The Food Almanac: Friday, July 5, 2013

It's National Apple Turnover Day!

Annals Of Manufactured Foods
Today is the birthday, in 1937, of Spam. It a new name for an existing product called "Spiced Ham." The change increased sales tremendously. Spiced ham more or less describes what it is, if you stretch the definition of ham to include pork shoulder. Spam is reviled by most serious eaters, but it's not all that terrible, if compared with real horrors like potted meat. Cookbooks have been written about Spam, and dishes made with it can actually taste pretty good. (It's not far different from that ham sausage you see on Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches.) Try a Spam and cheese omelette sometime. Spam paradise is Hawaii, where Spam experienced a cult popularity in the 1970s after Monty Python performed a funny song about the stuff. It later expanded into the hit Broadway musical Spamalot. How the word spam came to mean junk e-mail is not known.

Food Calendar
I suppose the above ought to make today National Spam Day, but it doesn't. It's National Apple Turnover Day. The great advance in the popularization of apple turnovers came when somebody made them using a very light batter-like coating instead of pie crust, and fried them. The best-known such item is the apple pie at McDonald's, but such oblong pies were around before Mickey D's made them. Hot out of the fryer, they're hard to resist. The most famous apple turnover in New Orleans is the dreadful, heavy-crusted, overly sweet Hubig's Apple Delight. It is nevertheless honored as an icon, which goes to show our taste isn't perfect.

Annals Of Eating Healthy
Sylvester Graham was born in Connecticut today in 1795. He was an early believer that unrefined food is the best food. He created a brown flour with more wheat hulls and than flour typically contained back then. It became known as Graham flour, but he's better known for the molasses-sweetened crackers made from his flour, still called Graham crackers.

Deft Dining Rule #706
When you're offered a choice, go for the toast with the biggest seeds in it. And get a slice of white toast too, and study the widely disparate pleasures.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Chuck Creek flows through the Sawtooth Mountains near dead center of Idaho. It rises on the west flank of Greyhound Ridge at 8500 feet, and flows five miles to Soldier Creek, descending 2600 feet as it does. That would make it a wild cascade in rainy or snowmelt times. Pack trails pass through the area, but that's the only way you'd get into this wilderness. It's a thirty-nine mile hike down to the town of Stanley, then another eight miles by highway to the Redfish Lake Lodge for a bite to eat. Better pack a few freeze-dried meals.

Annals Of Food Research
John Howard Northrop was born today in 1891. His main research subjects were enzymes, whose action in digesting food was not well known. One of his discoveries was that pepsin--an enzyme in your stomach that digests much of what you eat--could be crystallized. For a time (but not now), pepsin was an ingredient in Beemans Chewing Gum. ("Aids Digestion," said the package.)

Food On The Air
Today in 1948, Jell-O sponsored the first episode of "a gay new comedy series" called My Favorite Husband. Lucille Ball was the star, in a show about "two married people who live together, and like it." It was such a hit that it evolved into I Love Lucy on television. Lucy began each show by saying, "Jell-O, everyone!"

Food Namesakes
Actor Warren Oates had the Big Slate snap today in 1928. . . Goose Gossage, long-time big-league all-star pitcher, was born today in 1951. . . Thomas Cook, who invented the travel agency, organized his first tour today in 1841. . . Today in 1991, Lillian Cucuzza won the contest to name the new Florida Marlins baseball team. . . Robert Bacon, Secretary of State under Theodore Roosevelt, was born today in 1860.

Edible Dictionary
chuck, n.--Beef shoulder, a primal cut from which numerous market cuts are taken. While it can be grilled or broiled as a steak, its most popular use is for pot roast. After being cooked for a long time in a moist environment, the beef falls into savory chunks. The jus from this is unusually flavorful, and in concert with the meat makes for the classic roast beef and gravy for sandwiches, mashed potatoes, or beef stew. The two grilled chuck steaks are the seven steak (named for a bone in its center that looks like the numeral) and chuck mock tender (the thick end of it resembles a filet mignon). Chuck is also a major source of hamburger meat, with an excellent flavor owing to a good fat content--more than round or sirloin). It shrinks a lot in cooking, however, requiring the hamburger patties involved to be made wide than you want the finished product to be.

Words To Eat By
"The real fact is that I could no longer stand their eternal cold mutton."--Cecil Rhodes, for whom Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was named, explaining why he left England for Africa. He was born today in 1853.


Words To Drink By
Who'd care to be a bee and sip
Sweet honey from the flower's lip
When he might be a fly and steer
Head first into a can of beer?--