The Food Almanac: April 21, 2011
On this anniversary of the founding of Rome (see below), it's International Romano Cheese Day. Romano cheese is a long-aged, hard grating cheese made from sheep's milk — hence its tangy flavor. The best Romano is Pecorino Romano, the exclusive appellation of a consortium of makers in a wide area in Italy (not just around Rome). Romano cheese has a long history, extending all the way back to the ancient Roman Empire. Although Parmigiano has a more vaunted reputation in this country, there's nothing like Romano — especially when making lasagna.
Today is also Chocolate-Covered Cashew Truffle Day. That must have been started by someone who makes such a thing.
Food In Ancient History
Today in 753 BC is the traditional date of the founding of Rome, where they have better pizza than Red Baron. And lots of other good food, too. However, its other glories are so great that one is easily distracted from eating there, despite the presence of many restaurants serving the first great European cuisine.
Annals of Popular Cuisine
German air ace Manfred von Richtofen, the Red Baron, was shot down and killed over France on this date in 1918. He's the same Red Baron Snoopy was always fighting from the roof of his doghouse. I wonder how the Baron would feel about his name plastered over the box of a frozen pizza.
The oldest revolving restaurant in the world, The Top of the Needle, opened on this date in 1962 at the apex of the Space Needle at the Seattle World's Fair. It's now called SkyCity. Reservations are required well in advance. The food is contemporary American.
Deft Dining Rule #237
A restaurant at the top of any kind of tower doesn't have to impress you with its food, and usually doesn't.
Queen Elizabeth II, who has ruled England since 1952, was born today in 1926. If you're going to dine with a monarch, you'd be hard pressed to find a more impressive one. I tried to learn what the Queen's favorite foods are, but apparently this is one of those facts hidden behind the screen separating royalty from subjects. What little she's said on the subject indicates that she likes traditional English food.
Saucier, Miss. is 19 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico beaches at Gulfport, up the US 49 artery. It's pronounced in the French way [SO-see-ay], but the look of the word conjures up a superabundance of delicious sauce. Or (returning to the French) the person who makes sauce. Saucier has a population of 1,300, and is evolving from a rural railroad stop in the woods into an exurb of Biloxi and Gulfport. The countryside is rolling, pine-dominated woods. The place to eat is the Magnolia Diner, about three miles south of the center of town.
oyster sauce, n., — A prepared sauce found in bottles in the Asian section of the supermarket. It's dark brown and very thick, spreadable but not pourable. A staple of Chinese cooking oyster sauce is made with actual oysters, soy sauce, salt, sugar, and water. It's used to flavor and darken Chinese sauces. One story has it that a cook making an oyster soup forgot that it was on the fire, and when he checked the pot he found a thick, dark sludge. He bravely tasted it and liked the flavor, and started making it on purpose. Oyster sauce has been used in Chinese cooking since the latter 1800s.
Food in Show Biz
Anthony Quinn was born today in 1915. I think of him every time I dine in a Greek restaurant, where it's inevitable that you'll hear the theme music from Zorba the Greek. Quinn starred in that classic.
Wild rocker Iggy Pop was born today in 1947. Leo Blech, a composer and conductor of operas, was born today in 1871. We say his name when we taste (or think about) food we don't like. On a related note, Page Belcher, Congressman from Oklahoma in the 1970s, was born today in 1899. Actress Patti LuPone was born today in 1949. Pone is sort of a wet, undercooked cornbread. Today in 1908, Frederick A. Cook claimed to have been the first man to reach the North Pole. Most authorities say he did not, really.
Words to Eat By
"Food history is as important as a baroque church. Governments should recognize cultural heritage and protect traditional foods. A cheese is as worthy of preserving as a sixteenth-century building." — Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement.
Words to Drink By
"Sometimes too much to drink is barely enough." — Mark Twain, who died today in 1910.