The Food Almanac: April 29, 2011


In The Food Almanac, Tom Fitzmorris of the online newsletter, The New Orleans Menu notes food facts and sayings.

Food Festivals
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival begins today. It has be called the world's greatest music festival, and whether you agree with that or not it must be pretty high up the list, what with Bon Jovi, Jimmy Buffett, Sonny Rollins, Kid Rock, John Mellencamp, Wilco, Robert Plant, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Willie Nelson, The Strokes, and John Legend and The Roots among the performers. Inveterate JazzFest-goers (I've missed only three since 1970) know that it's as much a food event as one for music. Most of the food has a distinctive Creole and Cajun stamp, including some dishes little seen at other times of year. It's this weekend and next, at the historic Fair Grounds Race Course.

Annals of Presidential Eating
On this date in 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt visited New Orleans for the dedication of Roosevelt Mall in City Park, a project of Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration. Lots of great Art Deco bridges, statues, and markers remain from that. Then they went to lunch at Antoine's, and New Orleans mayor Robert Maestri asked a question that became immortal: "How do ya like dem ersters, Mr. President?"

Eating Calendar 
Today is National Shrimp Scampi Day. Although that dish is a fixture of Italian menus, its name is a contradiction. Like "beef lamb." Shrimp and scampi are two different animals. A scampo (singular) is a largish (about five inches) crustacean with a hard shell, living in the Adriatic Sea. Along the Italian coastline scampi are caught and cooked in olive oil, herbs, wine, and lemon juice. True scampi don't live here in this country. The closest substitute is langoustine. But big Gulf of Mexico shrimp work just fine. So, shrimp scampi. It works as either an appetizer or as an entrée.

Appetizing Places
Shrimp Lake is one of many lakes just over the Wyoming border in Montana, just northeast of Yellowstone National Park. It's up on the snowmelt-fed mountains at the 9,700-foot level. Which is not the sort of place you'd go looking for shrimp. However, some species of tiny shrimp have the ability to go into such deep and long hibernations that they can actually dry out completely, but come back to life when conditions are right. It can only be reached by driving some 16 miles up a four-wheel-drive track, then hiking a few more miles up a pack trail. Don't forget the remoulade sauce! After the adventure, you can have dinner and a good night's rest at the Grizzly Pad Grill and Cabins, on US 212 in the half-well-named Cooke City.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
If the shells stick to the meat when you cook shrimp, you're cooking them too long. The right moment to stop cooking shrimp is the first time you wonder whether they're done.

Deft Dining Rule #614
Shrimp always taste better if cooked with the shells and heads still in place.

Edible Dictionary
frutti di mare, Italian, n., pl. — Literally, "fruit of the sea." This is a term used on Italian menus to describe a wide range of dishes in which an assortment of seafood is a major ingredient. The seafood is usually in pieces about the size of the tip of your little finger. It can be almost anything: fish, mussels, clams, crab, shrimp, squid, scampi, lobster. Most of it is too small to be used in any other way, although there's nothing else wrong with it. Frutti di mare can be applied to the names of soups, antipasti, salads, pasta dishes, risottos--almost anything.

Music to Dine By 
This is the birthday of jazz master Duke Ellington, born today in 1899. Take The A Train. Mood Indigo, a thousand more works of genius, still played now mostly in avant-garde venues.

Food Namesakes 
Chili Davis, playing for the Kansas City Royals, became the seventy-fifth baseball player to hit three hundred home runs. What kind of person tracks this kind of data? French military leader and statesman Georges Boulanger was born today in 1837. (Boulanger is "baker" in French.). Film director John Waters called for action today in 1946. Captain James Cook, a frequent visitor to this department, made his first landfall on Australia today in 1770.

Words To Eat By 
"Life is like eating artichokes. You have got to go through so much to get so little." — Thomas Aloysius Dorgan, American cartoonist, born today in 1877.

Words To Drink By
"There is no such thing as 'fun for the whole family.'" — Jerry Seinfeld, born today in 1954.

Check out other Food Almanac columns by Tom Fitzmorris.



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