The Food Almanac: Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy St. Valentine’s Day!
Staff Writer

Wikimedia Commons/ Dvortygirl

Although this is St. Valentine’s Day, today has been noted as special for centuries before its namesake saint lived.

Tom Fitzmorris publishes The New Orleans Menu


Although this is St. Valentine’s Day, today has been noted as special for centuries before its namesake saint lived. February 14 was a Roman pagan holiday honoring Juno. The next day, young men and women would hook up for the duration of the festival of Lupercalia. Many pairings continued beyond that, and so the love lore attached to the date. The historic St. Valentine was a rebellious third-century Roman priest. Emperor Claudius II had banned marriages because he was running low on soldiers. Valentine married couples in secret until he was caught and executed on the day that became his.

St. Valentine, in addition to being the patron saint of people in love, is also the patron of beekeepers. Honey. Let’s also remember that we would be bereft of many of the fruits and vegetables we eat were it not for the busyness of bees.

Nowadays, romances are more stressed than formed on Valentine’s Day. Men have a propensity to take it too lightly, while women have the opposite tendency. Despite that, it remains one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants, which fill up with people who only dine out a few days of the year. 

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Only eat Louisiana strawberries for the next few months. Isn’t that obvious?

Food Calendar

It is Cream-Filled Chocolate Day, says the Web. The explanation is obvious. In the course of looking up background on this, I found out why it’s nearly impossible to fill chocolates with cream or liqueur or any other liquid at home. But the explanation itself is too complex for laymen like me and you.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Choconut Center, New York is a crossroads on the road from Binghamton to its regional airport, all of which is just north of the Pennsylvania state line. “Choconut” is an Anglicized version of “Chugnut,” the Native American name for this general area. If nobody has created a candy with that name from around there, a good marketing bet has been missed. The nearest restaurants are the Oasis and Cacciatore’s, both in Johnson City, a suburb of Binghamton, a mile and a half south of Choconut Center.

Edible Dictionary

hoagie, n., adj. — A hoagie sandwich is made of cold cuts and cheeses in almost any combination, on a long, soft roll. It’s usually dressed with hot or sweet pepper (or both), lettuce, tomatoes, and olive oil. They are very similar to submarine sandwiches. The hoagie first appeared in Philadelphia, where they have been traced back to the sandwiches made by Italian workers at a World War I shipyard called Hog Island. The name “hoagie” seems to have evolved from “Hog Island.” These were made with salami, cappicola ham, mortadella, provolone cheese, and olive oil. So the hoagie appears to share a common ancestor with the New Orleans muffuletta.

Wine Around The World

This is Trifon Zarezan day in Bulgaria. That’s an ancient festival marking the end of the dead months of winter and the coming of the first signs of spring. It has particular significance in the vineyards, where a ritual of pruning takes place. There’s also a sexual and intoxicating aspect to the day. It’s a long story; here it is if you’re interested.

Food Through History

In 1889 today, the first load of fresh fruit shipped by rail from the West Coast to the East Coast left Los Angeles. The cargo was oranges, almost an exotic fruit back then and much prized. . . Speaking of fruit, on this day in 1803 one Moses Coats won a patent for a gizmo that peeled apples. . . Today in 1859, Oregon joined the Union as the thirty-third state. It makes first-class wines, particularly Pinot Noir. But it also the country’s biggest producer of hazelnuts. They also pull a lot of salmon from their streams, notably the state fish, the Chinook salmon. . . This is also the anniversary of statehood (in 1912) for Arizona. The cuisine there is interesting, blending Mexican and West Coast cooking.

Food Namesakes

Derrick Witherspoon, a pro football running back, grabbed the ball of life and ran with it on this date in 1971. . . Actress Florence Rice first appeared today in 1911. . . Captain James Cook, who turns up often in this department, was murdered in Hawaii (he called them the Sandwich Islands) today in 1779. He was making his third visit there. . . American actor Paul Butcher came to life today in 1994.

Words To Eat By

“Honey comes out of the air. At early dawn the leaves of trees are found bedewed with honey. Whether this is the perspiration of the sky or a sort of saliva of the stars, or the moisture of the air purging itself, nevertheless it brings with it the great pleasure of its heavenly nature. It is always of the best quality when it is stored in the best flowers.” — Pliny The Elder.

“I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.” — Nora Ephron.

Words To Drink By

“She looked as if she had been poured into her clothes and had forgotten to say ‘when.’” — P.G. Wodehouse, British humor writer, died today in 1975.

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