The Food Almanac: Wednesday, December 12, 2012

National Hot Cocoa Day (and 12-12-12)!


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

Days Until
Christmas--13
New Year's Eve--19

Today's Flavor
Today is National Hot Cocoa Day. I never was much on cocoa--cafe au lait fills the same need in my beverage selections. But my wife loves the stuff, and on cold days she makes a very rich version of it that reminds her of the cocoa they make at the El Tovar Hotel in the Grand Canyon, where she used to work. She said that many of the staff put on a lot of weight every winter just from drinking that cocoa.

My favorite use of powdered cocoa is to dust desserts, notably chocolate truffles and tiramisu. If you place a doily on top of the item to be cocoa-dusted, you can get interesting patterns. 

Another source says that today isNational Ambrosia Day. "Food of the gods" is what that word literally means. So why should a concoction of coconut and orange sections get such a name?

Gourmet Gazetteer
Grapevine, Texas is a suburb of Dallas and Fort Worth, just north of DFW Airport. Restaurants of note in Grapevine include Tolbert's, with as Texas a menu as can be imagined. Its founder, journalist Frank X. Tolbert, co-founded the International Chili Cookoff at Terlingua, Texas. On April Fool's Day in 1934, Bonnie and Clyde killed two policemen in Grapevine.

The Saints
Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron of Mexico and the entire New World, especially the Spanish-speaking part of it. There is hardly a family-owned Mexican restaurant that doesn't have a reproduction of her famous image somewhere.

Edible Dictionary
satay, n.--The kebabs of Southeast Asia, satays are among the most common dishes in Indonesia and Malaysia. They're made two ways. Chicken, beef, or pork is cut into long strips, marinated, and then threaded in a zig-zag way on a skewer. Or it can be made into a finely-ground meatball and packed around the skewer. (Shrimp satays are very often made in this latter style.) Either way, the skewers are then grilled and served with (most often) a peanut sauce. Satays usually turn up as appetizers in all kinds of Asian restaurants in this country, particularly Thai places.

Music To Dine In Italian Restaurants By
Today is the birthday of Frank Sinatra, in 1915. Certainly no vocalist is more played in restaurants, or anywhere else. Indeed, I'm listening to his classic A Jolly Christmas album as I write this. "May you live long," he used to say, "and may the last voice you hear be mine." Even though he died in 1998, his voice is still the last one a lot of people hear. If I could have two selfish wishes, the first would be to be sixteen again, and the second would be to be Frank Sinatra.

Deft Dining Rule #872:
A restaurant that plays a great deal of Frank Sinatra on its sound system will have many regular customers.

Food In The Movies
On this date in 1967, the film Guess Who's Coming To Dinner premiered. It was about the reaction that a proper white couple (Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, no less) had when their daughter brought an African-American fiancé (Sidney Poitier) home to meet the folks. I was disappointed that they didn't focus more on the food being served.

Food In The Funnies 
The Katzenjammer Kids, the oldest comic strip still running, made its first appearance today in 1897. One of the running jokes in the German-flavored strip was the efforts of Fritz and Hans (the Kids) to steal Mama's pies from the windowsill. Mama always seems to be baking pies, and Der Kaptain always seems to be thinking about eating.

Food Namesakes
Nilda Pinto, a writer from Curacao, was born today in 1918. . . ArtistEdvard Munch, whose famous painting was "The Scream," probably came out screaming today in 1863. . . Philip Drinker, who invented the iron lung, took his first sip today in 1894. . . Jim Bunn,Congressman from Oregon, was bunn today in 1956.

Words To Eat By
"Animal crackers, and cocoa to drink
That is the finest of suppers, I think
When I'm grown up and can have what I please,
I think I shall always insist upon these."--Christopher Morley.

Words To Drink By
"Alcohol may be man's worst enemy, but the Bible says love your enemy."--Frank Sinatra, born today in 1915.


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