And now, area code-gate?

The New York Times’ Public Editor — the Times’ version of an ombudsman — has joined in the criticism of her newspaper over the assertion that Minnesotans have a near love affair with grape salad at Thanksgiving.

“After Lefse ended up chosen for North Dakota and Wild Rice for Wisconsin, The Times had to look beyond the obvious. (And this, clearly, was well beyond. A phone call or two — take a stab at any seven numbers after a 612 or 218 area code — to see if the recipe checked out would have been a good idea.),” Margaret Sullivan wrote today.

Watching the Times’ “foodies” squirm to explain the article could, however, become a Thanksgiving tradition here. It’s that entertaining. Well, more entertaining that hitting KMart on Black Friday.

“We also realized that we had to offer a balance of protein, side dishes and so on,” Sam Sifton, who’s in charge of the Times’ food coverage told Sullivan.

Enter Grape Salad, which, he said, “has a rich history in the upper Midwest, although it is an old recipe and it’s out of fashion.”

No! It doesn’t! That’s what the upper Midwest has been trying to tell you, New York Times.

Mr. Sifton said that the recipe appears in regional and state cookbooks. He mentioned, particularly, one by Joyce Lamont, a well-known local food journalist.

At any rate, he said, the dish is worth a shot next week. “It’s delicious,” he said. “I hope a lot of people try it.”

However, to prove that he’s listening, Mr. Sifton said that he was working on a Times recipe for a true Minnesotan specialty, Hotdish.

Back in Minnesota, Kate Parry — an assistant managing editor at the Star Tribune — decided against her original plan to bring doughnuts to her staff Thursday morning.

“I knew after reading the Times yesterday that what they would really be craving was grapes,” she wrote to me. “So that’s what they got.”

And, who knows, maybe it’ll catch on. Mike DeCamp, chef de cuisine at La Belle Vie in Minneapolis, said he would expand his oeuvre to include the dish. And as Mark Reilly put it in The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal: “When life gives you grape salad, put it on the menu.”

The article ended with an oh-so-Minnesotan correction to Sullivan’s original story.

Updated for area code appeasement, 2:37 p.m.

Somebody was insulted that their area code was left out of the Times’ article.

  • John O.

    My god. What next? Turkey stuffed with kerfuffle?

  • Matt Black

    I can’t help but read the exasperation in their correction “area code appeasement”

    • Seriously, they must think Minnesota is the most insecure state in the nation.

      • John

        Are we? Nah, it has to be some other state. Doesn’t it?

        This whole thing has been pretty hilarious to watch unfold. I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

  • Steph

    What was the issue with the area code?

  • Vince Tuss

    Initially it just said a call to the 218 area code.

    • BJ

      shoot I would not have even know that was a Minnesota area code, 320, 612 and 507. 218 and 612 are the two ‘original’ area codes. I guess at one time 2/3 of the state was 218, so I guess if they looked at a 1947 area code map calling 218 would have made some kind of logical choice.

      • Kat S.

        Well they apparently looked at a 1940’s cookbook, so I suppose they’re keeping with the theme.

  • Gary F

    And people wonder why The Old Grey Lady is losing readership.

  • David

    The column was updated after this post was written: Updated, Thursday, 7 p.m.: I heard from Julia Moskin, a reporter with The Times’s Food section, who offered some background on the project.

    “The recipes were not intended to be traditional, popular, or fully representative of the state’s traditions — agricultural, Thanksgiving, or culinary,” she wrote in an email to me. “We didn’t make stupid errors, or fail to check our facts with perfunctory phone calls. We worked hard — writers and especially editors — to generate a mix of 52 recipes that would not be cliched, repetitive, unhealthy, or unappetizing.”

    The introduction should have been clearer, she wrote, but “it is frustrating to have the project so thoroughly misunderstood.”

    Here is the intro to the section – We’ve scoured the nation for recipes that evoke each of the 50 states (and D.C. and Puerto Rico). These are our picks for the feast.

    Clearly, based on the reaction, grape salad does not evoke Minnesota.

    • davehoug

      BEST explanation of how it went soooo wrong. The whole goal was not iconic state foods.