The Food Almanac: Friday, January 4, 2013

It's National Spaghetti Day!
Wikimedia Commons/ Alessio Sbarbaro


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

Tenth Day of Christmas
Here come the leaping lords. I don't know what that's all about, and I don't think I want to know. Also silly: the chromium combination manicure, scissors and cigarette lighter in Allan Sherman's version of the song. In another: mistletoe arrives today, too late for the parties. Benny Grunch goes to the Tenneco Chalmette Refinery for some reason. In our own take on the Twelve Days song, today we'd like to simmer for you ten cups of red beans to go with the nine cups of rice and eight links of sausage from the last two days.

Sports In Food
It's Don Shula's birthday. The NFL coach with the most wins in history was born today in 1930. He co-owns a chain of steakhouses, whose New Orleans branch is in the J.W. "Formerly The Meridien" Marriott Hotel on Canal Street. It's expensive and pretty good--but just.

Today's Flavor
This is National Spaghetti Day. As much as I love pasta, whenever I encounter spaghetti in the strictest sense of the word, I'm glad that we don't eat it often. The thinner string pastas--spaghettini, vermicelli, angel hair--have taken over. Thicker spaghetti doesn't roll up onto a fork, or hold as much sauce. This is because, ounce for ounce, the thinner the pasta, the more surface area it has.

Deft Dining Rule #152:
It is neither necessary nor suave to use a spoon to help twirl spaghetti around a fork. Just put the tines of the fork down on the bottom of the plate and start turning it. It works at least as well as a spoon. 

Deft Dining Rule #153:
If you are old enough to read, you're too old to cut your spaghetti into shorter pieces. Chefs put a lot of work into giving you long strands to twirl. Get with il programma.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez: 
Breaking spaghetti to fit into a storage jar is carrying organization a little too far.

Gourmet Geography
Fork is a community of country homes--some bordering on estates--in central North Carolina. It's about twenty-five miles southwest of Winston-Salem, in an appealing hilly terrain. The nearest place to eat is the Tar Heel Q, specializing in the unique North Carolina style of barbecue, with open pits and a vinegar-and-mustard-based sauce. If you bring it back to fork, you may not be allowed to eat it with your fingers.

Food In Show Biz 
The movie Chocolat, about a new-in-town single mother who works her way into the hearts of her neighbors in a small French town by making excellent chocolate pastries premiered today in 2001.

It's also the birthday of fictional chocolate magnate Willy Wonka--as a trademark for the line of candy bearing the character's name. Issued today in 1972.

Food On The Air
Today was the premiere, in 1932, of the Carnation Contented Hour, a music variety show on radio sponsored by Carnation Evaporated Milk, the milk from contented cows. Would you prefer milk from a contented cow or a singing cow? I have one of the Carnation shows in my collection; I wish I had more. Good music back then.

Sounds Like A Food Story, But Isn't
Today in 2006, the first female Beefeater was confirmed. Best known for gracing the label of the bottle of the namesake gin, the Beefeaters--more properly known as Yeoman Warders--have been guarding the Tower of London for over five hundred years. All of them were men until then. But it's not the rough-and-tumble job it once was. Beefeaters now mainly entertain visitors to the Tower.

Edible Dictionary
carbonara, Italian, adj.--A pasta dish made "in the style of the coal miners." This implies simple cooking. (Just as marinara is the simple style of the sailor, and cacciatore is the simple style of the hunter.) But the coal miners were also suspected of liking a certain smoky flavor in their food. So we get a little guanciale (cured hog jowls) in the sauce, which is otherwise made with eggs, Romano cheese, and black pepper. The dish has evolved quite a bit since it found its way to America. Here it's almost always made with bacon or even prosciutto instead of guanciale, and with cream in the sauce. Sometimes the eggs are left out here. It can be made with any kind of pasta, but spaghetti is the most common. It's a rich and wonderful dish as long as you don't eat it too often.

Eat Club Namesakes
Today is the birthday, in 1837, of Charles Stratton, a midget known in the world of entertainment as General Tom Thumb. I only bring this up because an Eat Club regular who travels here from Little Rock to attend our dinners has the same real name and stage name. He's not a midget, though, so his circus career didn't amount to much, forcing him to do very well in more conventional businesses.

Food Namesakes
J. Danforth Quayle, the vise-prisedint under George Bush I, was borne tooday in 1947. . . Arthur Berry, an early British Olympic soccer star, was born today in 1888. . . Wilhelm Beer, an astronomer who drew the first known map of the moon based on telescopic observations, was born today in 1797. . . Jon Appleton, an American classical composer, was born today in 1939.

Words To Eat By
"No man is lonely while eating spaghetti; it requires so much attention."--Christopher Morley.

"Nothing spoils lunch any quicker than a rogue meatball rampaging through your spaghetti."--Jim Davis, author of the comic strip "Garfield." 

"Eating food with a knife and fork is like making love through an interpreter."--Anonymous.

Words To Drink By
"We live in stirring times—tea-stirring times."--Christopher Isherwood, British writer, who died today in 1986.