Why on Wednesday?

When I mustered up the courage to call and ask for a tour of the Seattle Times’ test kitchen, I knew not to reach anyone on Tuesday. That’s because Wednesday is the day the Food and Wine section is printed, so I figured Tuesday calls would be impacted by deadline stress that I didn’t want to be a part of.

Seattle’s not the only city to print its food section on Wednesdays. In fact, ponding why many papers print their recipes and reviews on this day was one of the impetuses that caused us to create Clipped and Diced in the first place.

There aren’t many cut-and-dried reasons for why the tradition started. Nor are there researched answers — I quizzed several of the journalism history profs at Michigan State University, and none of them knew anything definite. I do know the author of the now-defunct Saute Wednesday blog assigned special food significance to this day of the week, reinforcing the fact that I’m not the only one interested in it.

The best information I can cobble together is this: Grocery stores began their weekly sales on Thursday. The ads for these sales went out on Wednesday. Thus, if newspapers printed their recipes on the same day the ads went out, efficient homemakers could plot their shopping list and weekly menu in one fell swoop.

This explanation makes sense particularly because many small-town papers align their recipes to items that are on sale.

The author of Endless Simmer calls Wednesday the nation’s newspaper food section day, a phrase I find accurate and sucinct.

Unless you lived in the Bay Area in the 1950s. If you did, Wednesday were just another day.

I found further proof of the print-recipes-on-the-day-the-ads-run theory when I was fiching through the San Francisco Chronicle (I just made that verb up, by the way. Sort of. This guy beat me to it).

In 1957, the Chronicle’s food pages ran on Thursdays. So did all of their grocery ads. Not only that, but “Jean Friendly”‘s food advice column touting the benefits of the three new flavors of Campbell’s soup ran immediately next to a five-column ad for… you guessed it, Campbell’s soup.

Soup!
Article or Ad?

I attempted to see if Jean Friendly was a pen name, and I discovered there actually was a Mrs. Friendly related to journalism. I don’t believe she contributed to this article, however.

I haven’t yet decided if the small “Advertisement” print at the bottom applies to Jean Friendly, or if it applies to the article below. Here’s the whole page for you to decide (I’m not sure why the PDF formatting is wonky):

San Francisco Chronicle, Thursday, October 3, 1957, p. 14.

I know I skipped out on a few weeks’ worth of entries. I’ll make it up to you, believe me. I just raided the University of Washington library for books on the women’s pages.

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I love this blog. It’s nice to know I’m not the only person of my old cohort who’s gotten really into food since graduating from undergrad.

    I’m sort of making a newspaper recipe tonight–pasta with bones from Mark Bittman’s NYT blog: http://bitten.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/18/recipe-of-the-day-pasta-with-bones/

    I’m using short ribs instead of veal because I don’t do veal. It’s still simmering but it smells pretty good.

  2. Thank you so much! The funniest thing about it is that I’m still miserable at cooking, but I enjoy the idea of it more.

    I just got introduced to the Bitten blog, and I’m mustering up my nerve to e-mail him.

    My food idea for tomorrow (I didn’t post about it because it’s from a Philadelphia Cream Cheese recipe book, not a newspaper) is mixing cream cheese, feta cheese, sundried tomatoes, and basil together for a fantastic dip. I’m bringing it in to school because I’m on teacher’s lounge duty this week…

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  3. That dip sounds great but I think some red pepper flakes might be a good addition, or maybe cracked black peppercorns. I am always compelled to pair pepper with cream cheesy things. It goes back to a childhood appetizer (before I became lactose intolerant) of cream cheese and jalapeno jelly.

    Also, as far as NYT blogs go, I really like The Pour better than Bitten (you know Eric Asimov is Isaac Asimov’s nephew?), but I like Bittman’s print columns a whole lot.

    Sorry to spam you with comments, I’m in a foodie mood, I’m so excited to be eating again since having the flu and not eating for a whole week, plus the short ribs are still not quite done. Maybe I should have made them on a weekend. Oh well.

  4. Just to chime in, it’s Wednesday and we have a big story on crock pot cooking on the front of our Life section, along with the rest of today’s food section.

    Did you know I was the food page editor in Ludington? We ran ours Mondays.

  5. I have no Crock Pot, so I will have to commandeer one to explore your recipes.

    I had no idea! Tell me why Monday?

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