The Food Almanac: Tuesday, February 26, 2013

It's National Pistachio Day!
Wikimedia Commons/ marcodisce



Annals Of Closing Time
Today in 1945, as World War II was in full tilt, a midnight curfew went into effect for all bars and nightclubs everywhere in America. Wow. That must have been rough here in New Orleans. I'll bet that gave the restaurant business a boost.

Today's Flavor 
Today is allegedly National Pistachio Day. The best use of pistachios in New Orleans is the dipping of the ends of cannoli in them at Angelo Brocato's. Which, like most makers of ice cream, makes bright green pistachio flavor. (It's the green part of spumone, too.) That flavor is so delicious that I wonder why it's not more often used. As in pistachio sno-balls. Pistachio bread pudding. (I think I'll try that myself.) Or in savory dishes. Indeed, I couldn't think of a non-sweet use of pistachios, other than eating them right out of the shells. (Remember when there used to be gum machines filled with red-shelled pistachios? I can't remember the last time I did, but it has to be twenty years.) 

The more I thought about this the more intrigued I was. So started looking through a few cookbooks. Finding nothing there, I did a web search and came up with a bunch of grower organizations that seemed to be quarreling with one another about aflatoxins and the difference between machine-shelled and hand-shelled nuts. Nuts! 

Pistachios originally came from Iran, which produces more pistachios than any other country. The United States (you could say California) is a close second. They're very good for you. Eating them in the shell is so slow that you stop before you can eat the equivalent amount of peanuts.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez: 
Anything bright red on the outside and bright green on the inside can't be all bad.

The Physiology Of Eating
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg was born today in 1852. He ran a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, and promulgated many offbeat theories of health. One of those was vegetarianism. Another was "fletcherization," in which one chewed each biteful of food a hundred times before swallowing. He thought people should eat a diet that was primarily grain, and his brother William K. Kellogg created the famous cereal company to make that easier. About half of Dr. Kellogg's radical ideas actually make sense. But plenty of them were as nutty as a pistachio.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Cereal is in the Texas Panhandle, sixty miles north of Lubbock. Its name is apt: it's on the vast, treeless, high plains where much wheat, corn, and other grains are grown. This is the part of America where, if you look down from an airplane, the ground looks as if it were covered with tiles. Cereal was originally a stop on a now-extinct railroad that ran down from Oklahoma across the Panhandle. The nearest restaurants are seven miles southeast in Lockney, where Honey Do's sounds promising.

Edible Dictionary
triggerfish, n.--More commonly seen in saltwater aquariums than on dinner plates, triggerfish are eminently edible, with firm, beautiful white flesh. The fish itself can be colorful. There are many species. They have in common a sharp, stiff spine that pops up into the upright and locked position when the fish is threatened. This makes bigger fish hesitate to eat it. While that doesn't work on fishermen, triggerfish can give a nasty bite if mishandled. The fish is hard to clean, and gives small fillets for the size of the fish (around two or three pounds). It's worth the trouble. The flavor is excellent. Grilling is the most common cooking method. It's also good in a courtbouillon, bouillabaisse, or other juicy seafood stew. It holds up well in the broth and the white color makes the resulting dish extraordinarily attractive.

Food Namesakes
Antoine "Fats" Domino, a major figure in early rock 'n' roll, was born today in 1928. He has both a food nickname and two restaurant names. And he had a hit song with a food name: Blueberry Hill. But he's known for his music more than his eating. He's not very fat anymore--hasn't been for a long time. A true-blue Orleanian, he still lived in the Lower Ninth Ward when Katrina hit. He lost everything there, but he rebuilt. Good old Fats! . . . Theodore Sturgeon, an American author of science fiction, was born today in 1918. . . Charles D. Baker, the mayor of Las Vegas during that city's Rat Pack boom years of the 1950s, was born today in 1901. . . Big-league pitcher Preacher Roe took The Big Mound today in 1915. . . Currie Graham--who has a rare double food name--was born today in 1967. He played the station commander in NYPD Blue.

Words To Eat By
"You think that I am cruel and gluttonous when I beat my cook for sending in a bad dinner. But if that is too trivial a cause, what other can there be for beating a cook?"--Martial, ancient Roman author.