The Food Almanac: Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Staff Writer
It's National Pistachio Day!

Wikimedia Commons/ MadMaxMarchHare

Pistachios originally came from Iran, which produces more pistachios than any other country.

Today’s Flavor

Today is allegedly National Pistachio Day. The best use of pistachios in New Orleans is the dipping of the ends of cannoli in them at Angelo Brocato’s. Which, like most makers of ice cream, makes bright green pistachio flavor. (It’s the green part of spumone, too.) That flavor is so delicious that I wonder why it’s not more often used. As in pistachio sno-balls. Pistachio bread pudding. (I think I’ll try that myself.) Or in savory dishes. Indeed, I couldn’t think of a non-sweet use of pistachios, other than eating them right out of the shells. (Remember when there used to be gum machines filled with red-shelled pistachios? I can’t remember the last time I did, but it has to be twenty years.)

The more I thought about this the more intrigued I was. So started looking through a few cookbooks. Finding nothing there, I did a web search and came up with a bunch of grower organizations that seemed to be quarreling with one another about aflatoxins and the difference between machine-shelled and hand-shelled nuts. Nuts!

Pistachios originally came from Iran, which produces more pistachios than any other country. The United States (you could say California) is a close second. They’re very good for you. Eating them in the shell is so slow that you stop before you can eat the equivalent amount of peanuts.

Annals Of Closing Time

Today in 1945, as World War II was in full tilt, a midnight curfew went into effect for all bars and nightclubs everywhere in America. Wow. That must have been rough here in New Orleans. I’ll bet that gave the restaurant business a boost.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Anything bright red on the outside and bright green on the inside can’t be all bad.

The Physiology Of Eating

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg was born today in 1852. He ran a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, and promulgated many offbeat theories of health. One of those was vegetarianism. Another was “fletcherization,” in which one chewed each biteful of food a hundred times before swallowing. He thought people should eat a diet that was primarily grain, and his brother William K. Kellogg created the famous cereal company to make that easier. About half of Dr. Kellogg’s radical ideas actually make sense. But plenty of them were as nutty as a pistachio.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Cabbagetown is a historic district near the center of Atlanta, Georgia. It was the site of the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill, and the homes of the people who worked there in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Most of the houses are on narrow lots and have a “shotgun” layout, with a Victorian design. The mill closed in 1977, and the district has lately evolved into a stylish area for young single adults. Certainly the best place to eat is Redfish, a New Orleans-style cafe right there in the middle of Cabbagetown.

Edible Dictionary

nori, n.–The Japanese generic name for edible seaweed. Most people around the world who live near the sea eat seaweed in some way. We didn’t much eat it in the United States, and so when sushi bars began opening, with their seaweed salads and dried-seaweed-wrapped rolls, we adopted the name. Nori has been cultivated in Japan since at least the eighth century. The big breakthrough, however, came only about fifty years ago, when the the newly-sprouted plants–whose identity was unknown–were discovered. They were tiny hairlike growths on seashells, which later broke loose and grew where the seaweed farmers found it later in the cycle. Now most nori is started on eggshells kept floating in the water, a method that makes for ten times as much nori as the farmers had in the past. The most familiar kind of nori is pressed and dried, sometimes toasted. That’s what’s around many rolls. Many species of seaweed are used, and the Japanese have a different name for each, but that’s well beyond anything even an avid diner might encounter.

Food Namesakes

Antoine “Fats” Domino, a major figure in early rock ‘n’ roll, was born today in 1928. He has both a food nickname and two restaurant names. And he had a hit song with a food name: Blueberry Hill. But he’s known for his music more than his eating. He’s not very fat anymore–hasn’t been for a long time. A true-blue Orleanian, he still lived in the Lower Ninth Ward when Katrina hit. He lost everything there, but he rebuilt. Good old Fats! . . . Theodore Sturgeon, an American author of science fiction, was born today in 1918. . . Charles D. Baker, the mayor of Las Vegas during that city’s Rat Pack boom years of the 1950s, was born today in 1901. . . Big-league pitcher Preacher Roe took The Big Mound today in 1915. . . Currie Graham–who has a rare double food name–was born today in 1967. He played the station commander in NYPD Blue.

Words To Eat By

“You think that I am cruel and gluttonous when I beat my cook for sending in a bad dinner. But if that is too trivial a cause, what other can there be for beating a cook?”–Martial, ancient Roman author.

Words To Drink By

“Well, as he brews, so shall he drink.”–Ben Jonson, Every Man in His Humour.