The Food Almanac: Friday, December 20, 2013

Today's Flavor
Today is reported to be National Sangria Day. Sangria can be good, but usually isn't. It's a mixture of wine with fruit and fruit juices, and probably began as a way to make lesser wines more palatable. Especially when they're served cold, as sangria usual is. We see it in Spanish restaurants without exception; it is a very popular beverage in Spain. Seems more like a summer beverage to me, and less appropriate for this day than something like wassail or mulled wine.

Edible Dictionary
negative reservation, n.–Also called a reverse reservation. In some restaurants, regular customers have a standing reservation for a certain table at a fixed time and day–somestime everyday. This practice is more common at lunch than at dinner. If the customer involved calls to release his table for the day, it's called a negative reservation, making that table available for a regular reservation or a walk-in.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Berry Knoll, Alaska is on the rather large Annette Island, in the southernmost extremity of the giant state. It's west of the Inside Passage, used by the cruise ships and passenger ferries that move most people around in that mostly-roadless territory. A few very small towns are on the island, which is covered with temperate rain forests that get precipitation over three hundred days a year. Berry Knoll is very densely covered with vegetation, including many plants growing edible berries–notably blueberries, cranberries, lingonberries and salmonberries. The latter are brilliant orange and look otherwise like enormous blackberries. The nearest restaurants are about twenty air miles north in Ketchikan, whcih has plenty of them.

Deft Dining Rule #208: 
From now until Christmas Day, a man must offer to buy a drink for every friend he sees in an eating or drinking establishment.

Roots Of Our Culinary Culture
Today in 1803, in a ceremony here in New Orleans, the United States took possession of the Louisiana Purchase territory. It doubled the size of the country and brought New Orleans (but not the North Shore, which remained part of Florida) into the Union. It made Pass Manchac an international boundary. The customs officials ate lunch at Middendorf's, right?

Food Equations
According to Harper's magazine, a Hummer H2 could be driven around the world 244 times on the excess calories consumed in a year by the average American. I'd go for the food instead of the drive.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
To make lighter muffins, use buttermilk instead of regular milk. The extra acidity will create more gas bubbles in contact with the baking soda. Another trick to accomplish the same end: separate the eggs, beat the whites, and fold it into the batter. Neither of these work for heavy, chunky muffins, though, as I learned when my former girlfriend threw one at me.

Restaurants Around The World 
Today in 1928, Harry Ramsden opened his first fish-and-chips shop outside of Leeds, England. It has expanded to become a large chain of restaurants specializing not only in fish and chips (using many different species of fish), but also many other popular British dishes like meat pies, gammon steaks with mashed potatoes, and the like. Its rough American equivalent would be Applebee's.

Food Namesakes
Many bakers today. The jazz singer Anita Baker was born today in 1957. . . and actress Blanche Baker hit the Big Stage today in 1956, which was also a big day for her more famous mother, Carroll Baker . . .Rock singer David Cook, who won the seventh season of American Idol, hit his first note today ion 1982. . . Charley Grapewin, who played Uncle Henry in The Wizard of Oz, was born today in 1869. . . American sculptor Beverly Pepper began to carve out a life today in 1924. . . Pieter de Hooch, a painter of Dutch scenes in the 1600s, seemed very lifelike to his mother today in 1629. We lift our glass to Hooch.

Words To Eat By 
"My manner of living is plain and I do not mean to be put out of it. A glass of wine and a bit of mutton are always ready."–George Washington.

Words To Drink By
"I'm not so think as you drunk I am."–Sir John Collings Squire, British writer of the first half of the 1900s.