The Food Almanac: Monday, August 19, 2013

It's Cayenne Pepper Day!
Staff Writer

H. Zell

Annals Of Popular Cuisine 
Gail Borden (male) patented condensed milk today. It evolved into Eagle Condensed Milk, the sweet stuff we like on sno-balls. This is also one of the two ingredients for making (the other is Barq's Red Creme Soda).

Today's Flavor 
This is North and South American Cayenne Pepper Day. One of the many members of the capsicum genus of peppers, cayennes are long, cone-shaped peppers with a high level of capsaicin--the element in peppers that gives them a hot flavor. Although they can be used fresh, the majority of cayennes go into the making of two essential seasonings of Louisiana cooking. Dried, ground cayenne is an indispensable ingredient in Creole-Cajun seasoning blends. And most brands of Louisiana hot sauce are made from the pulp of cayennes, plus vinegar and salt. Crystal hot sauce, for example, is made with cayenne peppers.

Like all other capsicum peppers, cayennes are native to the New World, specifically of the tropical areas of South America. Cayenne is named for the capital of French Guyana, on the northern coast of South America. Although all this sounds as if cayenne in its various guises comes from a specific variety of pepper, in fact it's almost a generic product. The pepper industry doesn't even like the word "cayenne," preferring to call it just red pepper. 

Today allegedly is also National Soft-Serve Ice Cream Day. As is well known, most soft-serve is not ice cream, but fat stuck together with vegetable gum. But I liked it when I was six.

Edible Dictionary
sambal, n.--In Southeast Asia--particularly Indonesia and Malaysia--sambals are roughly-pureed combinations of hot chile peppers, lemon or lime juice, vinegar, and salt. A wide range of other ingredients can be included in the mixture, but what results is a thick, often chunky version of hot sauce, used as a condiment. In its native lands, the word also applies to side dishes and garnishes that include other vegetables, and may even be substantial enough for a small main dish. The idea and the name have spread throughout the world, particularly in Asia and Africa.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Cayenne, Massachusetts is in the south central part of the state, a suburb of Springfield. It's next to the Springfield Country Club, and a mile west of the Connecticut River. The nearest place to eat is in a shopping mall a half-mile east, where among the many chain restaurants is one that sounds independent: Bottega Cucina.

Music To Eat Gnocchi By
Today in 1958, a song composed and sung in Italian by Dominico Modugno was the Number One hit on the American pop charts. It stayed there for five weeks, and became the Number One hit of the whole year. Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu was the ruminations of a man watching the smoke rise from his cigarette. Strangely, almost nobody who heard the song in this country knew any of that. All they knew was the more common name for the song, Volare. It became one of the most familiar songs heard in Italian restaurants around the world. During the short life of a restaurant called Spunto--it was where Nola is now--every half-hour or so they'd turn the volume up on the sound system and play this song.

Eating In Politics
Today is former President Bill Clinton's birthday (1946). He had quite an appetite, but seems to be losing weight in recent years. Not well known is that he shares this birthday with his vice-president's ex-wife, Tipper Gore, born two years later in 1948.

Fictional Chefs On Television
The series Northern Exposure occasionally included a chef character named Adam. Like everybody in the small Alaskan town, he was eccentric, and being a chef made him more so. He would go off the deep end if he couldn't have perfection in his kitchen. In one episode he all but lost it when he had to substitute bacon for pancetta. He was played by Adam Arkin, who was born today in 1956.

Deft Dining Rule #192: 
A restaurant that states a distinction for the bacon it uses more than once on its menu is just dropping food names.

Annals Of Soft Drinks
Charles Hires was born today in 1851. When he was sixteen, he created the formula for the root beer that bears his name. He also coined the expression "root beer," in an effort to woo working-class people. He thought that they could be persuaded to drink root beer instead of real beer. A pharmacist, he created the root beer with an eye to its health benefits. Sold at first as a flavoring that customers would mix themselves, in 1880 he began selling Hires Root Beer on tap and in bottles. It was the first nationally-sold soft drink in America.

Food Namesakes
Coco Chanel, the creator of the perfume Chanel No. 5, was born today in 1883. . . Ginger Baker, who has a rare double food name, was the drummer for a series of supergroups in the late 1960s (Cream and Blind Faith, most notably). He appeared on earth today in 1939. . . British mathematician Alan Baker began numbering his days today in 1939. He won the Fields Medal, considered the highest award in mathematics, in 1970. . . Former Vermont Governor Thomas P. Salmon was spawned today in 1832.

Restaurateurs In Sports
Former New Orleans Saints kicker Morten Anderson, who had a short-lived restaurant in Lakeside Mall specializing in ribs, has a birthday today. 1960.

Words To Eat By
"Americans can eat garbage, provided you sprinkle it liberally with ketchup, mustard, chili sauce, Tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, or any other condiment which destroys the original flavor of the dish."--Henry Miller.

Well, then, bring on the garbage!

Words To Drink By 
"Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker."--American poet Ogden Nash, born today in 1902.

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