Accent on Living


“Mushrooms à la Champignons" used to be a daily offering at Malatesta’s wonderful old restaurant in Boston’s North End — now redeveloped out of existence — but I don’t think the listing deserved quite the levity it often inspired in strangers. The dish, as I recall it, consisted of large and flavorsome mushrooms browned in butter and assisted by a sauce of flnely diced mushrooms, and it was indeed what the menu said it was.

I was reminded of all this not longago when the Boston Globe undertook to report what was served to a distinguished group of diners at another North laid restaurant. The Globe thought so highly of this story that it gave the reporter a by-line. It was a memorable meal: shrimp scampi, chicken marsella, prosciut[t]o ham, a Val Policella wine, concluding with a cafe exspresso. There was also a neopolitian something or other.

The novelties of the meal caused me to write the Globe a letter, recalling the rice risotto at the famous Albergo Hotel in the Lake Lago district. The Globe published the letter and made only two mistakes in its version of what I had written. On invitation of its editor, I sent the Globe a second letter about Val Policella and his reintroduction, after Repeal, of the Policella family’s wines to the Boston market. I made some mention, too, of the egg noodles whose ingredients the Globe reporter had disclosed: eggs and — of all things!—flour. A few days later a Globe reader sent me an unsigned card, for which I hereby tender thanks, asking why no zuppa soup had been included in the dinner. Again, there were only two mistakes in the Globe’s reproduction of my second letter.

The Globe is by far the most successful newspaper in Boston. Its editorial page and its use of syndicated features combine effectively and often with distinction. Converting a syndicated column into a spot news story when the material warrants it and running it under a news headline on Page One is a lively Globe practice. Its departments for women have an enormous following; one of them, “Confidential Chat,” in which housewives exchange views and information under tightly guarded pseudonyms, has an attraction for its readers that is very likely unique in its field. The staff-written business and financial columns are very good indeed.

But spelling and meaning are not the Globe’s strong points anyhow, even in English. The matter had been “praying” on his mind; no one had “appraised” him of the facts; the result was “disasterous”; he was “flaunting” the laws — these are the rule rather than the exception at the Globe’s news desks, where neither the writers nor the deskmen can save each other from the rigors of the language. There are said to be proofreaders, but the first claim on their time is classified-advertising copy, where a mistake means a free rerun for the advertiser, while mistakes in the news columns are of course of no consequence. A stylebook for the paper would be hard to envision; before anything like that could be useful, a thorough mastery of “100,000 Words Commonly Misspelled” and “50,000 Words Commonly Misused” would be necessary.

Sportswriting in the Globe is typified by the column in which one person “shrugged” the statement attributed to him, another “grinned” his, and a third “rasped” his remarks, according to the columnist, a man reluctant to bring himself to use the word “said.” Another Globe columnist, feeling the need of explaining to his readers his own learned allusions as he went along, wrote of a Red Sox player that “on the bases Yaz is no Pavlova (famed ballerina).”