The Food Almanac: March 22, 2011

Staff Writer
Get your day off to an appetizing start with food facts and trivia from Tom Fitzmorris.
Coq au vin, with some current liberties.
The New Orleans Menu

Coq au vin, with some current liberties.

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

Eating Calendar
It is Coq au Vin Day. "Coq," strictly speaking, is a castrated rooster. He gets big and fat and too tough to broil or fry, so you cook him for a long time with white wine, onions, and chunks of pork belly or bacon. It's a French country classic, one that has seen a revival with the increase in the number of French bistros in America. It would be more common still had it not been so common — in the pejorative sense — in the 1950s and 1960s. Back then, every restaurant serving chicken in a reddish-brown sauce called it coq au vin no matter how far their recipe was from the real thing. When too many people had one too many mediocre renditions, the dish went out of vogue and all but disappeared.

Gourmet Geography
Roosterville, Georgia is five miles from the Alabama state line, sixty-six miles southwest of Atlanta. It does appear to harbor roosters in a large chicken farm nearby. Roosterville is just a busy junction of country roads, so small that it was removed from the official Georgia map in 2006. But a few houses and a general store are there, as well as a bunch of beehives and sheds for milking cows. The nearest place to eat is Captain Billy's Fish House a mile and a half away. For chicken (although probably not coq au vin), it's the Big Chic, six miles away in Carrollton.

Edible Dictionary
poularde, French, n. A fat female chicken, bigger than a poulette (fryer), but not as big or as old as a hen. It's not often done anymore, but classically a chicken was spayed to become a poularde. Like many neutered animals, it began putting on weight after the procedure. This made her especially suitable for roasting. The word is no longer common in restaurants (although I remember when it was). But it seems the kind of thing we maybe ought to bring back.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
If you're making a chicken dish with a lot of sauce, or a chicken soup, you get much better flavor from a hen or a rooster than from a fryer. A better price, too.

Annals Of Water
This is World Water Day, declared by the United Nations in 1993. Here in New Orleans we have a little too much fresh water, what with the Mississippi River. But many parts of the world aren't as lucky. It's a virtual certainty that our resources will someday be tapped for those drier areas. Meanwhile, the challenge of getting clean water to people in the poorest parts of the world is on the verge of becoming a reality, as some astonishing breakthroughs in water purification technology continue to be developed. All that's needed now, really, is money.

Further Adventures In Water
Today in 1733, Joseph Priestly invented carbonated water. Imagine if he'd had a patent such that he collected a royalty off every Coca-Cola, gin and tonic, or nectar soda ever sold! Make Google look like chump change. Anyway, we're indebted to Dr. Priestly not just for that, but for oxygen, which he also discovered. And the rubber eraser. Smart guy.

Deft Dining Rule #231
To check the acuity of a server/bartender, order a San Pellegrino and water, then time how long it takes him to say, "a what?"

Food In Show Biz
Chico Marx (the one with the pointy hat) was born today in 1887. He was in Duck Soup, Animal Crackers, and all the other Marx Brothers' movies. I think his character was supposed to be Italian. Glen Campbell was born today in 1936. His first hit, Gentle On My Mind, had this memorable food line: "I dip my cup of soup back from a gurglin', cracklin' cauldron in some train yard." Today in 1975, the song Lady Marmalade was number one on the pop charts. It was about a lusty Creole down here in my neighborhood.

Annals Of Alcohol
Today in 1933, while waiting for the full repeal of Prohibition, President Franklin Roosevelt signed a declaration allowing beer and wine up to 3.2 percent alcohol to be sold. That's not much, but it was something, and it whetted the appetite for something stronger.

Food And Drink Namesakes
Patrick Olive, who played the drums in the band Hot Chocolate, was unstuffed today in 1947. Sean Berry, infielder for the Astros, came to life today in 1966. NFL linebacker Joey Porter came out of the huddle today in 1977.

Words To Eat By
"It is the sauce that distinguishes a good chef. The saucier is a soloist in the orchestra of a great kitchen."
Fernand Point, famous French chef and writer in the first half of the 1900s.

Words To Drink By
"It gives men courage and ambition and the nerve for anything. It has the color of gold, is clear as a glass and shines after dark as if the sunshine were still in it."
O. Henry, on bourbon whiskey.