The Food Almanac: Wednesday, May 8, 2013

It's Coca-Cola Day!
Staff Writer

Wikimedia Commons/ rrr12

Food At War
Today is V-E Day, marking the end of World War II in Europe, in 1945. At exactly the same moment, a great song called Candy hit number one, sung by Johnny Mercer and one of our favorite girl singers, Jo Stafford. It's all before our time, but we like it anyway.

Food On The Frontier
A man largely responsible for the easy availability of beef in the American diet was born today in 1855. John "Bet A Million" Gates, the inventor and promoter of barbed wire, pushed his product on rangers, who found it cheap and effective. And suddenly the herds grew.

Annals Of Beer
Emil Christian Hansen, a scientist working in Danish breweries, developed a means of culturing brewer's yeast in such a way that its performance (and therefore the flavor of the beer) became much more consistent than it had been. He also discovered that there are two species of brewer's yeast: the kind that floats, and the kind that sinks. He was born today in 1842.

Drinking Calendar
Today is Coca-Cola Day. It was sold for the first time on this date in 1886. Invented by pharmacist Dr. John S. Pemberton, Coke and beverages like it (Dr Pepper, for example, which was already in the market) were sold more in drugstores than anywhere else. Pemberton offered Coca-Cola as a "brain and nerve tonic." He sold on average a big nine glasses a day during the first year at his Atlanta drugstore. A few years later, unhopeful for the future of his invention, Pemberton sold the rights to the formula to Asa Candler for $2300. Candler added an ingredient much more important than any of the ones Pemberton thought of: marketing. Indeed, the promotion of Coca-Cola to the general public worldwide is one of the most important chapters in the history of advertising.

The aspect of Coca-Cola that most interests me is that the formula for it is so bitter that it requires a great deal of sugar to bring it into a balance that tastes good. Nine teaspoons of sugar are in every twelve-ounce can. Imagine putting that much sugar in coffee or any other beverage! Part of the balance is also struck with the acidic carbonated water. If you've ever had a Coke that was allowed to go flat, you know how insipidly sweet it is. The bubbles play against the sugar.

Whatever else can be said about Coca-Cola, there's no question we drink far too much of it. Really, it's brown sugar water. Anybody try the new version of Coke with vitamins and minerals?

Gourmet Gazetteer
Porkey, Pennsylvania is in the northwest corner of the state, about eighty-five miles from Erie (both city and lake). It's in the Allegheny National Forest, on the north bank of the Tionesta Creek. That's a tributary of the Allegheny River, which puts it in the Mississippi River watershed. So Porkey water runs through the French Quarter. Porkey is little more than a campground, probably names for Porcupine Run, which flow into the Tionesta at Porkey. It's in a hilly area with numerous streams bearing fishable populations of trout. The summits of the hills are as much as 500 feet above the creek, which makes this a highly scenic area. It's also remote: the nearest restaurant is the Busy Bee in Warren, twenty-six miles north.

Edible Dictionary 
soppressata, Italian, n.--A thick-skinned, tightly-packed, dry-cured, large-diameter sausage made mostly from pork, pork fat, and seasonings. It resembles salami, but the meats are chopped more coarsely and the seasonings are more pronounced. Most soppressata is unambiguously peppery. It's more common in the southern half of Italy than in the north, and because of that, it's common in American Italian markets. Its flavor is concentrated by the extended dry-curing time. It's less often eaten on sandwiches as all by itself, particularly in antipasto platters. Also spelled sopressata.

New Orleans Restaurateur Hall Of Fame
Felix Gallerani was born today in 1938, in Tirol, the part of Italy near Austria. Felix came to New Orleans in the 1970s to be the chef of the flagship restaurant in the Hilton Riverside Hotel. However, he shortly thereafter decided he'd had enough of the kitchen and went into the dining room as the maitre d'. He held that position for a very long time at Begue's, where he became well known. He spent a few years at the front door at Broussard's before buying Cafe Volage in the 1990s. He sold the restaurant in 2007, and passed away a year later. He used to call into my radio show to talk about food and the antics of his parrot, Pistachio.

Food Namesakes
Pitcher Catfish Hunter pitched a perfect game for Oakland against the Minnesota Twins today in 1968. . . Graphic designer Saul Bass was born today in 1921. . . Henry Baker, one of the earliest users of microscopes in science, was born today in 1698. . . Today in 1919, Edward George Honey proposed an international holiday celebrating the end of World War I, Armistice Day. . . Today in 1999, Nancy Mace became the first female graduate of The Citadel, a previously all-male military college.

The Saints
Today is the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel. Among many other roles, he is the patron of bakers and grocers.

Words To Eat By
"It takes a lot of dough to make the upper crust."--Alfred E. Neuman, fictional goofball and mascot of Mad Magazine. He was on its cover for the first time today in 1956. Today is also the birthday of Mad itself, in 1952.

Words To Drink By
"But Daddy. . . Coke has vitamins!"--My son Jude at age three, trying to persuade me to let him have Coca-Cola right before bedtime.

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