The Food Almanac: Monday, February 3, 2014

Today's Flavor 

It is supposed to be National Carrot Cake Day. Carrot cakes get a lot of attention because we all know carrots are good for us. That gives us permission to eat twice as much of the cakes, despite the sweet, rich icing. You can feel the good things and the bad things fight it out inside, to paraphrase Mark Twain. The most impressive carrot cake in New Orleans was at Smith and Wollensky, where one slice could feed a family of four until they left town after the hurricane.

Chronicles Of Cheese 

Today in 1815, the first factory making cheese for wide distribution and sale opened in Switzerland. Before then, cheese was the produce of farmers, who usually made their cheeses with milk they produced themselves. This historic moment opened the way for the eventual emergence of cheese in an aerosol can.

Music To Drink Beer By

This is the day in 1967 when Jimi Hendrix recorded Purple Haze. Little did he know it would inspire a raspberry- flavored beer made in Abita Springs decades latter. He probably wouldn't have cared. Abita Brewery's Purple Haze beer remains one of its signature brews.

Edible Dictionary

patty shell, n. — A cup made of puff pastry, filled with thick, saucy stuffings and baked until the shell is browned and the sauce bubbly. Patty shells are an inch or two (at the most) in diameter, and about an inch deep. They're the same thing as a vol-au-vent, but smaller. In New Orleans, by far the most popular filling for patty shells is a concoction of oysters in a veloute. They are very popular as finger-food appetizers at parties. A major culinary crisis occurred when the largest maker of patty shells — McKenzie's Bakery — went out of business. They're easy enough to find in other bakeries and frozen, however. Some people try to make their own, but that's more difficult than it looks.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Celeryville, Ohio is in the north-central part of the state, on the south side of Willard, in a large area of farms, mostly growing corn. However, they historically did grow a good deal of celery in the area, hence the name. The popular restaurant is the 224 Varsity Club, with a menu ranging from steaks to pizza, and a sports bar.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Carrot and parsnip tops are so closely related to parsley that you can use them for any parsley purpose. One day, I will include them in the sauce for oysters Rockefeller.

Deft Dining Rule #631:

The only time a chef uses parsnips is when he's trying to create the illusion that you're eating something you can't get at home. Most of the time, though, it's not something you'd want to get at home.

Physiology Of Eating

Dr. Henry Heimlich was born today in 1920. He popularized a method of saving a choking victim so well that the technique is now known as the Heimlich Maneuver. He published a story about it called "Pop Goes The Cafe Coronary" in 1974. Shortly after the article came out, a restaurateur used the technique to save a woman who was choking on a carrot. The maneuver consists of putting one's arms around the chocking victim from behind, holding a fist in the other hand. and giving a quick, forceful upward thrust to the abdomen right below the rib cage. This often dislodges whatever is blocking the air passages. It's not without risk, but it has saved many lives.

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Blaise, who lived in the third and fourth centuries and became widely venerated across Europe. He is the patron saint of Dubrovnik, Croatia, where the cathedral named for his is much visited. He is the saint whose intercession is called upon by those wishing not to have diseases of the throat. In Catholic churches everywhere, a blessing of the throat with two candles is given on this date. This is a blessing I always try to get, because I love by talking and swallowing.

Annals Of Food Writing

On this date in 1946 Holiday, a large-format, slick, beautiful travel magazine, published its first issue. There was nothing comparable at the time, and it dominated the field for years. One of its most influential features was the Holiday Restaurant Awards, given annually and proudly displayed by restaurants that received them. In the 1970s, Holiday was merged into Travel to create a mediocre magazine that stopped publishing in 2003.

Annals Of Food Art

Norman Rockwell was born today in 1894. He was most famous for his Americana-drenched covers for The Saturday Evening Post, but those paintings were so evocative of American culture that they've lived on long beyond the magazine. Rockwell's depiction of Thanksgiving dinner, "Freedom From Want," created the ideal for all Thanksgiving dinners, one that is still revered even by people who haven't seen the painting.

Food Namesakes

Football player Eric Curry was born today in 1971. . . Actress Joan Rice made her entrance today in 1930. . Joanna de Bourbon, the queen consort to Charles V of France, was born today in 1338.

Words To Eat By

"Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie." — Garfield the cartoon cat, by Jim Davis.

Words To Drink By

"Better to have loved amiss than never to have loved." — George Crabbe, English writer, died today in 1832.