Roots of American Cuisine
On this date ninety years apart, two events shaped the cuisine and culture of the country. In 1803, during negotiations to sell New Orleans to the United States, France's Foreign Minister Charles Talleyrand offered to throw in the entire Louisiana territory for a couple million dollars more. It took Robert Livingston by surprise, but he and Thomas Jefferson felt they couldn't turn the offer down. The Louisiana Purchase drastically changed the futures of both the United States and New Orleans.
Ninety years before, in 1713, the Peace of Utrecht was signed. What are now the Maritime Provinces of Canada were ceded by France to England. The territory included the French colony of Acadiana, in the present Nova Scotia. French settlers were told to pledge allegiance to the English crown. Many who refused were deported, and wound up in the bayou country southwest of New Orleans. Living in isolation there for two centuries, they developed the Cajun culture and cuisine.
Annals Of Sushi
Today in 1868, the rule of the shoguns of Japan ended. Nevertheless, that ruling class continues to be honored by dozens of sushi bars around America that bear that name. Shogun Restaurant in Metairie — New Orleans's first sushi bar — continues to serve and remains delicious.
It's Cheese Fondue Day. Cheese fondue — the original Swiss kind, followed much later by beef fondue and chocolate fondue — rises and falls in popularity. Right now it's in a lull. The Melting Pot, a national chain, serves a complete fondue dinner with many different ingredients in both the pot and at the end of the sticks. Fondue has never really caught on in New Orleans, probably because it's thought of by most as a cold-weather thing.
Strawberry, Arkansas is in the north central part of the state, in a very scenic area of rolling hills, caves and meandering streams. It's a small town at the junction of State Highways 25 and 230. The restaurant there is the T& W Shake Shop. The flavor of the shake should be obvious.
orgeat, n. — A sweet, almond-and-citrus-flavored syrup used mostly as a cocktail ingredient, notably for the old drink absinthe suisesse. Orgeat started out as a beverage made from barley, in the same family of things called tisanes. Later, a vogue began for flavoring it with almonds, and over time the barley disappeared and the dominant flavor was that of the nuts. Lemon and orange juices, and later orange flower water, entered the mix. After orgeat fell out of favor as a drink unto itself, its use as a flavoring for other drinks caused it to evolve into the syrup that it is now. It's a little hard to find, even in well-stocked liquor stores. But some of the more adventuresome bartenders are bringing it back.