The Food Almanac: Thursday, January 3, 2013

It's National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day!


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

The Ninth Day Of Christmas
We have nine ladies dancing. They must be from Uptown. It's time someone told them the New Year's Eve party's over. Or that they're three days early for the traditional first Mardi Gras ball. From other versions of that song, we: Drove down Delery in the Lower Ninth Ward (Bennie Grunch), got a pair of teakwood shower clogs (Allan Sherman), a guardian angel for the Christmas tree (Andy Williams), and nine cups of rice (our own version; this will make more sense tomorrow).

Restaurant Anniversaries 
Today in 2007, John Besh bought La Provence from its founder, Chef Chris Kerageorgiou. He said that he'd leave things the same for awhile, and during the summer he'd perform a renovation. But that plan was short-circuited when Chris passed away. We like thinking that Chris was so pleased that his baby was in the hands of his protegé (Besh had worked at La Provence in his early career) that he was at peace. Besh did the renovation in the spring and opened again with a new chef, a new menu, a new bar (La Provence never had one, really) and a new waitstaff--save for "Just Joyce," who continued writing poems and acting as mother hen. Four chefs later, the place has finally stabilized into one of the best restaurants on the North Shore.

Food Through History 
One of the many people who claimed to have inventedoleomargarine got a patent for it today in 1871. Henry Bradley of Binghampton, New York followed on the heels of Hippolyte Mege-Mouries, the French inventor who made the first margarine a couple of years earlier. . . Another invention that had more than one father was the drinking straw. Marvin Stone patented his today in 1871. It was made of spiraling, wax-saturated paper. Anyone remember paper straws? The shift from paper to plastic occurred in 1966. At least, that was the year we made the change in the straws we used for Icees at the Time Saver.

Food On The Air
Today is the birthday of Betty Furness, an okay actress in the 1940s and 1950s. During her performance in a live television drama, she was asked to read the commercial for Westinghouse appliances. The company liked her so much that she became their spokesperson. For years, she demonstrated to all the young American women who were building households at that time everything they needed for their kitchens. Her famous catchphrase was, "You can be sure if it's Westinghouse."

Edible Dictionary
gastrique, n.--A very thick sauce, usually used by the drop, made by reducing a combination of fruit juce, vinegar, wine, or other liquid until it thickens. Gastriques are typically used by chefs as much for visual reasons as for the flavors they impart. They're more punctiation than words, to use a metaphor. We are seeing the widespread use of gastriques in restaurants right now because they're hip, and because not many diners know what they are. Chefs love to mystify their customers that way. Gives them the upper hand they feel is important.

Gourmet Geography
Parsley, West Virginia is seventy miles from the state capital, Charleston, and only seven miles from the Kentucky state line. It's on the western slope of the Appalachian Mountains, in forested, hilly terrain. This is coal-mining country. Parsley is a small community at a highway junction, with most of the houses near the old road that was bypassed by the new one. The nearest place to dine is a mile and a half away at Dingess, at Pat's Restaurant.

Food Calendar 
Today is National Chocolate-Covered Cherry Day. That makes me realize how long it's been since I had one of those, filled with some kind of white, sugary creme and a juicy liquid around a maraschino cherry. They were the last word in candy when I was a kid. I never questioned that until a girlfriend pointed out something I knew but ignored: they're sweet enough to cause near-pain in the eating. And if the chocolate shell cracked, the runny insides would flow out into a sticky mess, and let the cherry dry out. My mother, who recognized nothing as too sweet, loved and expected boxes of chocolate-covered cherries for all holidays.

Deft Dining Rule #213:
It wouldn't be a bad idea to refrain from eating anything sticky. They're almost never good.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
Why would you believe anything a skinny food writer says? We had better food writers when they weren't all on television.

Thirty-Six 
The first issue of this publication--all four pages of it--appeared today in 1977. The New Orleans Menu began as a biweekly print newsletter full of restaurant reviews. It expanded over the years into 40-page monthly magazine, then into a quarterly 100-page book. The evolution into this daily internet newsletter occurred in 1997. Five subscribers have been on the rolls the entire thirty-six years. Thank you!

Food Namesakes
American sculptor Larkin Goldsmith Mead was born today in 1835. . . Jaak-Nikolaas Lemmens, a composer and organist who lived in Brussels, Belgium, was born today in 1823. . . Apple Computer Company was incorporated today in 1977. . .William Tucker, believed to have been the first African-American, was born today in 1624. His parents were from Africa, but he was born in the American British colonies. ("Tucker" is Australian slang for food.) . . .The final Peanuts comic strip appeared today in 2000, when Charles M. Schulz, its creator, retired.

Words To Eat By
"This special feeling towards fruit, its glory and abundance, is I would say universal... We respond to strawberry fields or cherry orchards with a delight that a cabbage patch or even an elegant vegetable garden cannot provoke."--Jane Grigson, British cookbook author.

Words To Drink By
"Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it."--Alfred Jarry, French writer of the late 1800s.


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