The Food Almanac: Thursday, November 15, 2012

National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day, Wendy's, and Music Not to Eat By

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

Today's Flavor
Who will bite on the notion that today we should celebrate National Raisin Bran Day? I like raisin bran, but it deserves a day of celebration about as much as Phillips-head screws do.

It is also said to be National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day. That makes good sense, because it's a week and a half until Thanksgiving and you need room in your refrigerator for the defrosting turkey, space for all the semi-prepared dishes before the dinner, and leftovers after. What do you need that slice of pizza from three weeks ago for, anyway? And that empty plastic container what's it doing in the refrigerator? The same thing as that empty carton of cream, is what. Clean out your refrigerator!

Gourmet Gazetteer
Wheat is a mountain town of about 70 people in the very hilly northwestern panhandle of West Virginia, five miles from the southwest corner of Pennsylvania. Wheat is in a valley formed by the Little Fishing Creek, a tributary of the Ohio River, into which it flows 15 miles downstream. It's hard to figure wheat growing in the continuous hills and dales around there, but maybe long enough ago it happened. Or some guy named Wheat lived there. For food, it's an eight-mile drive up Highway 8 to Miss Blue's Restaurant in Hundred.

Annals of Fast Food
The first location of Wendy's opened today in Columbus, Ohio. The year was 1969, and the manager was Wendy's father, Dave Thomas. Wendy's pioneered the drive-thru window and a much more expensive hamburger. From a taste perspective, any advantage it has is minuscule. Their claim to serve hamburgers hot off the grill is made possible by cooking the burgers at such a low temperature that they get a terrible texture. You may eat all of mine. After a long slump, Wendy's was bought by the same outfit that runs Hardee's and Arby's.

Edible Dictionary
carpaccio, Italian, n. Thin slices of raw beef, garnished with olive oil and thin shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and served cold as an appetizer. The beef is so thin that it's translucent, and sometimes almost seems as if it's been painted onto the plate. The thinness can be achieved either by pounding or by freezing it and then slicing. It was created at Harry's American Bar in Venice, where owner Harry Cipriani named it for the Venetian painter of the 1400s, Vittore Carpaccio. It first became popular in this country in the 1970s. Chefs have taken to making carpaccio with other meats and even some fish, notably tuna and salmon. Some chefs sear the exterior of the beef, so that a thin crust lines the edges.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
There's nothing that makes a drink look more appealing than clear ice cubes, but your icemaker probably makes them cloudy. Next time you invite people over for cocktails, boil some water in a very clean pot, let it cool, and freeze it in an ice tray. Voilà! Clear cubes.

Music to Dine Formally (Formerly) By
Annunzio Mantovani was born today in 1905. Recording under his last name alone, Mantovani became the king of instrumental background music in the late 1950s into the 1970s. It became known as "elevator music," but it was very widely played by Muzak in restaurants, office lobbies, and shopping malls. The sound was dominated by large string sections, sounding almost classical, but playing familiar songs. Radio stations playing the likes of Mantovani's music were very popular for more than a decade, going out of style in the 1970s.

Food Namesakes
Felix Frankfurter, U.S. Supreme Court Justice from 1939 until 1962, was born on this date in 1882 (in Vienna, Austria) . . . Another national political figure, Senator Howard Baker, was born today in 1925 . . . And another baker, Sara Josephine Baker, a physician who greatly improved health care for babies and children in New York, was a baby herself today in 1873 . . . William Fries, who recorded the CB radio trucker song "Convoy" under the name C.W. McCall, was born today in 1928 . . . Clyde McPhatter was born today in 1938. He's the falsetto voice on the Drifters' version of "White Christmas."

Words to Eat By
"My son would walk to the refrigerator-freezer and fling both doors open and stand there until the hairs in his nose iced up. After surveying $200 worth of food in varying shapes and forms, he would declare loudly, 'There's nothing to eat!'" Erma Bombeck.

Words to Drink By
"A taste older than meat, older than wine. A taste as old as cold water." Lawrence Durrell, referring to olives.

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