The Food Almanac: Tuesday, May 14, 2013

It's National Buttermilk Biscuit Day!
Staff Writer

Jules Morgan

Food Calendar 
Today is National Buttermilk Biscuit Day. To which I say, preheat that oven, let's make a batch. Buttermilk biscuits are so wonderful and so easy to make that I wonder why anyone buys those biscuits in a can or a mix like Bisquick. The perfect recipe for biscuits requires only three ingredients: self-rising flour (three cups), butter or shortening (six tablespoons), and buttermilk or regular milk (a cup and a half). Mix the first two with a whisk until the lumps are gone. Add the milk and lightly blend until no dry flour is left. Spoon the dough on a greased baking sheet, and bake at 450 degrees for about fifteen minutes. Butter 'em up and enjoy!

Gourmet Gazetteer 
Oatmeal, Texas is in the Hill Country, forty-eight miles northwest of Austin. The town dates back to the 1850s. Like many towns on that part of Texas, the settlers who wound up there were Germans. The name was probably a mishearing of Othmiel, the name of one of the early families there. But by the time a post office was established, the name Oatmeal stuck. The water tower looks like a gigantic 3-Minute Oats box. There's an Oatmeal Festival every Labor Day weekend. Most of the area is wide-open cattle-grazing land, with interspersing woods. No restaurants (or much else but a few houses) are in Oatmeal, but four miles away in Bertram, you can dine at Mary's Beef and Buns.

Edible Dictionary 
pound cake, n.--A cake whose name gives the recipe. It's classically made with a pound each of butter, flour, eggs (about six) and sugar. That makes a cake bigger than most people think of as a pound cake, but it's the classic. The eggs are creamed into the butter first, followed by the eggs and then the flour. There's usually vanilla in there, too. Beyond that, all sorts of other things make their way into the cake, notably sour fruits like orange and cherries. Pound cakes are as often used as the basis for a more complicated confection (baked Alaska comes to mind), but everybody seems to like it for its own merits.

Deft Dining Rule #202: 
The only real strawberry shortcake is made with what looks like a sweetened biscuit. The pre-made sponge cakes you see in the stores are used only by the laziest of cooks.

Famous Local Chefs 
Today is the birthday, in 1928, of Chef Robert Finley. He headed the kitchen of Masson's in Lakeview for most of its history. During its prime in the 1960s and 1970s, Masson's was among the most celebrated of local restaurants, nationally as well as locally. Not only did Chef Robert cook excellent and original food, but he took in many budding cooks and turned them into skilled masters. (The most noteworthy of those is Chef Dennis Hutley, who opened Le Parvenu.) Masson's is gone, and Chef Robert passed away in 2009, but his dishes and proteges live on.

Dining With The Royals 
King Louis XIII ascended to the throne of France today in 1610. The most expensive widely available Cognac is named for him. Coincidentally, his son and successor, Louis XIV, also came to the throne on this date at age four in 1643. When he took control of France in 1661, the Sun King (as Louis XIV was known) assembled a lavish royal court culture, which demanded cuisine at the highest levels. He would have liked his father's namesake Cognac.

Through History With Beer 
Today in 1932, New York Mayor Jimmy Walker led an all-day We Want Beer parade in Manhattan. There was another such parade in Detroit that day. The forces of Prohibition began to crumble, and it would be less than a year before beer returned to America.

Food Inventions
The first patent issued for a dishwasher went to Joel Houghton of Ogden, New York on this day in 1850. It worked more like a modern clothes washing machine than a modern dishwasher. So, a lot of broken dishes.

The Saints
Today is the feast day of St. Matthias, the Apostle who replaced Judas. He is the patron saint of alcoholics.

Music To Eat Red Beans And Rice By 
Sidney Bechet was born in New Orleans today in 1897, and in 1959 died on this date, too. He was a major jazz pioneer, a self-taught genius whose techniques and compositions were so offbeat that he was constantly in conflict with band leaders and other performers. Playing saxophone and clarinet, he recorded his first sides just before his fellow Orleanian Louis Armstrong cut his. Bechet was internationally famous, especially in his later years.

Music To Eat Anything By 
Frank Sinatra passed away this day in 1998. He was 82. "May you live long, and may the last voice you hear be mine," he said at the close of his concerts in his later years. It still could happen, especially if you die in an American Italian restaurant. I wouldn't mind having the last voice I hear be that of Old Blue Eyes.

Food Namesakes 
Al Porcino, a jazz trumpeter, was born today in 1925. I suppose one single mushroom of the porcini variety would be a porcino. . . North Carolina Congressman Basil Whitener was born today in 1915. . . Honey Cone, a female singing group, had a gold record today in 1971, called Want Ads. . . Apple Corps, the Beatles' business and recording company, was formed today in 1968. . . Salt 'n' Pepa, a two-girl hip-hop group, had a hit today in 1990 with the song Expression.

Words To Eat By 
"Americans are just beginning to regard food the way the French always have. Dinner is not what you do in the evening before you do something else. Dinner is the evening."--Art Buchwald.

We've known that in New Orleans for over a century.

Words To Drink By
"I think a man ought to get drunk at least twice a year just on principle, so he won't let himself get snotty about it."--Raymond Chandler.

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