The Food Almanac Thursday, October 20, 2011


Today's Flavor
Today is Last Chance For Rumtopf Day. Rumtopf (also spelled rhumtopf) is a traditional German holiday dessert of fresh fruit marinated in rum. In its most traditional form, it takes all year to make. But if you start today it will still be very good by Christmas, if not with the variety you could have had.

Here's how. In a large (gallon) glass jar or ceramic crock, load about two inches deep of washed, fresh seasonal fruit. The fruit you use should be a little underripe. Almost anything works, from berries to bananas. Mix two cups of simple sugar syrup with a cup of light rum, and pour it over the fruit until it's covered. Keep buying and adding layers of fruit, trying for a contrast in colors and shapes. Always top it off with the syrup-rum mixture. Keep doing this until the jar is full. You don't need to do it all in one day. It will keep without refrigeration, as long as the brandy soaks everything. When Christmas rolls around, you scoop out the fruit and serve it over ice cream. Delicious!

Gourmet Gazetteer
There are two Rum Creeks in Alabama. One of them runs northwest eleven miles alongside the old Montgomery Highway and the current Kansas City Southern Railroad main line, meeting Cypress Creek at the outskirts of Tuscaloosa. The outflow of Rum Creek is right behind a Waffle House and a Hooters. Not promising. How about Costas Barbecue, another three blocks away? The other Rum Creek is ninety-two miles south of the first one, seventy-seven miles west of Montgomery. It's a tributary of the Alabama River at a spot where the Alabama has reservoir characteristics. Although this Rum Creek is only four miles long, it's wider and has better fishing. The nearest restaurant is eleven miles south in Camden: the Southern Seafood and Steak House.

Edible Dictionary
rum baba, n.--Also called "baba au rhum," this is an yeast-risen sweet bread soaked in (and sometimes nearly floating in) a mixture of rum and syrup and served as a dessert. The bread is made much as a brioche is, but with more eggs and sugar. The word "baba" is of Slavic origin, and it's through that connection that it made its way to the American cities where it is found. Which is not as many is it used to be. Here in New Orleans, rum babas were popular desserts in many restaurants, especially the many local establishments owned by either Italians or Croatians. Italy and Croatia or neighbors, and no doubt they brought the idea with them when they emigrated to Louisiana.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
The wide rubber bands around bunches of broccoli should be saved, until common sense tells you to stop. Wrap one around the lid of a hard-to-open jar. It will give your hand more traction.

Music To Peel Fruit By
Today in 1955, The Banana Boat Song was recorded by Harry Belafonte. It's better known by its most famous words: Day-O! Day-ay-ay-o. Daylight come and me wan' go home! A beautiful bunch of ripe bananas. . . etc.

Food Through History
Today in 1940, with the Nazis running rampant around Europe, the Netherlands began rationing cheese. That was for the Dutch something like crawfish being rationed to the Cajuns.

Sports Figures In Food
This is the birthday, in 1931, of Yankee baseball great Mickey Mantle. He was a partner in a sports bar and restaurant named for him on Central Park in New York City. There's also a Mickey Mantle Steakhouse in Oklahoma, where he was born.

Food Namesakes
Robert Trout, one of the earliest broadcast journalists, went to work for CBS today in 1932. . . Middleweight Sugar Ray Robinson had his last boxing victory--his one hundred seventy-fourth!--today in 1965. . . Jelly Roll Morton, one of the seminal figures in early jazz piano, was born today in 1890, here in New Orleans. His real name was Ferdinand LeMothe. . . . Augustus Octavius Bacon was born today in 1839. Apparently his parents wanted him to become Emperor, but he only made it from Georgia to the US Senate. . . Olive Thomas, a beautiful young actress and Ziegfield girl, was born today in 1894. . . Stephen Raab is a German comedian and television personality. born today in 1966. ("Raab" is one of the names of the vegetable also known as broccoli di rape.)

Words To Eat By
"Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music out of doors, played by somebody I do not know."--John Keats.

Words To Drink By
"And Mocha's berry, from Arabia pure,
In small fine china cups, came in at last.
Gold cups of filigree, made to secure
The hand from burning, underneath them place.
Cloves, cinnamon and saffron, too, were boiled
Up with the coffee, which, I think, they spoiled."--Lord Byron

Copyright ©2011, Tom Fitzmorris.


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