The Food Almanac: Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Today's Flavors

Today is National Lager Day. Lagers are the most popular style of beer in the world. Spell it backwards, and you have "Regal," one of the major New Orleans beer brands until the 1970s. Its brewery was where the Royal Sonesta Hotel is now, in the French Quarter. We seem to be drifting here, as if I'd had too many lagers. A beer that's been "lagered" has been kept in barrels in cold storage for several weeks after it was made. The slow fermentation at these temperatures turns out a beer that's significantly lighter than, say, an ale.

While some sources say that Egg Nog Day is December 24, today is more appropriate. Especially this year, with the early and persistent presence of Yule-like cool weather. Egg nog is one of the few seasonal items that hasn't been dragged into the rest of the year. On the other hand, it appears in supermarkets earlier each year. Store-bought egg nog seems to be incapable of going bad, no matter how long it's in your refrigerator. What's in there, anyway?

Egg nog originated in England. "Nog" is an Old English word that refers to a strong beer or ale, and the small cup from which it was drunk. Old recipes show egg nog as a mixture of milk and eggs, with that ale added. These days we add quite a bit of sugar and use spirits like brandy, whiskey, or rum if we want it alcoholic.

Egg nog is not hard to make at home. My egg nog uses uncooked eggs, but that carries a small health hazard. Cooking changes the flavor but not disastrously. Some half-and-half, sugar, and vanilla complete the recipe. Separate the eggs, cook the yolks with the milk or cream as slowly as you can, and take it up to 160 degrees on a meat thermometer. Then chill it, beat egg whites stiff and stir them in, grate the nutmeg, add the brandy or rum, and. . . Merry Christmas!

Edible Dictionary

chaurice, [show-REESS], French-Creole, n.–A Louisiana Creole hot sausage made of fresh ground pork. It evolved from Spanish roots in New Orleans. It is particularly favored by the African-American community in New Orleans, although everybody eats it. The peppery flavor comes largely from cayenne pepper or crushed red chili pepper flakes. Much variation in texture and flavor can be seen from the many makers of chairice, but the most vaunted brands make it very hot indeed. It's popular grilled, served over red beans or in a poor boy sandwich.

Deft Dining Rule #459

If you go to the trouble of making homemade egg nog, you may as well grate your own nutmeg.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Candy Cane Park is in the town of Glasgow, Montana, on the hilly side of town just south of the airport. The town is in the relatively flat valley of the Milk River, a tributary of the Missouri. That means that water leaving Candy Cane Park has a direct path to New Orleans. Glasgow is a small town founded on the Great Northern Railroad–which still cuts the city in half–in 1887. The nearest restaurants are all national chain fast-food outlets, but less than a mile away is the intriguingly-named Soma-Dis Deli. I'll have soma dat, too.

Alluring Dinner Dates

DorothyLamourActress Dorothy Lamour was born in New Orleans today in 1914. After becoming Miss New Orleans, she went to Hollywood, where she was the eye candy in the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby "Road" movies. She was famous for showing off her figure in sarongs. On top of that, she was an excellent singer and all-around big star. She hosted her own radio variety show for awhile, the Sealtest Variety Theater. Something ought to be named for her here, I think.

Celebrity Chefs Today

New York-based restaurateur, chef, and Food Network personality Bobby Flay came out of the oven today in 1964. Especially in his recent role as American Iron Chef, he has become one of the most-watched and most controversial of American chefs. From our perspective, we're miffed that he has come out and said he doesn't like (read: doesn't understand) New Orleans food.

Food Namesakes

Today in 1949, Fats Domino recorded his first big hit, The Fat Man, for Imperial Records. . . The movie Big Fish premiered today in 2003. . .Kofi Anan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, won the Nobel Peace Prize today in 2001. . . Hermes Pan, American choreographer, danced onto the Big Stage today in 1909.

Words To Eat By

"I felt like a wonderful sandwich, a slice of white bread between two slices of ham."–Dorothy Lamour, talking about Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in the movies she made with them. She was born in New Orleans today in 1914.

"Fame is a fickle food
Upon a shifting plate,
Whose table once a Guest, but not
The second time, is set.
Whose crumbs the crows inspect,
And with ironic caw
Flap past it to the Farmer's corn;
Men eat of it and die."–Emily Dickinson, born today in 1830.

Words To Drink By

"I saw a sign that read 'Drink Canada Dry' and I've just started."–Brendan Behan.