The "Ask Mary" column made its Taste debut on Jan. 27, 1982. While it was new to Taste readers, it was as familiar to Minneapolis Tribune subscribers as the newspaper's distinctive masthead. Its transfer from the Tribune's Food section into the Star's Taste section was a precursor to a much more monumental event taking place a few months later: the merger of the morning Minneapolis Tribune and the afternoon Minneapolis Star into a single morning-only newspaper, the Star Tribune.
The column was written by Mary Hart, although her last name wasn't Hart; it was Sorenson. "She acquired the name Mary Hart when she went to work on the 'Women's pages' at the Minneapolis Tribune in 1945, straight out of the University of Minnesota," wrote Al Sicherman, another longtime Star Tribune food writer, in Sorenson's 2003 obituary. "Her name then was Mary Engelhart, and the editors shortened it to Mary Hart, which they copyrighted. They planned to use that name for all the other women who, they assumed, would succeed her -- and each other -- every few years."
They assumed wrong. The 44-year run on the Hart byline wasn't just noteworthy for its impressive longevity, but it also enjoyed an enduring popularity (raspberry bars, in the form of five different recipes -- were the theme of that first "Ask Mary" Taste column).
A 1978 tabulation of mail received by Tribune columnists listed advice doyenne Eppie Lederer, aka Ann Landers, at 763 letters; "Hart" racked up 1,056.