minneapolis.
• Taste is named best food section among large-circulation newspapers by the Association of Food Journalists.
• Latest cooking trend for busy parents: businesses where busy cooks can prepare a week’s worth of meals in less than two hours.
• Restaurant critic Rick Nelson starts a weekly podcast, one of the first for the Star Tribune.
• Taste celebrates its 35th anniversary with an all history issue.
• Duluth cookbook author Beatrice Ojakangas is inducted into the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Hall of Fame.
• Rick Nelson wins James Beard award for profile of pastry chef Michelle Gayer.
• Cover story on gluten-free cooking and products.
• First of annual Taste 50 issues that highlight Minnesota people, products and places.
• No-knead-bread story, prompted by a New York Times story, gets bakers’ attention.
• “The Silver Palate” cookbook celebrates its 25th anniversary with a new edition.
• Cover story shows 50 ways to save on food costs.
• Eating local for a season (the 100-mile diet and beyond) gathers interest.
• Bill Ward starts his wine column and blog.
• The Thrifty Cook column debuts as the economy sours.
• 100-calorie snacks are all the rage.
• Taste joins Facebook.
• Cover stories include homestyle sous vide, Hmong cooking, buying direct from farms, 50 ways to eat green, flavored liqueurs.
• Make-your-own is big in the dairy department with DIY yogurt, kefir, crème fraÎche, butter.
• The Taste blog — Table Talk — debuts and can still be found at startribune.taste/tabletalk.
• Taste celebrates its 40th birthday with an all-history issue.
• The monthly series Baking Central with staff writer Kim Ode starts, and for the first year includes videos, one of which wins an Emmy.
• The Healthy Family column begins.
• Freelancer Amy Thielen, who lands a show — “Heartland Table” — on the Food Network two years later, wins a James Beard award for three stories she wrote for Taste.
• Kale takes over. Is there anyone left who hasn’t tried it?
• Burger Friday debuts (and continues) from restaurant critic Rick Nelson (find his suggestions at www.startribune.com/burger).
• The Taste 50 calls it “The Year of the Farmer,” and looks at local growers.
• A Sunday page of food returns to Taste (find it in the Variety section).
Lee Svitak Dean has been Taste editor for 20 years. Follow her on Twitter: @StribTaste. Timeline compiled by Rick Nelson and Lee Svitak Dean.