The Food Almanac: Friday, October 11, 2013

Staff Writer
It's Schnitzel Day!

A schnitzel is a piece of meat that has been pounded thin, and then cooked. Usually it's breaded and sizzled in a pan of hot oil, along the same lines as our familiar pannee meat, but with a lighter breading and less seasoning.

Today's Flavor
It's appropriate that, right in the middle of Oktoberfest, this should be Schnitzel Day. A schnitzel is a piece of meat that has been pounded thin, and then cooked. Usually it's breaded and sizzled in a pan of hot oil, along the same lines as our familiar pannee meat, but with a lighter breading and less seasoning.

It's not certain where schnitzels originated. The most credible history has it first in Alpine Italy, from which it spread to Austria, then to Germany. The original schnitzels were made not with veal, but pork--which makes sense. (I much prefer pork cooked this way to veal.) 

The most famous of the schnitzels is Wiener schnitzel--or, as some restaurants have it, Vienna schnitzel, in honor of the place from which it came. It's simple, with a scattering of capers and a spritz of lemon juice. One I always liked was Holsteiner schnitzel--the same idea, but with a fried egg on top.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
The best veal medallions (scaloppine, schnitzel, collops, etc.) are cut from the round across the grain. It's astonishing how many meatcutters don't seem to know that veal cut along the natural orientation of the muscle tissues is anything but tender.

Edible Dictionary
francillon, [frahn-see-YOHNH], French, n.--Here's an obscure dish that's begging for a revival: a salad made primarily of sliced potatoes and steamed, chilled mussels, with thin slices of truffle scattered across the top. Parsley, celery, and a light vinaigrette complete the ensemble. The dish is named for a play written by Alexandre Dumas fils, who was quite a gourmet. The recipe for the salad is embedded in the script of the play, and takes about two minutes to read on stage. Both the play and the salad were such a hit that restaurants across Paris began adding it to their menus. It's not common now, but the idea sounds like it would make a great wintertime salad or side dish, the latter served warm.

Food Entrepreneurs
Today is the birthday, in 1844, of Henry John Heinz, he of the fifty-seven varieties of pickles and sauces. He found his path early, raising vegetables and selling them to grocers in Pittsburgh when he was twelve. By the time he was twenty-five, he was bottling prepared horseradish--in a clear jar, so you could see what you were getting. Then on to pickles, sauerkraut, mustard, pepper sauce, and soups. But the company's biggest hit was its ketchup (they've always spelled it that way). It's the leading brand in America. Heinz still uses the "57" as a trademark, although they have plenty more varieties of products than that.

Food Inventors
William A. Mitchell, a food chemist working for General Foods, created some of the most successful products in food marketing history. Tang, for example. A powder that you mixed with water to make a drink that tasted vaguely like orange juice, it actually replaced juice for a lot of people, who considered it (as we say around New Orleans) "modren." Who drinks it now? Mitchell patented Pop Rocks candy in the 1950s, but had to wait until the 1970s to see it explode--literally. Pop Rocks contain bubbles of pressurized carbon dioxide, and they pop when the candy dissolves in your mouth. His next hit was Cool Whip, the non-dairy whipped cream substitute, sold in a plastic bowl with a tight-fitting lid. Many containers of Cool Whip were no doubt bought for the container. I wonder whether Mitchell made anything that was real or tasted good. Well, you can't knock his success--seventy patents. Mitchell was born today in 1911.

Looking Up
This evening at 9:06, the Hunter's Moon reaches fullness. It's almost as bright as last months' Harvest Moon, and nearly as high in the sky. But what would you be out hunting for at night, even with the benefit of a full moon? I'd be afraid of being attacked by the owls I hear in the woods this time of year. Maybe glow-in-the-dark mushrooms?

Gourmet Gazetteer
Rabbit Hash, Kentucky overlooks the Ohio River, some twenty miles downstream from Cincinnati. It makes much of itself as a quaint, historic little town, founded in 1831. Among other things, it was a stop on the Underground Railroad before the Civil War. Rabbit Hash is famous (enough to have an answer about this on Jeopardy) for having as its mayor a black dog named Junior. All this comes from the town's amusing web site. The center of the town is the Rabbit Hash General Store, which has its own web site. It has been a working store since the town's founding. You may as well get a snack there, because all the nearby restaurants are across the river in Rising Sun, Indiana, and there's no nearby crossing.

Food In History?
This sounds like a food-related event, but wasn't. Today in 1922, Turkey and Greece called a cease-fire.

Annals Of Chefs Gone Nuts
In 1999 in Paris on this day, chefs incensed about a twenty-percent tax on restaurant meals rioted. Things got nasty enough that it had to be quelled with tear gas. The chefs' weapons? Eggs. Imagine.

Food Namesakes
Pro football player Ron Mayo was born today in 1950. . . Texas Congressman J.J. Pickle was born today in 1913. . . If only we could find someone named Ketchup and another named Mustard whose birthdays are today!

Words To Eat By 
"Every man will have to give an account of himself for every good thing which he would have liked to eat, but did not."--Hillel.

Related Stories
Travel Photo of the Day: Wiener Schnitzel

Words To Drink By
"One of the disadvantages of wine is that it makes a man mistake words for thoughts."--Samuel Johnson.