The Food Almanac: Friday, December 6, 2013

It's St. Nicholas’s Day!

Tom Monaghan opened the first Domino's on this date in 1960 in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

The Saints

It’s St. Nicholas’s Day. Nicholas of Myra was a bishop in a town in what is now Turkey in the Fourth Century. He is alleged to have revived three murdered boys from the dead. That made him a patron saint of children. His fame spread such that his name was translated into many languages; this is how he evolved into Santa Claus. The tradition on St. Nicholas’s day is for children to leave their shoes out on this night, and find coins in them the next morning. (Or should we have done that last night? I forget.)

Food Inventions

Today is the official birthday of the microwave oven. It was patented on this date in 1945 by the Raytheon Company, whose main business was making radar devices for fighting the Nazis and Japanese. Its essence is the magnetron, a tube that emits microwave-frequency radio waves. Percy Spencer discovered that anything containing water (among other things) had its molecules stirred up by the waves. Water molecules have a slight polarity, and are about the same size as the microwaves. So, as the waves pass around them, they move. Movement=heat. That’s all there is to it. I’ve had a microwave oven since the mid-1970s, and the great miracle in them now is that you can throw a bag of popcorn in there and press just one button to pop it.

Today’s Flavor

Homemade Vegetable Soup Day sounds delicious in the current cold weather. What could be more heart-warming? I have half a brisket I can boil to make the stock. We need some potatoes and tomatoes and carrots and Brussels sprouts and green beans. . . and. . . (recipe later in the newsletter).

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Beef cooked on St. Nicholas’s Day will always be tender. But God helps them that helps themselves, so don’t forget to slice across the grain.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Chops Creek flows into the Kennebec River about five miles north of Bath, Maine. The river and the creek are subject to large tidal variations. It’s in an area with lots of fishing boats about. Horses are also raised in the area. The nearest place for having some chops (although lobster, mussels, and scallops are more likely fare) is the Taste Of Maine Restaurant, a mile away in Woolwich.

Edible Dictionary

kirsch, [keersh], German, n.–The English contraction for kirschwasser (“cherry water”), the German name for a colorless, clear cherry brandy. It’s neither sweet nor strongly flavored with cherries–although a hint of that flavor is in there. The alcohol is high–usually upwards of eighty proof. Kirsch is made by fermenting the juice of sour cherries, then distilling the resulting wine. It’s made the same way as French eau de vie and Italian grappa, with with cherries as the starting point. All of those liquors are made with the pits, which impart an astringency that’s part of the flavor profile. If you knock back a shot of kirschwasser you may well like it, but you will wince as it goes down. It’s used in making desserts as often as it’s drunk.

Restaurant Anniversaries

Today is the birthday of the modern Domino’s Pizza. Tom Monaghan opened the first one in 1960 in Ypsilanti, Michigan, a Detroit suburb. It’s an ordinary pizza, made in a conveyor belt oven. But for all that, you could do a lot worse, and they set the standard for the mass-marketed pizza. Years before that Domino’s came on the scene, there was a Domino’s pizzeria in New Orleans, on the corner of St. Charles and Girod, where Herbsaint is now. It was a dumpy place of the kind that all old pizza joints used to be. [related]

Annals Of Food Poisoning

Today in 2006, a widespread outbreak of e. coli contamination was announced. It appeared mostly in the Northeast. It was traced to green onions that had been grown in a field irrigated by suspect water.

Food Namesakes

Otto Graham was born today in 1921. He was a Hall of Fame quarterback for the Cleveland Browns in the 1950s. . . Mass murderer Richard Speck was born today in 1941. “Speck” is a common European term for the smoked version of prosciutto. We’re only lately starting to see it in use here. . . Joseph Lamb, composer of songs in the peak of the ragtime years, was born today in 1887.

Words To Eat By

“I went to this restaurant last night that was set up like a big buffet in the shape of an Ouija board. You’d think about what kind of food you want, and the table would move across the floor to it.”–Steven Wright, the deadpan comedian, born today in 1955.

“I saw a cavalry captain buy vegetable soup on horseback. He carried the whole mess home in his helmet.”–Aristophanes, ancient Greek playwright.

Words To Drink By

Related Stories
America's 25 Best Pizza ChainsDomino's iPad App Makes You a Pizza HeroDomino's Offering Gluten-Free Crust

“Before Noah, men having only water to drink, could not find the truth. Accordingly. . . they became abominably wicked, and they were justly exterminated by the water they loved to drink. This good man, Noah, having seen that all his contemporaries had perished by this unpleasant drink, took a dislike to it; and God, to relieve his dryness, created the vine and revealed to him the art of making le vin. By the aid of this liquid he unveiled more and more truth.”–Benjamin Franklin.