Grease Trap: MediaNews Sections Serve Warmed-Over Food Coverage

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It's been brewing for months, but today the consolidation of MediaNews weekly food sections boiled over. "Holiday Memories, Latin Flavors," Merc Latino culture writer Javier Erik Olvera's sweet reminiscence of Christmas, is the main feature in all three dailies: the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, and Oakland Tribune. Sure, all three food sections have been picking up some of each other's stories a week or more after they originally ran, and evidence of homogeneous coverage has been percolating through the news pages for months.

But today's food sections set a new precedent. The Trib even makes a weak attempt at fudging the fact that Olvera's story is rooted in the Merc, built around recipes from Latino co-workers. In the Merc, Olvera's story refers to recipe contributor Natalie Martinez as "an editor in Features," but in the Trib Martinez is simply an editor: maybe for the Merc, maybe for corporate publications in Kansas City. Who knows?

Before the MediaNews deal, original stories in weekly food sections skewed diligently local. Freelancers had to root stories in the papers' readership areas, with neighborhood sourcing guides and quotes from local chefs and home cooks. After today, that no longer appears to be strictly true. Bad news for readers. Really bad news for budding food writers, since Wednesday food sections have been places where novice freelancers had a chance of seeing print.

Eat Local for Christmas � Take an Hour's Drive for Groceries

The Chron goes local for the holidays, with a cover feature on how to cook a feast sourced from within a hundred-mile radius of the city. Cool, but authors Georgeanne Brennan and Ann M. Evans come face to face with one of the biggest challenges for the uber-green carnivore: finding locally raised pork. The authors recommend getting local pork loin from Manteca, Santa Cruz, or at the Sacramento farmers' market, as well as from Prather Ranch in the Ferry Building (with pigs raised in the Capay Valley). Can't someone start raising heritage piggies a bit closer, maybe, say, Livermore?

But Will He Make Headcheese for Banh Mi?

Chris Cosentino, chef of San Francisco's Incanto restaurant and an organ-meat obsessive, will soon be twisting up salame on International Boulevard. The Chron reports that Cosentino and Mark Pastore have bought the Moniz Portuguese Sausage factory at International and 20th in Oakland, and hope to start production as soon as they can get permits. It'll be called Boccalone, which according to the Chron is "obscure Italian slang for someone with a big mouth." Is this the first step toward culinary gentrification on a street devoted to birria and pho?

Back to 92510, the East Bay Express news blog.

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