The Food Almanac: Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Staff Writer
Happy Birthday, Toll House Cookies!
Wikimedia Commons/ Emily

Today in 1940, the Nestle Company registered a trademark for Toll House cookies--the original chocolate chip cookies.

Deft Dining Rule #815
It's not a myth: bananas whose skins are thoroughly speckled with black spots are the most delicious bananas.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
Overripe bananas are best for banana bread or banana pudding. If you don't have time to make those right now, puree the bananas in a food processor with a little lemon juice, put it into a food storage bag, squeeze all the air out, and freeze it.

Deft Dining Rule #193
Bananas are easier to peel from the bottom to the top--that is, from opposite the stem end. Try it and you'll see.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Two waterways are named Banana Creek in Florida, where banana trees might be found growing wild almost anywhere. The first is on the eastern shore of Tampa Bay, winding through a tropical, tree-filled marsh where, I'll bet, some good oysters and shrimp can be found. Fishermen. Manatees. The logical place to eat is The Fish House, a mile and a half away by boat in Ruskin. The other Banana Creek comes close to cutting Merritt Island in half, on Florida's Atlantic Coast. It's a tidal stream that runs about seven miles before emptying into the Indian River. Most interesting, it's right next to some of the launch pads at Kennedy Space Center.

Edible Dictionary
clafoutis, [clah-foo-TEE], French, n.--In its original French form, this is a custard with fruits (classically, cherries) baked in and barely poking out of the top surface. It evolved into a custard in a pastry crust. Then the crust and the filling merged into a very eggy, smooth cake batter, still baked in a custard dish with the fruits floating at the top. The latter version is by far the most common form found in this country. It's a delicious light dessert, and is as good as a breakfast pastry as it is as the finish of a meal. Clafoutis is often flavored with almonds.

Unusual Food Celebrations 
Today in 1977, the first Burning Man Festival was held in the Black Rock Desert north of Reno, Nevada. A tall effigy of a man (nobody in particular) is built and burned. The event seems to be a spontaneous celebration of itself, and is otherwise hard to explain. (Here's the web site that leaves no stone unturned in the effort to do so.) Our interest in it concerns the Burning Man sushi roll, served by many Japanese restaurants across the country. It has spicy tuna inside, with seared peppered tuna, avocado, and salmon on the outside. It's one of the better big rolls we've had.

Annals Of Cookies
Today in 1940, the Nestle Company registered a trademark for Toll House cookies--the original chocolate chip cookies. They rolled out the chocolate chips a few months earlier, and saw that it would be a huge new product for them. The cookies were invented at a 1709-vintage inn (and actual toll-collecting point) on the road from Boston to New Bedford, Massachusetts. In the 1930s, Ruth Wakefield, who owned the inn with her husband, made a batch of cookies with chunks of chocolate in them. They were so popular that Nestle made a deal with her: if she would turn over the rights to the recipe, she would get all the chocolate she wanted for the rest of her life. After awhile, to save people the trouble of chopping chocolate bars, Nestle created the familiar chocolate chips.

The Saints
Today is the feast day of St. Monica. She is most remembered as the mother of St. Augustine, but her own life was such that she's the patron saint of homemakers. She's also a patron saint of alcoholics; Augustine was one of those in his young days, and so was Monica. In a roundabout way, she's also the namesake of crawfish in a spicy cream sauce over pasta, locally called crawfish Monica. It was invented by Monica Davidson, who keeps her recipe a secret and has the name under trademark.

Weather Report
This is the birthday, in 1965, of Hurricane Betsy, the first really bad hurricane in the memory of most New Orleanians, and the first hurricane in America to do over a billion dollars in damage. It hit town September 7.

I don't need to say (because everyone else is saying it) that this Friday is the seventh anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Katrina.

Food Namesakes
Jeff Cook, singer and guitarist with the country-rock group Alabama, wailed for the first time today in 1949. . . Pro hockey centerAdam Oates hit The Big Ice today in 1962. . . Charles Stewart Rolls, one of the founders of the luxury automobile maker Rolls Royce, took to The Road today in 1877. . . Catfish Hunter pitched his sixth win of the month for the Yankees today in 1978; no losses that August. . . Peanuts Lowrey--speaking of baseball--was born today in 1917. He played mostly for the Cubs. . . Hickory Smoke won the 1957 Hambletonian Stakes, a harness race with trotting horses, this day that year.

Words To Eat By 
"I want cold pizza for breakfast
And a pinch of cold spaghetti will do 
But there's nothin' in the world that I like better than
Eatin' cold pizza with you."--Christine Lavin, American singer.

"All critics should be assassinated."--Man Ray, art photographer, born today in 1890.

Related Stories
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Words To Drink By
Here is to loving, to romance, to us. 
May we travel together through time. 
We alone count as none, but together we're one,
For our partnership puts love to rhyme. 
Irish toast.