The Food Almanac: Friday, May 10, 2013

It's National Shrimp Day!

Food On The Road 
Today in 1969, the second (northbound) span of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway opened. The idea of taking the twenty-four-mile trip just to go to dinner had not really been hatched, but it soon would be. Three years after the bridge expansion, Chris Kerageorgiou opened La Provence in Lacombe, and found that a lot of his customers came from the South Shore. Now lots of people do it every day.

Today's Flavor 
Today is National Shrimp Day. Shrimp are probably the favorite seafood of Americans. They're found on menus of every kind, all over the country. The Louisiana shrimp industry recently supplied more than eighty percent of the American shrimp eaten in this country. That is way down because of ungrounded fears about the oil spill's effect on our shrimp (there was actually very little), and because of a flood of imported shrimp from Southeast Asia. Why anyone would turn away from Gulf shrimp--arguably the world's best--to save fifty cents a pound is a mystery to me.

You can cook shrimp thousands of ways. Here in New Orleans, the best shrimp dishes are New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp and shrimp remoulade. I can’t get enough of either of these two dishes. The two main species are white shrimp and brown shrimp, in alternating seasons. I prefer white shrimp, particularly for broiling, but the distinction is not great.

Shrimp are sized according to the "count" of shrimp per pound. This ranges from under 10 count for grilling and barbecuing, down to 40 or more count for frying, salads, gumbo, and stews.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Shrimp Bayou is a short, wildly twisting, sluggish stream running through the marshes near the Gulf of Mexico coast, just over the Louisiana state line. Anyone looking for shrimp in season will find them aplenty here. The bayou is a former route of the Pearl River, which meets the Gulf a few miles west now. Shrimp Bayou is inaccessible except by boat. But if you took that five miles up the coast to what's left of Waveland (it was largely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and then drove another five miles to US 90, you could get shrimp prepared a number of ways, among other things, at Las Palmas.

Edible Dictionary
turmeric, n.--A spice made from the rootlike rhizomes of a plant native to India and Southeast Asia. India is the biggest producer of it, with good reason: it's one of the primary spices used to make many kinds of curries, and is responsible for the distinctive color of curry sauces. In fact, turmeric is used at least as much for its yellow-orange color as its flavor. Two common examples of that are fake saffron (it has the color of the real thing, but not the flavor) and yellow mustard. The coloring properties of turmeric were important enough that it has been cultivated in India since prehistoric times.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
Whenever you cook shrimp, the moment you have the first thought as to whether they're cooked well enough is the time to remove the shrimp from the heat, immediately. Overcooked shrimp stick to the shells.

Food Through History 
The ten-day Battle of Hamburger Hill began today in 1969. It was a disaster all around, and was the last major ground offensive in the Vietnam War. The tide of American opinion turned against the war as a result.

French king Louis XVI, for whom a very fancy New Orleans French restaurant was named, ascended the throne on this date in 1774. He would be the regal victim of the French Revolution eighteen years later. His namesake restaurant is still here, but only for hotel breakfasts and private parties.

Annals Of Herbal Beverages 
Thomas J. Lipton, tea merchant and avid sailor, was born today in 1850, in Glasgow, Scotland. Lipton is the leading name in tea in this country, but it was one of many until it started advertising on radio, with the medium's most persuasive spokesman: Arthur Godfrey.

Charles Hires began selling a bag of roots, herbs and berries with instructions for making root beertoday in 1869. You steeped the bag's contents in hot water, then strained, sweetened and chilled it. It was the original root beer. Later, soda fountains began dispensing it and adding carbonation. Hires Root Beer, which is still around, is recognized as the first branded soft drink.

Deft Dining Rule #412: 
The worst cold root beer is better with a roast beef poor boy sandwich than the best red wine.

Music To Eat Bouillabaisse By 
Donovan Leitch, was born today in 1943. According to one of his hit songs, he was mad about saffron. He started out as a Bob Dylan soundalike, but evolved into the ultimate hippy-dippy singer, using just his first name.

Food Namesakes 
Movie producer Jeff Apple fell from the tree today in 1954. . . Mike Butcher, a pitcher for the California Angels in the 1990s, took The Big Mound in 1965. . . Another baseball pro, Ken Berry, hit The Big Basepath in 1941. . . Ollie Le Roux, who plays rugby professionally in South Africa, kicked off today in 1973.

Words To Eat By 
"The term 'jumbo shrimp' has always amazed me. What is a jumbo shrimp? I mean, it's like Military Intelligence. The words don't go together."--George Carlin.

Words To Drink By
"I drink only to make my friends seem interesting."--Don Marquis.