The Food Almanac: Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Happy Birthday, Hungarian Food!

Hungarian Wikipedia

Hungarian Goulash is best known for its heavy use of paprika.

Appetizing Streets Around New Orleans
There are two Lemon Streets in Metairie, the suburb of New Orleans just west of the city limits. The longer of the two begins at Argonne Street (a block south of West Napoleon) and ends at West Esplanade. It's interrupted three times along the way as it parallels Transcontinental Blvd., one block east. The best restaurants near Lemon Street are Cypress (a block west, just north of West Esplanade. The other Lemon Street runs east-west for two blocks in Old Metairie, from the Seventeenth Street Canal to Carrollton Avenue.

Edible Dictionary
kaffir lime, n.--A small, rough-skinned, very tart lime fruit, native to Southeast Asia, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The leaves of the small tree on which it grows are probably more widely used in cooking than the fruits. They certainly are in America, where the leaves are popular in Thai cooking. But the skin of the fruit also winds up in the dishes on that region, particularly in curries. The leaves are unique: they look like one leaf growing out of the end of another. The give off an interesting oil that adds an aromatic quality to dishes it flavors. The word "kaffir" is an ethnic slur in South Africa, and some would like to see another name used for this lime and its leaves.

Gourmet Gazetteer
The Thousand Islands Bridge connects Canada and the United States across the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York. It opened today in 1938. It links three islands in the river, which contains many more. The area is called the Thousand Islands. It is the namesake of the salad dressing. It's not known for certain who invented thousand island dressing--Russian dressing made with mayonnaise instead of yogurt, with chopped onions and pickles added. It is widely supposed that all these little solid bits are the "islands." But the islands under and around the bridge is the real inspiration for the name. Thousand Islands dressing seems to be going out of vogue in recent years, except as a spread for a reuben sandwich.

Eating Around The World
This is the anniversary of the founding of Hungary, in 1000. Stephen, prince of the Magyars--a people who came to what is now Hungary from Asia centuries before--declared Hungary a Christian nation. The pope recognized his authority, and that put Hungary on the map. Hungarian food is distinctive and influential, its flavors having migrated into surrounding countries, notably Poland. Its most famous flavor is that of paprika, but that didn't come along until Columbus brought red peppers to Europe. Hungary's famous wine is Tokai, one of the world's best sweet wines. Not many Hungarian restaurants exist around America, which is too bad. The cuisine is distinctive and good.

Annals Of Pots And Pans 
Today in 1913, stainless steel was invented by Harry Brearly. He was working on new alloys for making rifles in Sheffield, England. A bit of chromium in the alloy forms a thin layer on the outside, with the property of healing itself if it oxidizes. It keeps the iron component from rusting. I'm a big fan of stainless steel cookware. Not only is it the preferred material for saucepans and skillets (as long as a heavy bottom layer is attached to transmit heat more uniformly and slowly than steel does), but my entire countertop is made of the stuff. We never worry about where we put hot pans when we take them off the stove.

Annals Of Knives And Cans
This is the birthday (1912) of Jerome Murray, whose most famous invention was a pump that made open-heart surgery possible. However, he also created a number of machines used to produce, package, and cook food. One was a pump to fill cans of soup without crushing the more delicate vegetables. He also invented an electric carving knife and a pressure cooker that gave audible indicators of what was going on inside.

The Saints
Today is the feast day of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. He lived in the eleventh century, born in the French nobility, and became a Doctor of the Church. He is a patron saint of beekeepers. More important to us here in New Orleans, he was the patron of Bernard Marigny de Mandeville, one of the most famous figures in the early history of our city. St. Bernard Avenue is named for him, in indirect honor of Bernard Marigny, on whose former land the lower part of the street lies.

Food Namesakes
Jack Teagarden, one of the all-time greats of jazz and Big Band trombone, let out his first note today in 1905. . . Dr. John Cooksey, Congressman from north Louisiana, was born today in 1941.

Words To Eat By
"We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons."--Alfred E. Neuman.

Words To Drink By
"Drink moderately, for drunkenness neither keeps a secret, nor observes a promise."--Miguel de Cervantes.

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