The Food Almanac: September 19, 2012

Get your day off to an appetizing start with food facts and trivia from Tom Fitzmorris
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In The Food Almanac, Tom Fitzmorris of the online newsletter, The New Orleans Menu, notes food facts and sayings.

Today's Flavor
It's Fried Eggplant Day. There seems to be wide agreement as to what constitutes perfect fried eggplant: a greaseless, dark-brown exterior with a breadcrumb crust, and a light interior. This can be had by cutting the eggplant either into disks or sticks, but the sticks (perhaps because of their resemblance to French fries) are more popular, especially when they're cut very long, as they can be if you utilize the entire length of the eggplant.

Two problems. First, eggplant can be bitter, especially if there are many seeds. You can tell this without cutting the eggplant by noting the size of the scar left on the bottom of the eggplant (the end opposite the stem). The bigger that blotch, the more seeds, and the more likely it is to be bitter.

The second problem is that nothing soaks up oil like eggplant. Here's how to keep that under control. First, coat the eggplant with a dusting of flour, then eggwash before applying the seasoned breadcrumbs. Second, fry the eggplant in very hot oil — about 385 degrees. That will result in a very dark color on the outside, but the inside cooks so quickly that the oil won't have a chance to get in.

Fried eggplant is usually served with Parmesan to shake over them and a marinara sauce to dip them in. Or, in the old Creole places, with a dish of powdered sugar (to kill the bitterness). I like them with béarnaise sauce, or even a light garlic mayonnaise.

Edible Dictionary
eggplant caviar, n. — A grainy, salty relish made by broiling or grilling eggplants and other savory vegetables, mincing them, and combining them with olive oil, seasonings, salt, and pepper. It's usually served at room temperature. It's eaten on its own with crusty slices of bread, or as an enhancement to an appetizer. The eggplant component predominates, making up at least half of the mixture. The other vegetables almost always include onions or shallots. Red and yellow bell pepper is also common, but the cook can improvise.

Deft Dining Rule #4
Don't order what you think a restaurant should do well, but what it actually does do well.

Food in Popular Music
The Four Seasons (the singing group, not the salad dressing) had a number one hit with "Sherry" on this date in 1962... The same record survey showed the instrumental "Green Onions," by Booker T and the MG's, at number four.

Music to Drink Espresso by
"Mama" Cass Elliot, the lead female singer of the folk-turned-pop group the Mamas and the Papas, had a mama today in 1941. She had a magnificent, soaring voice with a lot of upper range for a folk singer. She died of a heart attack at 33, while on tour as a solo performer. Her obesity caused a strange, untrue story to disseminate that she choked on a ham sandwich. Another odd story — this one true — is that she once sang an ad jingle for Hardee's Hamburgers.

Annals of Clean Dining Rooms
Today in 1876, an appliance used in almost every restaurant with carpets was patented. Melville Bissell invented the carpet sweeper in his shop in Grand Rapids, Mich. He was motivated by his wife's adverse reaction to dust. The carpet sweeper does what a broom does, but in a way that scatters less dust around.

Food Namesakes
Lol Creme, a rock musician whose most famous group was 10cc, was born today in 1947... Actor Randolph Mantooth was born today in 1945... Yankee pitcher Catfish Hunter won his 200th game today in 1976, and became only the third pitcher to do that by his 31st birthday... Today in 1676, Nathaniel Bacon Jr. rebelled against Virginia colonial governor William Berkeley and burned Jamestown... Scott Baker, a big-league pitcher, was born in Shreveport today in 1981.

Words to Eat By
"How can people say they don't eat eggplant when God loves the color and the French love the name?" — Jeff Smith.

Words to Drink By
"There are two things that will be believed of any man whatsoever, and one of them is that he has taken to drink." — Booth Tarkington, American author.