The Food Almanac: Thursday, March 7, 2013

It's National Crown Roast of Pork Day!


Annals Of Restaurant Reservations
In 1876 on this date Alexander Graham Bell was granted the patent for the telephone, thereby allowing us to call restaurants to reserve tables. What did people do to get a spot in the dining room before the phone was in widespread use? Perhaps reservations were not needed, or the reservation concept was not in existence. This bears some research.

Annals Of Food Research
Today is the birthday, in 1849, of the botanist Luther Burbank. He developed at least 800 new breeds of flowers, fruits, and vegetables, and showed the way to generate many more of them. We owe him a debt for the great diversity of food on our tables.

Today's Flavor
It is Crown Roast of Pork Day. This is what passed for gourmet food in America during the first half of the 1900s. It is a grand presentation: an entire rack of pork chops curled in a circle, with some sort of stuffing in the center. However, no part of the dish cooks well. The chops themselves get steamed more than roasted, and that makes them either too tough if cooked to the proper temperature, or juiceless if cooked beyond that. This is one we ought to rename Crown Roast of Pork Memorial Day.

This is also noted as National Cereal Day. That's because on this date in 1897, Dr. John Kellogg began serving corn flakes to the patients in a mental hospital. His brother William K. Kellogg, who started the cereal company that bears his name, improved on the flakes by adding sugar to them to make them taste better. The two Kellogg guys had some nutty ideas about health, but they did introduce a great new way to incorporate more grains into the modern diet.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Eaton Butte is a prominent mountain on the eastern slope of the Cascade Range in central Oregon, 103 miles southeast of Eugene. Its western side rises 1000 feet in a quarter mile to a 5169-foot summit. It's lightly forested, and popular among campers and hikers. Jeep trails crisscross it. Any eatin' will be done by those who packed in a lunch, or who drive nine miles east to Sugar Pine Cafe int he town of La Pine.

This is the twenty-second in a series of Gourmet Gazetteer places whose names begin with "Eat."

Edible Dictionary
Muscadine, n.--A white grape variety native to North America. It grows wild throughout the South, and is the most common variety of grape found there. It is also cultivated for eating or making wine. Muscadine wines--also called scuppernong--is almost always made sweet, and often with a high alcohol percentage that comes from fortifying it with brandy. It's not a great wine, but it does have the panache of being a local product.

Ancient History Today
Today in 321, Emperor Constantine decreed that the official weekly day off for the Roman Empire would be Sunday, the day honoring the pagan sun gods. Although most (but not all) Christians already considered Sunday their day of worship and rest, Constantine's prominence as the first Christian emperor definitively gave mainstream acceptance to Sunday over Saturday. So you have Constantine to blame for the Sunday closing of the restaurant you really wanted to dine in. And for Sunday brunch.

Deft Dining Rule #128: 
Sunday is the chef's day off, and tied with Monday for the worst day to dine in an ambitious restaurant. This remains true for Sunday brunch--unless that's the only time any local people ever go to the place. The very finest restaurants admit the accuracy of this rule by closing on Sundays and Mondays.

The Saints
Today is the dual feast day of St. Felicity and St. Perpetua, who were friends and both patron saints of cows. (Don't even think "holy cow!")

Food Namesakes
Tammy Faye Bakker, the televangelist with the overdone makeup, was born today in 1942. . .Matthew Fisher, who plays the baroque-sounding organ on Procol Harem's A Whiter Shade of Pale, was born today in 1946. . . Rachel Rice, actress, model, and English teacher in Wales, began to live today in 1984.

Words To Eat By 
"If I go down for anything in history, I would like to be known as the person who convinced the American people that catfish is one of the finest eating fishes in the world."--Willard Scott,born today in 1934.

Words To Drink By
"The greatest luxury of riches is that they enable you to escape so much good advice."--Sir Arthur Helps, British writer, who was born on this date in 1813, and died on this date in 1875.