The Food Almanac: Friday, January 31, 2014

Annals Of Fast Food 

Today in 1990, the first McDonald's opened in Moscow. The Russians were thrilled by the friendly attitude of the workers–not common among other merchants. I'm no fan of McDonald's. But it's pretty clear that it's that sort of thing that extends American influence around the globe much more effectively than that other, much more expensive way that our leaders seem to favor.

Food And Sports 

Today is the birthday (1947) of Nolan Ryan, one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. He was a cattleman before he got into baseball, and he went back to it after his arm blew out. Nolan Ryan beef is available in New Orleans at a few stores, and its claim to fame is that he uses no bovine growth hormones or antibiotics in the last 100 days before what the cattle guys call "the harvest." It's quite good, and because it's "harvested" at a very young age, it's very tender and low in fat.

Annals Of Bad Crop Weather

In 1953 on this date, a freakishly high tide combined with a storm pushed North Sea waters through the dikes in the Netherlands and Belgium, killing 1800 people, destroying thousands of homes, killing untold numbers of cattle, and so damaging farmland with salt water that some of it has not come back yet. Sound familiar? Think of this next time you believe our own recent disaster was unique.

Drink Inspirations

Today in 1788, Charles Edward Stuart — also known as Bonnie Prince Charlie — died at 67. He was a pretender to the British throne, and made a valiant pitch to restore it to his family. He is most famous today for a liqueur he created from Scotch whiskey, honey, and other flavorings. It became known as Drambuie, a contraction of a Gaelic expression that means "the drink that satisfies." I haven't had a Drambuie in a long time, but I think I might have one today in Bonnie Prince Charlie's honor. The best known cocktail made with Drambuie is the Rusty Nail.

Today's Flavor

Speaking of a stiff drink, today is purportedly Brandy Alexander Day. This is another of the rich, sweet drinks that were in vogue in the 1950s, but which not many people drink today. It's not bad, actually: brandy, cream, and creme de cacao, shaken with ice and strained with a grating of nutmeg.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Bologna Creek, Oregon is in the mountainous, lightly-populated northeast corner of the state, 215 miles east-southest of Portland. It flows into the John Day River, a tributary of the Columbia. Two forks of the creek rise in Bologna Basin, then join to flow through Bologna Canyon between the 4000-foot peaks of Negro Knob and Thorn Spring Butte. Bologna Creek brings down enough alluvial matter to block the flow of the John Day enough to back it up a bit. In a wet year it chinook salmon swim up the creek. Giving the cattle ranchers in the area a respite from all that bologna. Another alternative is the Day Creek Lodge, a mile away up the John Day from the Bologna Confluence.

Food Through History

Today in 1851, Gail Borden introduced evaporated milk to a waiting world. Not only was that the seed of the Borden dairy empire, but an entirely new dairy industry developed around that one product.

Food In Literature

Today in 1948, The New Yorker published J.D. Salinger's short story, "A Perfect Day For Bananafish." Not much in there about bananas or fish; it's more about swimming. Bananas may not seem to go with fish, but it's actually pretty good. Moran's Riverside (where Galvez is now) used to make a fine dish with trout and bananas, both sauteed in butter.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Geminian, the patron saint of Modena, Italy, where the best balsamic vinegar comes from. He lived in the fourth century.

Edible Dictionary

glaze, v., n.–To coat foods with a thin layer of a flavorful liquid, usually one which will become highly viscous or even solid by the time the food is served. Also the coating that results from glazing. Glazes can be sweet (as for cakes) or savory (for meats, seafoods, or vegetables). In the latter case, a glaze starts out the same way a sauce does, but in the cooking process it thickens, so that almost all of it adheres to the food with which it's cooked.

Food Namesakes

This is the birthday, in 1921, of singer Mario Lanza. That's not a food name, but his real name was (almost): Alfred Cocozza. His best-known movie was The Great Caruso, but I like The Toast Of New Orleans, for obvious reasons... Ham, a chimpanzee, became the first American to fly into space in a capsule like the ones the Mercury astronauts would later use, today in 1961. He made it, clearing the way for Alan Shepard to take the same ride three months later... British painter Tilly Kettle was born today in 1734... Charlie Musselwhite, a blues harmonica player, was born today in 1944... American racecar driver Buddy Rice was born today in 1976.

Anna Pavlova, the spectacular Russian ballerina, was born today in 1882. She was so famous that she has a dessert named for her, one that sounds pretty good: a baked meringue with whipped cream, strawberries, kiwis, and other juicy fruits.

Words To Eat By

"I personally prefer a nice frozen TV Dinner at home, mainly because it's so little trouble. All you have to do is have another drink while you're throwing it in the garbage." — Jack Douglas, comic writer. He died today in 1989.

Words To Drink Zinfandel By

"In the mirrorlike relationship between wine and human beings, Zinfandel owned more reflective properties than any other grape; in its infinite mutability, it was capable of expressing almost any philosophical position or psychological function. As a result, its own "true" nature might never be known." — David Darlington, from his novel Angels Visits: An Inquiry into the Mystery of Zinfandel.