The Food Almanac: Thursday, December 27, 2012

It's National Fruitcake Day!


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

The Second Day Of Christmas
From someone who regards you well, here come two turtledoves, Tujague's recipe (for the crawfish they caught in Arabi), two candy canes, green polka-dot pajamas, or (in our own version of the song) two eggs Sardou. 

It is also five days until New Year's Eve. Which isn't much time to get a dinner reservation if you're going out. But plenty of time to procure a bottle of Champagne-style sparkling wine. Today's recommendation: Gruet, made in New Mexico, of all places. But quite good! Basic non-vintage goes for under $15 a bottle.

Food Through History 
Today is the birthday, in 1740, of Jean Etienne de Boré, one of the most important figures in the early history of New Orleans. He was born in Illinois when it was still part of French Louisiana, and educated in France. He moved to New Orleans in 1776. On the parcel of land where Audubon Park is now (it was inherited by his wife), he started a plantation. He first grew indigo, but soon moved to sugar. He pioneered the process of granulation sugar, which revolutionized the sugar industry and made de Boré a wealthy man. When the United States took over the Louisiana Territory in 1803, Governor Claiborne named de Boré the first Mayor of New Orleans.

Food Inventions 
Benjamin Eisenstadt, the creator of Sweet 'n' Low,, was born today in 1906. The sweet stuff in the pink envelope was the first granular form of saccharin, which before that time came only as an inconvenient liquid or in pills so tiny that they were hard to use. When Sweet 'n' Low hit the market in 1957, Eisenstadt used the same packets he invented for sanitary portions of sugar. It was the packaging that made it the market leader. The pink packets have since dropped to number three behind the yellow and blue packets.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
When a morning has heavy frost, it's time to schedule a time to defrost the freezer and throw away at least a third of what's in it.

Edible Dictionary
turtledove, n.--Known more from references to it in the Bible, folklore, and the Twelve Days of Christmas, a turtledove is a smaller member of the pigeon family. It gets its name from the black-on-light brown pattern on its wings, which does resemble that of a turtle's shell. It's an Old World bird, but it has a very close relative in the common mourning dove here in America. Its fame comes from its late migratory pattern (when the turtledoves show up, spring really has arrived) and from its habit of forming lifelong couples. Like other doves, it has long been hunted for food. It would take two of them to make an entree, but otherwise they resemble squabs, to which they are most closely related among commonly-eaten birds. Their meat is dark, and when cooked gently stays red, resembling beef.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Cornish, Maine is in the southernmost part of the state, on the Ossipee River, about thirty-two miles from Portland. It's in an area of classic New England small dairy farms. It's conceivable that they may raise Cornish hens around here, because this is the part of the world where the little birds come from. The place to eat is Bay Haven Lobster Two, right in the middle of the small town.

Deft Dining Rule #209:
When dining in a restaurant that covers its tablecloths with paper, don't even give a thought to what might be on that cloth after being used by how many previous diners.

Food On The Air
The final broadcast of The Breakfast Club was today in 1968. It was a music and variety program that ran on NBC Blue then on ABC radio every weekday morning for thirty-five years. It was the second-to-last gasp for network radio variety shows. (Arthur Godfrey Time would last another four years). A daily feature on The Breakfast Club was the walk around the breakfast table, to the accompaniment of the full live orchestra. The host throughout the entire run of the show was the good-natured Don McNeill. For most of its history, The Breakfast Club aired in New Orleans on my station, WSMB (now WWWL).

Annals Of Teetotaling
Today in 1900, Carrie Nation--the most visible and fervent of the country's growing number of prohibitionists--made her first raid on a hotel saloon in Wichita, Kansas. She carried the hatchet that would soon become her trademark, and broke every liquor bottle in the place. Even the hundred-year-old Cognac! Oh, the humanity!

Today's Flavor
It's National Fruitcake Day. For the past few decades, fruitcake has been the butt of jokes. Or joke, really--that nobody eats them, they just recycle them to other people. The jokes are as stale as fruitcake is reputed to be. In fact, all the fruitcake that has come my way in recent years has been very good. The one I particularly like is the Creole Royale fruitcake, made by Baker Maid Products, located in downtown New Orleans. Its green cans feature a painting of St. Louis Cathedral. All localism aside, this is an excellent product. (Assuming you have a taste for fruitcake.)

Annals Of Food Research
The father of modern food safety was Louis Pasteur, born today in 1822. He invented the process that bears his name. It was originally used for milk, but it was so effective in slowing spoilage in other foods that it's become universal. For all that, it's considered a negative in gourmet circles. Pasteurized cheese, crabmeat, wine (there is such a thing--mostly from kosher wineries) and beer are all thought of as inferior to their non-pasteurized equivalents. Still, our food supply would be much leaner and more hazardous without pasteurization. Pasteur was also the author of one of the best short pieces of advice: "Chance favors only the prepared mind."

Food Namesakes
Two pro football players with edible fish names were born on this date: Mike Salmon, a safety for the 49ers, among other teams, in 1970. And Buffalo's Mark Pike, 1963. . . Union Brigadier General James Clay Rice was born in 1829 today. . . Now we have two guys named James Mead. The first is a former U.S. Senator from New York, born today in 1885. . . the other is guitarist with the Christian rock band Kutless, and born today in 1982.

Words To Eat By
"I have seen purer liquors, better segars [sic], finer tobacco, truer guns and pistols, larger dirks and bowie knives, and prettier courtesans here in San Francisco than in any other place I have ever visited. . . California can and does furnish the best bad things that are available in America."--Hinton Helper, a writer born today in 1829.

Words To Drink By
"As we start the New Year, let's get down on our knees to thank God we're on our feet."--Irish proverb.


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