NEWSPAPER FOOD editors met in Minneapolis last week. The annual conference is a round of business breakfasts, lunches and dinners, plus mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks, cocktail parties and nightcap parties, an occasional meeting at which no refreshment is served. All of the events have been arranged to foster goodwill for the host food companies and often to impart information.
Item: General Mills hosted a dinner and press conference in its Betty Crocker kitchens. The dinner was catered.
Item: Frito-Lay held a press briefing and cocktail reception entitled "Surprisingly sound nutrition in an unexpected category." The "unexpected category" was the Fritos. A serving of Fritos has only 150 calories, according to the press briefing. Another way of putting it: there are 16 servings in an eight ounce bag. Food editors were not permitted to ask questions during the press briefing.
Item: A tour for the food editors of Minneapolis' most elegant supermarket chain, Byerly's (it sells Boehm birds, diamonds, sapphires and sterling silver) temporarily cleaned out the store's supply of wild rice. Minneapolis is enjoying a wild rice price war because of a bumper crop. A pound at Byerly's cost $3.79. A pound in Washington costs about $18.
Item: Hosts of various functions were at the mercy of the hotel kitchen if they did not bring their own teams in to prepare the meal. Which explains why an official of Dannon Yogurt felt called upon to stand up at the end of the lunch the company hosted with the South African rock lobster people. The dessert, some mixture of gelatin, plain yogurt and canned fruit cocktail, was unyielding to a spoon. This prompted one of the food editors to pick it up with her fingers and swing it back and forth, much like a piece of rubber. That's when the Dannon Yogurt man lept to the microphone and apologized to the lunch guests in words to this effect: I assure you if you follow the recipe for the dessert in the recipe booklet we have given you, you will have different results.
Item: Four chefs, three European and one American, Mark Caraluzzi of Washington's American Cafe, prepared a dinner to honor American foods. Asked to describe American cooking as it is perceived abroad, a Vietnamese chef, Robert Vifian, who operates an Oriental restaurant in Paris, mentioned gumbo and fried chicken, Virginia hams, key lime pie and sour dough. He also said he was very anxious to taste Alaskan caribou sausages, bear cutlets, whale steaks and pot roast of beaver. Above all, however, he wanted a pastrami sandwich, something he learned about from American music when he was a teen-ager in Saigon.
What song contained those lyrics?
Item: If you eat a food that is likely to cause cavities, in combination with cheddar cheese or peanuts, the cavity-causing food will lose some of its ability to cause cavities. This information was brought to food editors by the Hershey Foods Corporation at a breakfast which featured trees of chocolate kisses for centerpieces. The bearer of this news was Michael Alfano, a dentist and researcher at Farleigh Dickinson. Dr. Alfano said the most successful way to reduce tooth decay is to keep the teeth as clean as possible. Dr. Alfano said that until last year his wife brushed their oldest son's teeth. The oldest son is now nine. She still brushes the younger son's teeth. A sainted woman he called her.
Assorted items: Don't take meat out of your diet.It's good for you. Brought to you by the National Livestock and Meat Board on Tuesday and by the National Meat Association on Wednesday.
Egg consumption and cholesterol? No association for normal men. Brought to you by the American Egg Board.
Food additives pose no risks worth discussing.A presentation of McCormick & Company.
"Proposed Food Labeling Regulations . . . Are Consumers Being Asked to Pay for Something They Don't Want?" Host: National Food Processors Association.
For a food writer attending this conference there was no problem sorting out the positions the hosts took.