The Food Almanac: Monday, November 12, 2012

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

This is Veterans Day. It grew from Armistice Day, which commemorates the end of World War I. The exact moment is famous — the armistice was signed at 11:11 a.m. on 11/11, in 1918. The same day in the same year was Independence Day in Poland, which got its identity back for the first time in two centuries at the end of World War I. At least one New Orleans restaurantthe Bombay Clubis honoring veterans by giving them dinner on the house tonight. (See above.)

Today's Flavor
Elsewhere around the country it is Sundae Day. Ice cream with sauces, fruit, and whipped cream poured over it got that name because it was created on a Sunday for service on that day of the week.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
The judicious and subtle use of food coloring in savory cooking is not as bad an idea as it has come to be viewed. The most useful color of all is green. Guacamole. Oysters Rockefeller. Green Goddess salad dressing. Just a drop.

Edible Dictionary
airline chicken breast, n.Half a chicken breast with the upper section of the wing still attached. I say half, because strictly speaking there is only one breast on a chicken. (Even more strict is to note that chickens don't have breasts at all, but never mind.) The whole breast is usually split down the middle to give two identical pieces, each a mirror image of the other. If it's an airline chicken breast, the drummette part of the wing is still there, making a substantial portion and a good look for serving. Airline breasts are expensive enough that they are most often found in white-tablecloth restaurants. The "airline" reference is strictly an industry note. It may have been used aboard planes at one time, but that use is almost nonexistent now. Nobody is quite sure how the name got started. A whole breast with both drummettes might look a little like an airplane, but that's hardly even a theory.

Deft Dining Rule #202
The additive used to turn a shake into a malt works better if it's in liquid form, and the best soda fountains know this. Ask for an extra squirt.

People We'd Like to Dine With
This is the birthday of the brilliant ad-lib comedian and actor Jonathan Winters, born today in 1925. He played a wide range of wacky characters, and was a very funny guest on talk shows. Robin Williams says that Winters was the inspiration for his own improvisations. Winters was once in a movie with a food name: The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh. He looks as if he enjoys eating.

The Saints
This is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, a converted Roman soldier who lived in the fourth century. He is, among many other things, the patron saint of both alcoholics and winemakers. He's also the patron of geese and people who raise them, which would give him a connection with foie gras.

Weather Guess
The Old Farmer's Almanac maintains that today, St. Martin's Day, is the beginning of Indian summer, the brief resumption of warm days after a spate of cold. But they're in New England, and we're here, and it seems to me that if we have Indian summer at all, it's in those days in the middle of December when it goes up into the eighties for no apparent reason.

Food Namesakes
Andy Partridge, an English pop-rock musician, was born today in 1953 . . . The great Chicago blues singer LaVern Baker was born today in 1928 . . . Perry Bass, whose family makes the shoes of the same name, was born in 1914 on this date . . . In 1899 Pie Traynor, a Baseball Hall of Fame third baseman and Pirates hero, was born today . . . Another historic baseball player, Rabbit Maranville, stepped up to The Big Plate today in 1891. He was an infielder, named for his speed on the bases . . . Today in 1493 was the first stanza in the life of Italian poet Bernardo Tasso . . . David L. Cook, Christian country singer and comedian, made his first funny sound today in 1968.

Words to Eat By
"That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted." Lou Costello, the funny half of Abbott and Costello. He is supposed to have said these words right before he died.

Words to Drink By
"The biggest danger for a politician is to shake hands with a man who is physically stronger, has been drinking, and is voting for the other guy."William Proxmire, long-time U.S. Senator, born today in 1915.

Check out other Food Almanac columns by Tom Fitzmorris.