The Food Almanac: Thursday, April 4, 2013

It's Cordon Bleu Day!


Roots Of Creole Cooking
Today in 1812, the Territory of Orleans was admitted to the Union and became the State of Louisiana. Happy birthday to us!

Two years later on this date (or perhaps two days from now--the exact date is unclear), the event that gave the Napoleon House its name occurred. Napoleon Bonaparte abdicated as emperor of France, and was exiled to the island of Elba. Nicholas Girod, former mayor of New Orleans, offered Napoleon an apartment in his building the corner of St. Louis and Chartres. The apartment is now used for private parties by the Napoleon House, one of the city's most famous watering holes.

Food Inventions
Today in 1881, a centrifugal separator was patented by Edwin J. Houston and Elihu Thomson that could separate cream from milk. Or mud from water. A derivative of the concept is found in many homes: the juice extractor.

Also on this date in 1828, in the Netherlands, Casparus Van Wooden patented a chocolate powder that could be stirred into milk. The forerunner of Quik?

Annals Of Food Research 
On this date in 1932, after many years of research, W.A. Waugh and C.G. King at the University of Pittsburgh isolated Vitamin C for the first time. It's called ascorbic acid because it prevents the condition called scurvy. Sailors in the British Navy found they could prevent scurvy by eating limes. Coincidentally, in 1581 on this date, Queen Elizabeth had dinner on one of their ships: The Golden Hind, just back from an around-the-world trip with Sir Francis Drake at the helm. They made her eat a lime.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
You know what has more Vitamin C, ounce for ounce, than any common food? Cilantro. Keeps you breath fresh, too.

Food Calendar 
Somebody (not Le Cordon Bleu, the famous French cooking school, that's for sure) started a rumor that today is National Cordon Bleu Day. "Cordon Bleu" ("blue ribbon") in the name of a dish name usually means that it's stuffed with ham and cheese, then baked or broiled. The idea really got out of hand in the 1960s and 1970s, and we became sick of it. Now you hardly ever see it--although lots of common dishes, particularly in Italian cooking, are stuffed with ham and cheese. (Or, one would hope, prosciutto and Fontina, as the dish in the recipe section of today's newsletter is.) The real Cordon Bleu cooking school has advanced far beyond such practices, and has a website here.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Eatonville is a well-tended farming area in south central Mississippi. It's nine miles north of Hattiesburg. A mix of dairy farming, pecan groves, and vegetable farming still operates, but a lot of the houses are suburban, no doubt because of the growth of Hattiesburg. The area seems to have had a forest fire not long ago. A large school and a well-tended baseball diamond are more positive assets. The nearest restaurant is the Chicken House, four miles away in Moselle. I wonder what's good there.

This is the twenty-sixth in a series of Gourmet Gazetteer places whose names begin with "Eat."

Edible Dictionary
lemon curd, n.--A spread made by cooking butter and egg yolks with sugar and lemon juice until very thick. It's on the breakfast and afternoon tea tables everywhere touched by the eating culture of Great Britain. It most famous use is as a spread on scones. It's available in jars, but it's much better when made fresh on the premises.

The Saints
Did you know that there is a patron saint of the internet and of computer users? It's St. Isidore of Seville, a very learned bishop who is not just a saint but a Doctor of the Church. He also had some involvement with beekeeping. Today is his feast day.

Deft Dining Rule #402:
A restaurant where the fish of the day is the same every day--especially if it's tilapia, salmon, or catfish--isn't putting much effort into buying its food. You probably will not be impressed by the fish entrees there.

Deft Dining Rule #403: 
The exception to Rule #402 is Pacific salmon in season (spring and early summer). The best of all is Copper River salmon.

Food Namesakes 
Actor Barry Pepper was born today in 1970. He was the sniper in Saving Private Ryan. . .Muddy Waters, the famous bluesman, was born today in 1915. . . Pro football player Chad Eaton was born today in 1972. . . Suzanna Salter, the first female mayor in the United States, was elected on this date in 1884 in Argonia, Kansas.

Words To Eat By Cordon Bleu
"Ham's substantial, ham is fat. Ham is firm and sound. Ham's what God was getting at When He made pigs so round."--Roy Blount, Jr.

"Never commit yourself to a cheese with having first examined it."--T.S. Eliot.

Words To Drink By
"The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd rather not."--Mark Twain.

 

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