The Food Almanac: Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!
Wikimedia Commons/ John Hritz



Be My Valentine
Although this is St. Valentine's Day, today has been noted as special for centuries before its namesake saint lived. February 14 was a Roman pagan holiday honoring Juno. The next day, young men and women would hook up for the duration of the festival of Lupercalia. Many pairings continued beyond that, and so the love lore attached to the date. The historic St. Valentine was a rebellious third-century Roman priest. Emperor Claudius II had banned marriages because he was running low on soldiers. Valentine married couples in secret until he was caught and executed on the day that became his. 

St. Valentine, in addition to being the patron saint of people in love, is also the patron of beekeepers. Honey. Let's also remember that we would be bereft of many of the fruits and vegetables we eat were it not for the busyness of bees.

Nowadays, romances are more stressed than formed on Valentine's Day. Men have a propensity to take it too lightly, while women have the opposite tendency. Despite that, it remains one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants, which fill up with people who only dine out a few days of the year. Much more about Valentine's Day dining, and our list of the 100 Most Romantic New Orleans Restaurants, can be found here.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez: 
Only eat Louisiana strawberries for the next few months. Isn't that obvious?

New Orleans Restaurateurs
Today is the birthday of Marc Preuss, who runs the day-to-day management of Broussard's with his father, Chef Gunter Preuss, and his mother Evelyn.

Food Calendar
It is Cream-Filled Chocolate Day, says the Web. The explanation is obvious. In the course of looking up background on this, I found out why it's nearly impossible to fill chocolates with cream or liqueur or any other liquid at home. But the explanation itself is too complex for laymen like me and you.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Sugar Creek runs about nine miles through the high desert mountains in extreme northern California. That's a sparsely settled area; the nearest town of any size is Yreka, forty-two miles northeast. Sugar Creek collects water coming down the southern slope of Eaton Mountain. On the other side of the peak is Duck Lake, making this an area full of food reminders. The creek runs into Scott Creek, a tributary of the Pacific-bound Klamath River. The restaurant nearest Sugar Creek is Wildwood Crossing, nine miles away in Etna.

Edible Dictionary
confiture, [con-fee-TOOR], French--A generic word that encompasses preserves, conserves, jams, and jellies in the French language. It's usually used in combination with the fruit used in its making--confiture de fraises (strawberries), for example. The popularity in recent years of confit of duck has created a bit of confusion when the word confiture comes up. Both words come from an Old French word meaning "prepared."

Wine Around The World
This is Trifon Zarezan day in Bulgaria. That's an ancient festival marking the end of the dead months of winter and the coming of the first signs of spring. It has particular significance in the vineyards, where a ritual of pruning takes place. There's also a sexual and intoxicating aspect to the day. It's a long story; here it is if you're interested.

Food Through History 
In 1889 today, the first load offresh fruit shipped by rail from the West Coast to the East Coast left Los Angeles. The cargo was oranges, almost an exotic fruit back then and much prized. . . Speaking of fruit, on this day in 1803 one Moses Coats won a patent for a gizmo thatpeeled apples. . . Today in 1859,Oregon joined the Union as the thirty-third state. It makes first-class wines, particularly Pinot Noir. But it also the country's biggest producer of hazelnuts. They also pull a lot of salmon from their streams, notably the state fish, theChinook salmon. . . This is also the anniversary of statehood (in 1912) for Arizona. The cuisine there is interesting, blending Mexican and West Coast cooking.

Food Namesakes
Derrick Witherspoon, a pro football running back, grabbed the ball of life and ran with it on this date in 1971. . . Actress Florence Rice first appeared today in 1911. . .Captain James Cook, who turns up often in this department, was murdered in Hawaii (he called them the Sandwich Islands) today in 1779. He was making his third visit there. . . American actor Paul Butcher came to life today in 1994.

Words To Eat By 
"Honey comes out of the air. At early dawn the leaves of trees are found bedewed with honey. Whether this is the perspiration of the sky or a sort of saliva of the stars, or the moisture of the air purging itself, nevertheless it brings with it the great pleasure of its heavenly nature. It is always of the best quality when it is stored in the best flowers."--Pliny The Elder.

"I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them."--Nora Ephron.

Related Stories
10 Cocktails to Celebrate Valentine's Day5 Food and Wine Pairings for Valentine's Day10 Valentine's Day Chocolates to Love (and Hate)

Words To Drink By
"She looked as if she had been poured into her clothes and had forgotten to say 'when.'"--P.G. Wodehouse, British humor writer, died today in 1975.