The Food Almanac: Thursday, April 11, 2013

It's National Cheese Fondue Day!
Wikimedia Commons/ Julien29


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

Roots Of New Orleans Cuisine 
On this date ninety years apart, two events shaped the cuisine and culture of Southeast Louisiana. In 1803, during negotiations to sell New Orleans to the United States, France's Foreign Minister Charles Talleyrand offered to throw in the entire Louisiana territory for a couple million dollars more. It took Robert Livingston by surprise, but he and Thomas Jefferson felt they couldn't turn the offer down. The Louisiana Purchase drastically changed futures of both the United States and New Orleans.

Ninety years before, in1713, the Peace of Utrecht was signed. What are now the Maritime Provinces of Canada were ceded by France to England. The territory included the French colony of Acadiana, in the present Nova Scotia. French settlers were told to pledge allegiance to the English crown. Many who refused were deported, and wound up in the bayou country southwest of New Orleans. Living in isolation there for two centuries, they developed the Cajun culture and cuisine.

Annals Of Sushi
Today in 1868, the rule of the shoguns of Japan ended. Nevertheless, that ruling class continues to be honored by dozens of sushi bars around America that bear that name. Shogun Restaurant in Metairie--New Orleans's first sushi bar--continues to serve and remains delicious.

Today's Flavor
It's Cheese Fondue Day. Cheese fondue--the original Swiss kind, followed much later by beef fondue and chocolate fondue--rises and falls in popularity. Right now it's in a lull. The Melting Pot, a national chain, serves a complete fondue dinner with many different ingredients in both the pot and at the end of the sticks. Fondue has never really caught on in New Orleans, probably because it's thought of by most as a cold-weather thing.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Strawberry Fields, New York is a two-and-a-half-acre section of Central Park in Manhattan. It's on the west side of the park at 72nd Street, and defined by roads into a teardrop shape. Strawberry Fields was dedicated on this date in 1981, in memory of former Beatle John Lennon, who lived nearby and who thought this was the most beautiful part of the park. Strawberry Fields is, of course, named for the 1967 Beatles hit "Strawberry Fields Forever." It has its own web site.

Edible Dictionary
bean thread, n.--Also called bean thread noodles, glass noodles, cellophane noodles, and harusame.When cooked, these Asian noodles--which otherwise behave like standard pasta--become transparent. They're made with the starch from mung bean sprouts, hence the name. They have a great mouthfeel and look interesting in a dish. They're widely using in East Asian cooking, particularly in Thai cuisine. They're also nice to find in an order of Singapore curry noodles.

Deft Dining Rule #375:
Cheese is a beautiful finish to a meal, and a very bad beginning. It puts the appetite to rest.

Music To Dine By, If You Can Take It
The Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America was founded on this date in 1938 by O.C. Cash and a couple dozen guys who harmonized with him. The organization is alive and well across America.

Today in 1956, Elvis Presley exploded onto the pop charts with his first Number One record, Heartbreak Hotel. It was the best record he ever made. We always wondered whether the restaurant in Heartbreak Hotel were any good. Our suspicion is that the cooking was one cause of the heartbreak.

Food Namesakes
Richard Berry, who wrote the anthem Louie Louie along with many other pop songs, started saying things nobody could understand today in 1935, in Extension, Louisiana. . . . Reggie Tongue, a defensive back for the New York Jets, came out running today in 1973. . . British Prime Minister George Canning had his life opened today in 1770. . . John Edward Hollister Montagu, the Eleventh Earl of Sandwich, was made today in 1943. . . British chemist William Cookworthy was concocted today in 1705. He discovered that porcelain, which until that time had been imported from China, could be made using clay found in Cornwall.

Words To Eat By
“A cheese may disappoint. It may be dull, it may be naive, it may be oversophisticated. Yet it remains cheese, milk's leap toward immortality.”--Clifton Fadiman, American author.

"Bachelor's fare: bread and cheese, and kisses."--Jonathan Swift.

Related Stories
What Is Fondue?

Words To Drink By
"Give me the avowed, the erect, the manly foe,
Bold I can meet—perhaps may turn his blow;
But of all plagues, good Heaven, thy wrath can send,
Save, save, oh save me from the Candid Friend." 
--George Canning, former prime minister of Great Britain, born today in 1770.