The Food Almanac: Thursday, December 20,2012

It's National Sangria Day!
Wikimedia/ Katherine Price


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

Days Until. . .
New Year's Eve--11
Make those reservations now!

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
royal icing, n.--The hard icing that covers cookies and some cakes, royal icing is a micture of egg whites and confectioner's sugar, beaten until fluffy. Spread it on top of cookies, it dries to a brittle hardness, but sticks well to the cookie itself. Royal icing is usually flavored with vanilla, but other flavors--notably mint, maple, or almond--can be incorporated into the mixture. Dividing the batch and coloring each with food coloring, you can draw designs, faces, and clothing onto the cookies--a popular pastime the days before Christmas.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Santa's favorite town on his trip around the world may well beCookietown, Oklahoma. It's about ten miles north of the Red River and the Texas boundary, 113 miles south southwest of Oklahoma City. It's a rural crossroads in flat, open farming and ranching land, with a few houses and a church. The name is that of a store that opened there in 1928, in the last years of the first boom in Oklahoma, before the Dust Bowl years reduced the population in that part of the country to very little. When they want to eat out in Cookietown, the people drive 15 miles west on one of the gridlike country roads to Brandfield, and get a table at the Prairie Rose Cafe.

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 drivenaround 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 singerAnita 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.