The Food Almanac: Monday, May 20, 2013

Today's Flavor 
Today is Quiche Lorraine Day. Strangely, it seems to be celebrated only in America. The people in the French province of Lorraine, where the dish was created, are eating only their usual number of quiches with ham, cheese and onions. Quiches had a run of popularity in the early 1970s. It was the sort of thing you'd have with a salad as a light lunch or light supper. But I think it's best role may be for breakfast. It's mostly eggs, for starters. And the universe of breakfast foods needs more variety. I wish more breakfast places made quiches.

Today is also Farewell To Oranges Day. The end of the orange season–at least as dictated by nature–is now. Orchards throughout most of the Northern Hemisphere have dropped their last citrus and are working on next year's. Of course, fresh oranges continue to remain available, most of them coming from the dry orchards of California, where the oranges can be more or less left on the trees as living storage bins. But they will grow increasingly more expensive, and will not be as juicy as the ones we enjoyed back in the late fall and winter.

The flavor of fresh orange juice is so enjoyable that, even if you drink it every day as I do, you enjoy it as if you were tasting it for the first time. Few foods are like that. If orange juice were alcoholic, we'd accord it the same respect we lavish on wine. The flavors vary with the variety of orange and their place of origin, as wines do. Supermarket oranges used to come from either Florida or California, depending on the season. We no longer get that choice; almost all of Florida's thin-skinned, extra-juicy oranges now go into frozen concentrate. I haven't seen fresh Florida oranges here in five years. California oranges, being free of many pests that thrive in Florida's wetter environment, are prettier, but have thicker skins and a smaller amount of more concentrated juice.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
Think about cooking with oranges. The juice is great in a lot of sauces. The zest can add something to both desserts (cheesecake, creme brulee, chocolate mousse) and savory (orange zest is a great addition, believe it or not, to a brown gravy).

Deft Dining Rule #223
You know you've found a good breakfast restaurant when the orange juice is squeezed from fresh oranges, you can get poached eggs with hollandaise, and the biscuits were made a little while ago.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Orange is a country crossroads in northern Alabama, ninety-four miles northwest of Birmingham. It's in rolling terrain with a mix of woods and open fields, interspersed with creeks that form the headwaters of the Tennessee River Valley. Orange is well into the hinterlands, and while there's a church there you have to drive four miles to the nearest restaurant, Merrell Potter's. Start with orange juice and go from there.

Edible Dictionary
zingara, [zingah-RAH], French, adj.–The name of a brown sauce "in the Gypsy style," borrowing an Italian word for the Roma people. It begins with an espagnole (which is about the halfway point between beef stock and demi-glace). To that are added ribbons of beef tongue (the essential ingredient found in almost all versions of zingara), ham, mushrooms, white (not red) wine, and enough cayenne to make it noticeably but not flagrantly peppery. Most classic recipes call for truffles, but I've never seen that in any zingara dish I've ever seen. But I haven't seem many. It's ripe for a revival.

Annals Of Food Recalls 
Today in 2003, because of a single case of bovine spongiform encephalitis (a.k.a. "mad cow disease") found in Alberta, beef from Canada stopped being imported into the United States. Other countries banned it, too. The move immediately cause the price of beef to spike.

Eating Around The World 
Cameroon became an independent republic today in 1972. It's on the Atlantic coast of Africa, right in the corner. It's a tropical land of great physical diversity, from mountains to marshlands. Fishing is a big industry, and the eating in Cameroon includes a lot of seafood. One of the owners of Bennachin, an African restaurant on Royal Street here in New Orleans, is Cameroonian and served the food of her land.

Food In Politics 
On this date in 1768 Dolley Madison, the wife of the fourth president, was born. She set the standard for First Ladies as a hostess, serving in the capacity not only during the James Madison Presidency, but also part of Jefferson's. Her dinners were grand and civilized. She was also something of a war hero; when the British invaded Washington in the War of 1812, she rescued many valuables from the White House, including the Gilbert Stuart painting of George Washington. "Dolley" is the correct spelling. Her parents didn't want her confused with the junk-food cakes of the same name.

Eating On Long Trips 
On this date in 1927, Charles Lindbergh took off on his famous solo transatlantic flight. He reported later that the food on the flight was mediocre at best, but that Jimmy Stewart (whose birthday, coincidentally, is today in 1908) kept him entertained. . . In 1747, an experiment was begin to determine how to prevent scurvy among British sailors. The answer was eating lemons, oranges, and limes. The latter resulted in British sailors being called "limeys. " All those things contain the then-unknown Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic ("no scurvy" is what that means) acid.

Annals Of Food Research 
Eduard Buchner, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1907, was born on this date in 1860. He discovered the mechanism by which yeast cells break down carbohydrates–namely, by producing enzymes that did the job. That is an essential process for winemakers, bakers, and brewers, among many other producers of food and drink.

Food Namesakes 
Richard Charles Cobb, a historian whose many books–none of them corny–included A Sense of Place,was born in 1917. . . Missy Cress,catcher in the women's pro baseball league, stepped onto the Big Diamond today in 1970.

Words To Eat By 
"An orange on the table, your dress on the rug, and you in my bed, sweet present of the present, cool of night, warmth of my life."–Jacques Prevert, French poet.

Words To Drink By 
"I've never been drunk, but often I've been overserved."–Comedian George Gobel, born today in 1919.