The Food Almanac: Thursday, May 9, 2013

Pharmaceuticals In Dining
On this date in 1960, the Food and Drug Administration approved sale of the birth control pill. That changed many things, among which was the restaurant business. Dating suddenly became much more urgent. People who might not have had a particularly deep interest in fine dining started going out to dinner more often, to get the ball rolling. What came of that was a new category of restaurant with an interesting environment but unchallenging food. Burgers, even. It gave birth to the category that stretches now from TGI Friday's to Houston's.

Alternatives To Dining Out
Today in 1961, Newton Minow of the Federal Communications Commission used the term "vast wasteland" to describe commercial television programming. It was the harshest criticism ever leveled at the industry. Now we have hundreds of channels, and still nothing's on. I'd rather go to a restaurant.

Literate Dining
Dante Alighieri, the author of the epic poem The Divine Comedy,was born today in 1265. I once heard a waiter at the old T. Pittari's say that the pasta there was always prepared "al dante." What? The way they do it in the Inferno? Dante's name was taken by Carmelo Chirico, the owner of Carmelo Ristorante, for his small chain of pizza parlors. We also have Dante's Kitchen here, a great Creole bistro with Chef E-Man Loubier at the helm.

Music To Eat Dessert By
Today in 1946, the song Shoo Fly Pie (And Apple Pandowdy) was Number Two on the pop music charts. It was performed by Stan Kenton's very modern big band, but it's best remembered for making June Christy a singing star.

Edible Dictionary
spaghetti squash, n.–A variety of the familiar curcurbit squash family, native to America. What makes it unusual is that the thin layer of fiber that separates the seeds from the meat in most squashes is greatly expanded in the spaghetti squash, so that it fill most of the vegetable. Raking the inside of a cooked spaghetti squash easily pulls these fibers apart into what looks for all the world like a tangle of yellow angel-hair pasta. It doesn't have a lot of flavor, but that can easily be remedied with garlic, butter or olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper. Then it becomes a delightful side dish, high in fiber and low in everything else.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
The reason so many young chefs have started using so much foie gras is that it keeps them from having to cook.

Deft Dining Rule #238:
To check on whether a restaurant is serious about foie gras or just posturing, ask the waiter if it's Grade A duck liver, and insist on finding out for sure.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Barbeque Swamp is in the Low Country of North Carolina, in the floodplain of the Chowan River, a tidal river off the funnel-shaped Albemarle Sound. The swamp appears mostly to have been drained by a small stream that runs through it, with tobacco fields on both sides. Doesn't look as if anyone lives nearby, so it's off to one of the three nearest restaurants, all of which share a menu theme: Cedric Pierce Chicken House, Eure Chicken House, and Arvis Chicken House, all within seven miles. Guess if you want barbecue you have to do it yourself. Another matter: there is no connection with New Orleans barbecue swimp here.

Food-Related Holidays
President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed this date as Mother's Day in 1914. That was such a natural observance–how can we ever repay our mothers for what they do?–that it evolved into, among other things, the busiest day of the whole year for the restaurant business. This is not universal knowledge among the public, and still, every year people slap their foreheads of Mother's Day morning and say, "I've got a good idea! Instead of making Mom cook today as usual, how about if we take her out to a nice Sunday brunch!" As if everyone in America wasn't already working on that idea.

Food Namesakes
Edward Pollock, a woodwind musician who is best known for his quotation, "Love is friendship set to music," was born today in 1899. Pollock is that North Pacific fish that they make into fake crabmeat (surimi) for sushi bars. . . Tommy Roe, who recorded a few bubblegum-music hits in the late 1960s, turns 64. . . Former CBS reporter Terry Drinkwater was born today in 1936. . . .And here's an amazing double-food, single-drink name: Zita von Bourbon-Parma, the last Empress of Austria-Hungary. She was born today in 1892. A zita is a single pasta tube, usually used in the plural ziti. Parma is a variety of prosciutto.

Words To Eat By
"My idea of heaven is eating pate de foie gras to the sound of trumpets."–Sydney Smith.

Words To Drink By
"Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die."–1 Corinthians, 15:32.