The Food Almanac: Monday, August 26, 2013

It's Stuffed Flounder Day!

We eat it for its deliciousness, but flounder also has the distinction of being the fish lowest in fat of commonly-eaten fish.

Today's Flavor
Today is Stuffed Flounder Day, celebrating the signature dish of the West End seafood restaurant community. The hurricane laid a quietus on West End. No signs remain that restaurants were ever there--let alone a dozen of them in one block. Almost all of them featured a whole flounder, cut with a half-dozen or so slits across its upward side, and fried or broiled. You could get it stuffed with crabmeat dressing if you liked. If you were lucky, you got what the fishermen referred to as a "doormat"--a really big one, so called for the flounder's habit of lying on its side on the shallow bottom of the lake or Gulf.

The West End-style flounder was already in decline before the storm. The population of the fish was diminished, forcing the closing of commercial flounder fishing now and then. Bruning's--the most famous and oldest of the West End restaurants--continued to make whole stuffed flounder its house specialty until all parts of it were blown away by Katrina. It has not reopened, and its future looks uncertain.

Whole flounders are still served here and there. Fury's in Metairie--operated by old West End hand John Fury--has it whenever the fish can be obtained fresh. Middendorf's on the west side of the lake and Vera's in Slidell also have flounder most of the time. Andrea's has it during the season--which is right now.

We eat it for its deliciousness, but flounder also has the distinction of being the fish lowest in fat of commonly-eaten fish. The full moon in August (two days ago) is known around New Orleans as the Flounder Moon for this beautiful, round, silvery, delectable denizen of Gulf waters.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Flounder Pass, Florida is a waterway that lops off Rattlesnake Key from the mainland, on the southeast end of Tampa Bay. It's a place where flounder very likely congregate--shallow, tidal waters. The nearest restaurants are about two miles away in the nearby town of Palmetto. The one that intrigues me most is Kojak's Palmetto Rib House, although I think we have a better shot at landing a flounder at the Seagrape Restaurant.

Food On The Air
Today is the birthday, in 1873, of Lee DeForest, one of the inventors of the electron tube. That was the critical component in making radio sets that you could listen to without headphones. I wonder if he would have bothered had he known it would make "The Food Show With Tom Fitzmorris" possible

Turning Points In Eating Habits
This is the birthday of Christopher Columbus, in 1451. Whatever else can be said about him, his voyages and their aftermath changed eating habits worldwide--and rather quickly, at that. Starting with his first transatlantic crossing, he brought to Europe New World food that had never been seen there before. Imagine the cuisines of the world without tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and chocolate. More about Columbus on the anniversary of his landing in the Americas.

Edible Dictionary
surimi, n.--Boiled fish flesh and fish gelatin, formed into familiar shapes to imitate other seafoods. You see this in stores with names like "krab," and "sea legs." Surimi is often made to resemble shrimp, crab legs and lobster claws. It is the crab stick of sushi bars, which use the stuff for other purposes, too. The Japanese word translates as "fish pate," but it's quite a bit firmer than that implies. The fish most often used to make surimi is North Pacific pollock. The flavor of surimi--if you can detect one at all--is vaguely seafoody, but so mild that it can be eaten by people who say they don't like seafood.

Deft Dining Rule #126
Almost all fish taste better with the skin on and the bones in.

Food Namesakes 
Frank Bacon began a Broadway run of over a thousand performances of a play called Lightnin' on this day in 1918. . . Peter Appleyard is a jazz vibraphonist, born today in England in 1928. He played most of his career in Canada.

Words To Eat By
"Shellfish are the prime cause of the decline of morals and the adaptation of an extravagant lifestyle. Indeed of the whole realm of Nature the sea is in many ways the most harmful to the stomach, with its great variety of dishes and tasty fish."-- Pliny the Elder, ancient Roman writer.

At last! The decadence of New Orleans is explained!

Words To Drink By
"Ah, the rapturous, wild, and ineffable pleasure of drinking at someone else's expense!"--Henry Sambrook Leigh, British writer of the 1800s.