The Food Almanac: April 7, 2011

Staff Writer
Get your day off to an appetizing start with food facts and trivia from Tom Fitzmorris.

Café au Lait.

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

Drink and The Law
Today in 1933, Utah ratified the Twenty-First Amendment, thereby putting the final nail into the coffin of Prohibition. President Franklin Roosevelt signed legislation allowing 3.2 percent alcohol beer immediately. And there was rejoicing in the land except in Oklahoma, where Prohibition continued until, coincidentally, this same day in 1959.

The Physiology of Eating
The man who created the word ptomaine (from the Greek ptomas, meaning "corpse") was born today in 1817. Francesco Selmi thought that the nitrogenous compounds in spoiled food were responsible for food poisoning. That's not exactly true; those ammonia-like aromas are a symptom, not a cause. The expression "ptomaine poisoning" is no longer used in the medical world for food poisoning, although many laymen still call it that.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
It is much less likely than you think that your bout of food poisoning came from a restaurant.

Eating Calendar
It's National Coffee Cake Day. I once overheard someone in a bakery say that he didn't like coffee cake because he didn't like the taste of coffee. Of course, there's no coffee in coffee cake unless you spill your mug into it. The basic coffee cake is a sweet, crumbly, thick cake of flour, eggs, sugar, and butter, topped with a streusel of sugar, nuts, and cinnamon. It's often baked in a tube pan, leaving a hole in the center. Coffee cakes often include other ingredients; apples and blueberries are common. They're best eaten right after they finish cooling. With a cup of coffee, naturally.

Gourmet Geography
Hot Coffee, Mississippi is literally a wide spot in MS 532, some 20 miles west of Laurel. The place got its name from an old grocery store where farmers on their way to market stopped for hot coffee and cakes. The name has become a matter of fun for the people in those rolling farmlands. A sign that says "Entering Hot Coffee" is followed a few yards later by one that says "Entering Downtown Hot Coffee." After a few yards more, you're advised that you're "Leaving Downtown Hot Coffee" and then "Leaving Hot Coffee." All that in about a quarter mile.