by Leo Mezzrow, guest columnist
The Prairie Editor has asked me once again to write a guest
food and dining column for his website. He recruited me to
be his restaurant critic many years ago when he edited and
published a pioneer Twin Cities newspaper called Many
Corners, and although we both moved on from that 14-year
enterprise,we have remained friends.
My next editor, a very fine fellow, asked me to write about
food, restaurants, and culture for his publications, and when
I did, I received notes asking why I was now using “Leo’
instead of “Leos” ---the name I first used. My answer was
my father had named me after his favorite composer, the
Czech Leos Janacek, but it was a bit presumptuous to ask
folks in south Minneapolis to call you Leos (pronounced
LAY-osh), so I settled on Leo. Then a reader wrote asking if
iI were related to the legendary jazz musician Mezz Mezzrow.
The answer is yes --- he’s a cousin I never met (although we
were both living in Paris in the 1960s, but I was too shy to
look him up). The Mezzrow clan, now scattered all over the
globe, is a story in itself, but that will have to wait for
For some time I have been retired from food writing, but
the pandemic and The Prairie Editor have brought me back
--- this time to the computer instead of the typewriter!
I do not intend to write restaurant reviews. After all, most
readers of this blog don’t live in the Twin Cities. What I
want to talk about is the whole range of urban food and
I think what we like to eat is not unlike, say, what we like to
read. Some folks prefer to read new poetry or fiction. Some
like to read classical literature or philosophy. Others prefer
mystery stories or romances or biographies. Some read
only newspapers and magazines. Some like tabloids or
books of photographs. A number of persons prefer to do
their reading online rather than on a printed page. The
variety of preferences is endless.
But unlike reading, eating is a necessary bodily function.
Every human being shares the experience, however differently.
Yet both eating and reading involve a kind of digestion.
Ia there a higher form of eating? Some persons think so, and
pay large sums of money to reinforce their beliefs. But I am
not speaking about the preparation of food --- I am speaking
about the enjoyment of food. Although I have dined in some
of the world’s most highly rated restaurants, and usually
enjoyed them, I think there are many less complicated meals
I have eaten which have given me much pleasure.
I love beluga caviar, fois gras, white truffles, and many of the
world’s rarest and most exotic foods which I have been able
to taste, but I also love cold roasted chicken, turkey stuffing,
prune whip --- not to mention rice pudding, pineapple
upside down cake, parsnips and Brussels sprouts. Everyone
has their own list.
The key principle is to eat what you enjoy, and to eat as
often as you can what is healthy for you. If you are wiling,
try new foods, different cuisines, and new recipes. Good
nutrition is very important, but every person’s nutrition
needs are different, and depend on age, weight, physical
conditions and one’s DNA. Smoking, drugs, too much
alcohol, excesses of any kind are not good for anyone, but
be wary of fashionable new food theories. I cannot stress
enough that each person’s nutrition needs and food tastes
are different. A physician’s advice is usually helpful.
The year of the pandemic has changed daily lives a great
deal, including the flourishing and growing custom of
dining out. Social dining can enhance marriages, family
well-being, friendships and business relationships.
Restaurants, bistros, coffeehouses and bars employed
millions of Americans and were an important part of
the pre-pandemic economy. They will be again, but it will
almost certainly have some notable changes.
The adoption of higher minimum wages, automatic
12-20% service charges,, and mandatory counter
ordering inevitably means fewer restaurant jobs and the
virtual end of the custom of tipping. A few high end and
very expensive restaurants will try to preserve the old
model, but most younger persons will adapt to the new
Efficient restaurant table arrangement and food delivery
design will become much more important. Menu
selection will, in many cases, become smaller.
Many changes and innovations are now being developed
by restaurant owners and managers. Some won’t last
because the public won’t accept them. (Dining in time
limits could prove too unpopular to enforce, for example.)
Restaurateurs and chefs are creative persons, and social
dining out is an American institution that will recover in
coming weeks and months. Already, reopenings, expanded
dining rooms and new restaurants are being announced.
The lights in public dining are turning on.
Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.
Monday, April 12, 2021
THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Food And Dining In 2021
by Leo Mezzrow, guest columnist