The Food Almanac: Friday, November 9, 2012

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

Annals of Milk
Today is the birthday, in 1801, of Gail Borden, the man who caused the name Borden to be forever associated with dairy products. His great advance was figuring out how to condense milk and can it in a stable form, such that it would remain wholesome without refrigeration. He was generally interested in concentrating all sorts of foods in the same way and for the same reason, but milk was his mainstay.

Today's Flavor
This is National Split Pea Soup Week. I love split pea soup, but it wasn't until recently that I discovered why I could never make it come out the way I like itwhich was the way my mother made it. The problem is the ham. I've always added it to the pot, and I've decided that it throws the flavor off, despite the tradition of including it as an ingredient. I use a vegetable stock now.

I must also warn you of National Scrapple Day. Now, there's a terrible food, made by mixing sausage with cornmeal and re-forming it into another sausage. No wonder its inventor can't be found to explain it.

Edible Dictionary
pea, n.Also known as green peas, sweet peas, English peas, and by the names of the many different varieties grown worldwide, these are the seeds inside the pods of the plant Pisum sativumLatin for "tasty pea." Peas hardly need to be introduced to anyone, so let's look at two interesting facts about this familiar vegetable. First, they still grow wild around the eastern end of the Mediterranean, where the plant is believed to have originated. Second, the word "pea" is a back-formation of the older word for the same thing, "pease." Because "pease" sounds like a plural, a lot of people assumed that one single green beebee was a "pea." So many, that the original word "pease" is now obsolete.

Deft Dining Rule #146
A restaurant that shells its own fresh peas is almost certainly one of the best restaurants you will ever dine in. Because . . .

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
Here's a lost skill: shelling peas. You pull the stem towards the other end of the pod, which will remove a string that holds the two halves of the pod together. The pod will pop open on that side. Then just run your finger under the peas, and have a wide bowl to catch them. This is very calming work that goes on forever, but creates a great environment for conversation among the shellers.

Food Namesakes
Ron Rice, a cornerback for the Detroit Lions, was born today in 1972 . . . Harriet Freezer, the author of a number of controversial books in the Netherlands, was born today in 1911 . . . Bakary Soumare, international soccer star, was born in Mali today in 1985.

Words to Eat By
"The difference between roast beef and pea soup is that anyone can roast beef."Tom Snyder.

Words to Drink By
"Under a bad cloak there is often a good drinker."Miguel de Cervantes.

Check out other Food Almanac columns by Tom Fitzmorris.