The Food Almanac: Friday, August 2, 2013

It's National Ice Cream Sandwich Day!

Chefs In War And Peace 
Today in 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, resulting in the first Gulf War. One of the soldiers who served in that war, as a Marine sergeant, was one of our most celebrated chefs: John Besh.

Today's Flavor 
It is National Ice Cream Sandwich Day. My first recollection of ice cream sandwiches is from age eight, when our home in Kenner was served daily by a Red Wing ice cream man who drove his truck right in front of our house. He had two kinds of ice cream sandwiches. One was the oblong kind we see commonly now. The other was square, and at first glance appeared smaller. It was thicker, though, and I soon figured out that it was the better of the two. It was an early episode in discriminating taste. 

I keep thinking that some dessert chef should create an ice cream poor boy. Dig it: an elongated profiterole, with layers of different flavors, including chocolate (representing the roast beef), strawberry (tomatoes), and pistachio (lettuce and pickles). Whipped cream for the mayonnaise. Nobody's done it yet--perhaps with good reason.

Annals Of Bon Vivants
Today in 1674 Philippe II, the Duke of Orleans, was born. New Orleans is named for him, because he was running France at the time of the founding of our city. St. Philip Street is named for his patron, although the duke was no saint. He took over as regent of France until Louis XV--who was only five when Louis XIV died--reached maturity. Philippe was a bit of an oddball, alternately brilliant and nutty, forceful and weak. He had a strong liking for the grand style of living Louis XIV epitomized. He was suspected of being homosexual (although he was married and had eight children). The French name for our city, Nouvelle Orleans, is in the feminine form; that's alleged to be a joke about Philippe's flamboyance. Phillipe II's eight years in power were among the most corrupt in French history, which is saying something. Whether that set a standard for his namesake city is something to be considered over glasses of absinthe.

The Saints
Today in 1967, the New Orleans Saints played their first game, in Tulane Stadium. It was a pre-season loss to the Rams, 16-7. The stadium food began its long downward descent.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Filetown, Pennsylvania is at the third vertex of an equilateral triangle, about eighty miles on a side, with New York and Philadelphia at the other vertices. Although they pronounce it "file town," looking at the name brings to mind not only tenderloin steak, but also the sassafras powder we put in gumbo. Despite its proximity to such dense urban areas, Filetown is surrounded by large, open farm fields. A dozen or so houses--some rather grand--are on large lots at the intersection of two local roads. The most appealing nearby restaurant is Hartman's Two Family Restaurant, about a mile and a half away.

Penny Party 
Today in 1909, the first Lincoln pennies were minted. They were the first U.S. coins to bear the likeness of a real person. In 1909, you could buy many things for a penny. Those days ended sometime in the 1970s. Penny gum machines persisted at least that long. The last one I knew about was at the bus shelter on Carrollton at Claiborne, which dispensed two peppermint Chiclets wrapped in cellophane for a single copper. In the store where I worked as a teenager, a penny would buy Mary Janes, Five-Somes (five chocolate-covered malted milk balls in a cellophane sleeve), or a box of wooden matches for a penny until about 1969. Now pennies are strictly for getting payments exactly right. A lot of cashiers now don't bother, and just round up your change.

Annals Of Canning 
Today in 1904, Michael Owen was granted a patent for a glass-shaping machine. That invention gave rise to the widespread use of glass jars for food storage and marketing.

Edible Dictionary
hollandaise, n.--One of the French "mother" sauces from which many other sauces are built, hollandaise stands on its own as well. It's a thick, pale-yellow emulsion of beaten eggs and butter, flavored with lemon juice or vinegar and a pinch of cayenne. The modern form of hollandaise seems only to have come together in the mid-1800s--recent by French standards. It got its name from its use in dishes that were characterized as Dutch. Hollandaise is the bicycle of sauces: tricky to master, but once you get the technique you never forget. Classically, the eggs are beaten with the lemon juice in a bowl over gentle heat, which cooks them very lightly and causes them to thicken. Whole butter--softened but not melted--is whisked into the eggs, about two-thirds of a stick to an egg yolk. Hollandaise is used on many dishes, most famously poached eggs. That's odd, really: it amounts to eggs on eggs. It may reach its peak of usefulness as a sauce for poached fish.

Food Namesakes
Kevin Bacon was married today to Kyra Sedgwick, in 1992. . . Dutch superstar chef Herman Von Ham passed away today in 2012. His specialty was asparagus dishes, of which he created dozens.

Words To Eat By
"Watermelon—it's a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face."--Enrico Caruso, famed operatic tenor, who died today in 1921.


Words To Drink By
"If four or five guys tell you that you're drunk, even though you know you haven't had a thing to drink, the least you can do is to lie down a little while."--Joseph Schenckearly American film producer.