Giving the readers what they want but what is it?


October 13, 1991|By ROB KASPER

What do the readers want? This is a question all of us in newspaper journalism regularly ask ourselves.

Do readers want to be entertained? Do they want to be informed? Do they want big color pictures? Do they clamor for itty-bitty bites of data? My answer is: It depends.

Mainly it depends what you didn't give them. Whatever you have left out in your tome on toothpicks -- data on the number of toothpicks in a box, funny true-to-life toothpick stories or a provocative analysis of the meaning of toothpicks in American society -- that is what readers want.

In my long career of answering telephones at newspapers the only consistent call I have heard from the reading public is: Tell that blankety-blank carrier to throw the paper on the porch.

Which leads us to the following announcement: Today this column ventures into the realm of service journalism. For those of you unfamiliar with the terms, service journalism is similar to service at a greasy soup restaurant. You holler out what you want and sooner or later you get what is coming to you.

Gimme a soup!

From: David M. Ullrich Sr., Baltimore

Re: Column on the correct color of crab soup.

Dear Happy Eater:

In your article about crab soup I could not wait to get to the end to find a recipe. But there was none.

Eater responds: Despite that remark about how you couldn't wait for my column to end, I am gonna give the cream of crab recipe from Carrol's Creek restaurant in Annapolis. It won the cream of crab category at the recent Maryland Seafood Festival.

Carrol's Creek cream of crab soup

Makes 2 quarts.

Flounder bones, crab and shrimp shells

1 small onion studded with cloves

1/2 tablespoon flour

1/2 tablespoon butter

1 pint milk

1 to 2 ounces fino sherry

1/2 pound of well-picked backfin crab meat

salt and pepper to taste

Boil bones and shells in large, heavy saucepan to make 1 pint of seafood stock, strain and return to pan. Add onion and bring to a simmer. Make a roux with flour and butter, add some of the simmering liquid to roux, blend and return to pot. Simmer over low heat, stirring regularly, until thickened. Remove onion, add cream and return to simmer, being careful not to boil. Add crab meat, sherry, salt and pepper to taste. Garnish each serving with fresh parsley.

Gimme a banana bread

From: Jack E. Briley, Cockeysville

Re: Column praising cookbook that brought back hunger for the banana bread of my youth.

Dear Happy Eater:

Am I missing something? Regarding the "Heartland Baking" book to be out in November you first say, "Alas, there was no banana bread." Then you telephoned the author. Then you close the column in praise of the book with "but a good banana bread is hard to find," suggesting there is a recipe in the book.

What's the deal?

Eater responds: Yes, you did miss something. You missed a loaf of magnificent banana nut bread that arrived on my desk the day after my column ran. It was sent in by Sue Cole, a reader who felt sorry for me. You also missed a batch of banana nut muffins sent in my David Hudson, executive chef at the Bowman restaurant in Carney, a place that serves banana muffins with dinner.

Finally, "the deal" was that I was hungry and my readers gave me banana bread to eat. Here is the recipe from the Jerre Ann cafeteria in St. Joseph, Mo. Go and do likewise.

Jerre Ann banana bread

Makes 3 4-by-7-inch loaves.

From "Heartland Baking," by Charla Lawhon (Dell $12).

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup ( 1/4 pound) softened butter

1/2 cup ( 1/4 pound) vegetable shortening

4 eggs

4 cups mashed bananas (8 to 10 large ripe bananas)

3 cups sifted cake flour

1 cup sifted all purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup well chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350, grease 3 loaf pans and flour them lightly. In mixing bowl, cream together the sugar, the butter and vegetable shortening. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the mashed bananas and mix well.

Sift together dry ingredients and gradually add them to the creamed mixture, alternating with the buttermilk. Be sure to start and end with the dry ingredients. Fold in chopped pecans.

Divide the batter evenly among the pans, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool the loaves in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto racks, on their sides, to cool completely.

Gimme that old kitchen table

Gimme that old kitchen table

From: Polly Mitchell, Millersville.

Re: Column on old kitchen table, not modern breakfast bars, as family focal point.

Dear Happy Eater:

Thank you for your most gratifying article about kitchen tables. Only last week I was told that my sorry old kitchen not only lacked proper triangulation but also needed an island/breakfast bar.

I resent the implication that my cooking needs such an upgrade and [I] got especially huffy because the speaker was a non-cooking male.

Our kitchen table has witnessed meals of all levels of accomplishment from the fantastic to the unforgivable. It has stood for countless games of cards and vicious episodes of Scrabble. I have kneaded bread on it and eaten whole bags of Oreos on it while I read mysteries through the night. Never would I trade it for an elevated slab of Formica and some cutesy-poo high stools.

Long may you flourish.

Eater responds: This concludes this column's venture into service journalism. We may return to it at some distant date, and explain just what "triangulation" means.

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