The Food Almanac: Friday, July 12, 2013

Staff Writer
National Pecan Pie Day
Wikimedia Commons/ Stu Spivack

Masters Of Food Research
George Washington Carver was born today in 1864, as a slave. He became one of history's greatest botanists, gaining particular renown because his discoveries benefited poor farmers. He first advocated the more widespread planting of sweet potatoes by showing all the things it could be used for. He then moved to his most famous specialty: peanuts. He showed not only that peanuts could be used in hundreds of different ways, but also that growing them improved the soil. He did all this while constantly fighting people who wouldn't take a former slave had to say. His work spoke for itself, however, and by the 1920s, his reputation as a great man was beyond dispute.

Food Calendar
In honor of George Washington Carver, today ought to be National Peanut Something Or Other Day. But there are already many peanut observances on the calendar. And it's also National Pecan Pie Day. Pecan pie is one of the finest desserts in all of Southern cooking. We eat our share of it in New Orleans. The most famous local pecan pie is the one at the Camellia Grill. Like everything there, it's a pretty simple recipe. Pecan pie is not easy to make; the problem many cooks have is in getting the custard mixture to set. For that reason, for a long time one of New Orleans' best restaurants (you'd be shocked if I told you who, but I won't) took Mrs. Smith's pies out of their boxes, sliced them up, and served them.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Martini Creek runs through McNee Ranch State Park into the Pacific Ocean about twelve miles south of the Golden Gate, just south of San Francisco. A little notch in the beach marks the spot. Waves crash in on the cool breezes. Lovely place for a martini. The nearest place to get one, and dinner too, is at the Montara Bistro, three quarters of a mile south on the scenic Cabrilli Highway. Cheers!

Exercising The Food Away
Today is the birthday of fitness and exercise comedian Richard Simmons. He's a New Orleans guy, and succumbed to the common local condition of enjoying food so much that he became quite pudgy. When he got into exercise, the zeal of the converted propelled him onto television, where he works his way to the edge of embarrassment for laughs. 

Annals Of Food Advertising
The Green Giant trademark was registered today in 1927. Originally, it was applied to a variety of extra-large peas, but the brand had such resonance that it was extended to package all kinds of vegetables.

Deft Dining Rule #184
If you want to throw off an overbearing waiter, ask him if the peas on the dish that has them (there always seems to be one) are genuine Green Giant peas.

Annals Of The Dinner Table
Josiah Wedgwood was born today in 1730. He was a fanatical perfectionist in the art of pottery, leading him produce the fine dinner china that still bears his name. You know--the plates you were given when you got married, but have never actually used? Wedgwood was also the grandfather of Charles Darwin.

Edible Dictionary
Nutella, n.--The brand name for a blend of chocolate and finely ground hazelnuts, sold in a jar. It has the texture of peanut butter, and is spread in much the same way, although not in the same places. Nutella is incredibly popular in Europe. Here, it turns up as an ingredient in pastries and dessert by restaurant chefs. I am seeing it more often lately. Those who like it seem to be mad about it.

Food Namesakes 
Willis Eugene Lamb, Jr., who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1955, was born today in 1913. . . Eugene Louis Boudin came out of the casing today in 1824. He was a French Impressionist painter. . . Film director Tod Browning heard "action!" today in 1880. . . Gospel singer Sandi Patty (I think I've had one of those from a burger joint at the beach) got the spirit today in 1956. . . British comedian Richard Herring got his first laugh today in 1967.

Words To Eat By
"I never did like chitlins. I think they spelled it wrong."

"The least-used sentence in the English language is, 'Can I have your beets?'"--Both these by Bill Cosby, born today in 1937. Happy 74th, Bill!

Pecan Pie Named Texas’ Official State PieNational Pecan Pie Day

Words To Drink By
"To eat, to drink, and to be merry."--A toast from Ecclesiastes, 8:15.