The Food Almanac: June 13, 2013

It's National Lobster Day!

Today's Flavor
It's National Lobster Day. Summer is a peak time for lobster, one of the great American delicacies. Its flavor is subtle, and sauces shouldn't be overpowering. Creamy and buttery sauces seem best. Even the way it's cooked has to be simple. Every now and then some bright boy will boil a lobster in crab boil, thereby ruining a lobster. In fact, the flavor of lobster may be too subtle. For me, the best lobster dish of all is not a boiled whole lobster, but lobster bisque, which concentrates the flavors.

Lobster inspires a special occasion the way Champagne does. Put it on the table and the meal becomes extraordinary. The only challenge is to get the shell off. It's not hard to learn, so don't do yourself the disservice of ordering a lobster with the shell removed. Unless you like cold lobster. Lobsters are a local product, its home being the North Atlantic. Since lobsters taste less good the longer they're out of the sea, the most important consideration is to go to a store or restaurant that sells so many lobsters that they're not around long. Tough lobsters spent too much time in the tank.

Several crustaceans bear the lobster name, but true lobsters are of the genus homarus. The Maine lobster is the outstanding species. Rock lobsters from Australia and South Africa also have panache, but they're less good and usually more expensive. The spiny lobsters of the Caribbean have nowhere near the same complexity of flavor, and aren't true lobsters.

Edible Dictionary 
langouste, n., French--The French name--widely used even outside the Francophone countries--for the large crustaceans from tropical waters. The species most common in our part of the world is the spiny lobster, found in restaurants throughout the Caribbean and in Florida. It's only distantly related to the cold water Maine lobster (homard). The main difference is that langoustes lack the large claws of a Maine lobster. Langoustes also have extremely long antennae covered with spines. Despite the taxonomical differences, spiny lobsters can be cooked in most of the same ways Maine lobsters are. However, the standard preparations for spiny lobsters are broiling or grilling, rather than boiling.

Gourmet Gazetteer 
Halibut Hole is a channel between Jordan Island and Ironbound Island, about six miles east of Bar Harbor, Maine. This has historically been one of the richest fishing areas off the coast of Maine, a fact that's seen in the references to cod, lobster, scallops, and clams in the names of nearby features. Halibut Hole is just past Breaking Point. I always wondered where the breaking point was. The nearest eatery is the Fisherman's Inn, two miles eat at Winter Harbor. Lots of restaurants are in the scenic town of Bar Harbor, four miles in the other direction.

Food Through History 
On this date in 1789, Mrs. Alexander Hamilton served ice cream at a dinner attended by George Washington. It was the first President's first taste of the treat. Oddly enough, the flavor may have been cherry vanilla.

Annals Of Talking 
On this date in 1935, Huey Long ended a fifteen-hour speech in a filibuster on the Senate floor. His speech is the longest in the history of the Senate; it ran to 150,000 words. Coincidentally, the longest speech in a restaurant may have occurred on this date in 1976, when Nigel Hackle, a waiter at the long-gone Winston's restaurant, spent an hour and fifty-three minutes giving the verbal menu presentation. Winston's had no printed menu, and so Nigel had to read it again and again to a couple that couldn't understand English well.

Annals Of Overeating
General Winfield Scott, one of the greatest military minds of the early United States, was born today in 1786. By the time of the Civil War, he'd become so fatthat he had to be lifted onto a horse with a crane. It was his idea to blockade New Orleans and take control of the Mississippi River early in the war.

Deft Dining Rule #252
If you think you will order more than two glasses of wine with dinner for your table, order a whole bottle. It's cheaper than by the glass, and the wine will be fresher. Exception: When the restaurant has a wine-pairing package with dinner.

Culinary Corruption
Today in 2005, Leonard Pickell--formerly the president of the James Beard Foundation--was convicted of having siphoned off over a million dollars of the Foundation's money. The James Beard organization is a non-profit fund that raises money for culinary education, among other things. James Beard, you probably know, was a major writer on American food in the mid-to-late 1900s.

Physiology Of Eating 
Today in 2004, a USDA study was released that showed that a quarter-teaspoon of cinnamon--about the amount in a good slab of bread pudding--reduces blood glucose, cholesterol, and fat levels by about thirty percent. I'd guess that's about the same amount that would be restored by a good slab of bread pudding.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
To keep healthy and maintain a normal weight, only eat foods whose calorie content is equaled by the number of calories it takes to cook and eat them. Boiled crabs, for example. Or lobster, without the butter. Or oysters you have to shuck yourself.

The Saints
This is the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua, who is usually depicted with docile animals. Aside from that identification, he is also thought of as the saint whose intercession is prayed for when one is starving. He died on this date in 1231, and was canonized a year later.

Food Namesakes
Actor Basil Rathbone--whose name sounds like a rare double food name, but isn't--was born today in 1892. He played Sherlock Holmes in the movies. . . Don "Sugarcane" Harris, a superb violinist who played jazz and blues, was born today in 1939. . .Bruno Frank, an author, poet, and screenwriter, was born today in 1878. . . Today in 1912, Albert Berry became the first man ever to jump out of an airplane with a parachute. (He had the parachute, not the plane.). . . Hamish Pepper, a yachtsman for New Zealand in the 1996 Olympics, was born today in 1971. . . Australian classical composer Nigel Butterley was born today in 1935.

Words To Eat By
"My fare is really sumptuous this evening; buffalo's humps, tongues and marrowbones, fine trout parched meal pepper and salt, and a good appetite; the last is not considered the least of the luxuries."--Journals of Lewis and Clark, Thursday, June 13, 1805.

"'His mother worked in a factory, and his father was a cop. He probably wouldn't know a dinner fork from a pitchfork,' Lauren said. Jesse grunted. 'Might make for an interesting dinner companion.'"--Lynda J. Coble, American novelist, born today in 1953.


Words To Drink By
"Vinum bonum laetificat cor hominis." (Wine makes the heart of man glad.)--Psalms 104:15.