The other day a veteran newspaperman recited a list of topics people want to read about. At the top of the list was "dogs."
Write a story about dogs, said Bill Blundell, a former editor with the Wall Street Journal, and you will get sacks of mail and the switchboard will be flooded with phones calls.
He was right. Once, following the advice of another veteran newspaperman, I wrote a story listing all the problems biting dogs cause a community. The story was accompanied by a disturbing color photo of the jaws of a snarling German Shepherd.
Talk about mail! Talk about phone calls! Talk about a bad idea! Several irate dog owners threatened me, saying they would like nothing better than to sic their pooch on my posterior.
That was the last story I wrote about dogs. Soon after that I began to write about other topics that people feel strongly about, like ham and Vidalia onions.
It is true that you don't get as much mail when you write about these topics as you do when you write about wild dogs. But, when these correspondents mention sinking their teeth into something, it makes you feel hungry not threatened.
Ham of my heart From: Mrs. Edward Coffren,
Re: Column speculating that ham-loving gene is inherited.
Dear Happy Eater,
I do believe you're right about the inherited ham sandwich gene. I'm a ham lover, too. When I was growing up on the farm, ham was a staple for breakfast, lunch or supper. We either had cured ham from the smokehouse (which was ground into a ham sandwich spread when it got down to the bone) or regular ham which Mama always boiled so she would have "pot likker" for kale, cabbage, string beans, etc.
Her boiled ham, though, didn't compare to Aunt Helen's ham, 'cause she always finished hers off by baking with a vinegary-sweet glaze.
All this reminiscing about ham brings back another great memory, rolls.
Mama and her sisters always made rolls on Saturday afternoons. I have a wonderful recollection of passing through the kitchen and smelling the sweet aroma of yeast from the rising dough, and anticipating Saturday night supper when you got to eat those good rolls with fresh real butter, and the highlight of the week, sticky-bottoms [buns].
The only thing that could top that was if you got to eat Saturday night supper at Aunt Helen's and had rolls and sticky-bottoms and baked-with- a-glaze ham.
It really is a crime we have to be so conscious now about "good" food. What on earth are our kids going to remember?
Eater replies: Eventually I hope our kids remember their parents fondly, and grow up with an appreciation for homemade food. But for right now, I just wish they would remember to put the milk back in the refrigerator.
Onion alert From: Jane Rodeheaver, Baltimore
Endless columns proclaiming the sweet powers of Vidalia (Ga.) onions.
Dear Happy Eater,
+ As a devoted fan of yours I
thought you might like this recipe for Awesome Onions.
` Awesome onions 4 medium Vidalia onions
4 beef bouillon cubes
4 teaspoons margarine
3/4 cups water
Remove skin and root end from each onion. Cut a small "V" hole in the stem end.
Place a bouillon cube in the hole and a teaspoon of margarine on top.
Place close together in a 1-quart size baking dish. Add the water.
Cover with lid and bake 40 minutes at 325.
Eater Replies: This year I noticed more onions than ever before. Shriners sold them by the box-load, and produce stands and grocery stores had them by the pound.
Down in Georgia, the Vidalia Onion Growers Association ( 537-9244) provides a list of onion shippers to anyone who wants to order a box of onions through the mail.