The Food Almanac: Thursday, May 30, 2013

Staff Writer
It's National Mint Julep Day!
Wikimedia Commons/ Marler

Drinking Calendar
It is National Mint Julep Day! Mint juleps are nowhere near as popular as they deserve to be, because few bartenders want to go to the trouble of making them, and even fewer have fresh mint to work with. So you have to learn to make them yourself. You bruise the mint leaves in a shaker with what bartenders call a "muddler." (I use a honey server, which works fine and gives me another use for that rarely-used item.) Then you add simple syrup, Bourbon, a splash of club soda, and crushed ice, and shake. Pack glasses (silver cups are classic, but who has them?) with crushed ice and serve. Garnish with a sprig of mint to tickle the drinker's nose and release more aroma.

The word "julep" comes through French from Arabic. In that language it's a reference to rosewater. So we have been drinking juleps for a long time, and come a long way since its origins.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Ice Cream Island, Delaware is in Silver Lake, right in the middle of the city of Milford, which itself is in the center of the state. The lake backs up behind a dam on the Mispillon River. Ice Cream Island is named for its shape when seen from the shore. It's a small upcropping of tree-topped land, without any aparent structures. The nearest places to eat are the Grand Buffet and the West Side Restaurant, both in a large shopping mall a half-mile away.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
Mint in the garden is like talent. You either have it or you don't.

Food And Sports
In the aftermath of a collision he and another player had in the outfield, Detroit Tigers slugger Al Kaline was knocked cold and swallowed his tongue. That is potentially a life-threatening situation, but they fixed him up, and he was able to get full flavor from food again. "Remember kids," the Hall of Famer said, "Never swallow your tongue, no matter how much you hate tilapia!" (Or did I just imagine that?)

Food In Jewelry
Peter Carl Faberge, who created the famous jewel-encrusted gold eggs for the Russian nobility, was born today in 1846. His famous works in gold and precious stones much outshone the Faberge Omelettes, made with wax, chicken fat, and ambergris.

The Saints
This is the feast day of St. Joan of Arc, commemorating her being burned at the stake on this day in 1431, after leading a rebellion against the Burgundian rulers of her hometown, Orleans. She was only nineteen at the time. She is the patron saint of both Orleans and New Orleans. Her statue in the latter city depicts her in full medieval armor. The statue was a gift from the French people, who venerate her as a national hero. That's logical enough. What I have never understood is why Joan of Arc is a brand of canned vegetables.

Edible Dictionary
roux, [ROO], French, n., singular and plural--Flour, browned to some degree then used as a thickener and flavor extender in sauces and soups. In Louisiana, roux plays a much larger role than it does in its homeland of France, where chefs know and respect roux but don't use it as much as we do. The Louisiana technique for making roux calls for blending fat (of almost any kind) and flour, and cooking it in a saucepan until the desired degree of browning is achieved. The typical blend is equal amounts of fat and flour. In France, roux is often made dry, in the oven--something not often done in Louisiana, although it works. A short book could be written on the techniques of using and making roux, and each cook seems to have his or her own tricks for making it. In any case, it's one of the hallmarks of Creole and Cajun cookery.

Food Inventions
Today in 1848, one William Young patented a more effective design for an ice cream freezer. It was more or less like the ones we use today, with a jacket of ice and salt around the exterior, and a mechanism for keeping the cream moving so its water content doesn't crystallize. But his allowed the inner container to move, therefore giving much better heat transfer to the ice.

Food Namesakes
Je'Rod Cherry, former safety for the New Orleans Saints, was born today in 1973. . . Another football pro, Anthony Cook, came to the gridiron of life today in 1972. . . Marathon runner Allison Roe made a run for the world today in 1957. . . Candy Lightner, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was born today in 1946. . . Today in 2000, driver Buddy Rice won a shortened (because of rain) Indianapolis 500. . . Guadalupe "Pita" Amor, a Mexican poet, was born today in 1918. . . George Cook patented an automatic fishing gizmo today in 1899.

Words To Eat By 
"It is the destiny of mint to be crushed."--Waverley Root, American food writer.

Words To Drink By
"The sway of alcohol over mankind is unquestionably due to its power to stimulate the mystical faculties of human nature."--Philosopher William James, in his Varieties of Religious Experience.

Related Links
7 Julep Recipes You've Never Heard OfHow to Choose the Best Bourbon for Mint JulepsHow to Create a Julep Bar for Derby Day