The Food Almanac: Tuesday, January 7, 2013

Staff Writer
It's National Tempura Day!
Yamaguchi Yoshiaki

Today is National Tempura Day, honoring the fried Japanese dishes with the puffy, thick, soft coating.

Today’s Flavor
Today is National Tempura Day, honoring the fried Japanese dishes with the puffy, thick, soft coating. But here in New Orleans it’s Hot Sausage Day. That’s because hot sausage, also known locally as chaurice, is most appreciated for its perfect compatibility with red beans and rice. Indeed, one of my fondest taste recollections is of a fifty-cent plate of beans at Martin’s Poor Boy Restaurant in the early 1970s. The cook fried a pair of hot sausage patties on the flattop grill. He then transferred them with a metal spatula, along with all the grease (there’s no other word for it) that could come along for the ride, and plopped it all atop the beans. I don’t know if I ever had better beans than those. These days, most hot sausage comes in large patties, either atop the beans or in a poor boy.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez: 
I knew a short maker of sausage with red pepper
He’d pack ‘em in a cold box and then he would schlep ‘er
To a sandwich shop Mondays where in lieu of a bill
He’d accept as his payment his appetite’s fill
Of red beans and white beans and really hot chili
Filled with his product, but even so still he
Kept the circle unbroken, until he retired
Not rich but quite famous from the patties he fired.

Deft Dining Rule #744:
Hot sausage–in fact, all really spicy foods–are at their best when eating them brings you to the threshold of pain from the pepper.

Gourmet Geography
Morel, Montana is twenty-six miles northwest of Butte on I-90. It’s across the highway from a large settling pond, used by a mining operation nearby. As hostile as that sounds, the area–in the mountain-rimmed valley of the Flint River–was a resort in the 1860 because of its hot springs. It later became an insane asylum, which long since has closed. Morel mushrooms may well be found in the springtime up in the hills surrounding Morel; they are found in relative abundance in that part of the country. The nearest places to eat at Uncle Buck’s in Warm Springs, two miles away, and the Springwater Inn, seven miles north in Anaconda.

Edible Dictionary
tournedos, [TOOH-neh-doh], French, n.–A steak cut from the narrow end of the tenderloin roast, next to the part from which the filets mignon come. Because the circumference is smaller, the tournedos is cut thicker–sometimes so thick that it’s then cut again into two or even three thinner steaks (“butterflied”). Many restaurants take advantage of this by serving different sauces on each of the resulting demi-steaks. A good case could be made that the tournedos is even tenderer than filet mignon. The word seems to be derived from the French expression “behind the back,” with several interpretations–that it’s in back of the filet, that it’s sneaked out the back of the meat market, or that it’s so beautiful and good that it must be served on the sly, to keep everyone from wanting it. The word is spelled the same for singular and plural, although the erroneous “tournedo” (or, worse, “tornadoes”) often appears on menus.

Familiar Icons Of Eating 
The Tower of Pisa, whose image appears in more Italian restaurants than any other, was closed to the public today in 1990. Its famous tilt had gone a little too far, and for the next eleven years it was shored up and stabilized. It’s back open now. As many times as you’ve seen pictures of the Campanile (its real name), seeing it in real life will stop you in your tracks.

Annals Of Food Writing
Today in 1896, Fannie Farmer published her first cookbook. It was originally entitled The Boston Cooking School Cook Book, but with millions of copies in print it’s now known as the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. It became famous because it was the first book to specify exact quantities for all ingredients. It was much welcomed by people who’d never cooked before.

The Saints
This is the feast day of St. Emilian of Saujon, France, a small town north of Bordeaux. He was a Benedictine monk who spent a time as a hermit in the eighth century. The winemaking commune of St. Emilion, whose wine is predominantly made with Merlot grapes, is named for him.

Food Namesakes
Donna Rice, whose romance with Gary Hart brought down his campaign for the Presidency in 1988, was born in New Orleans today in 1958. . . American novelist Nicholson Baker wrote the first page of his Big Book today in 1957. . . Art Baker, the host of a 1950s television show called You Asked For It, was born today in 1898. . .Ducky Shofield, who played shortstop for a number of teams in the Big Leagues, took the Big Field today in 1935. . . John Berryman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, jumped from a bridge to his death today in 1972. The poet’s life can be hard. . . Kobe Bryantmade nine consecutive three-point baskets, plus three more in the same game, to set the NBA record today in 2003.

Words To Eat By
“A highbrow is the kind of person who looks at a sausage and thinks of Picasso.”–Alan Patrick Herbert, British author of the early 1900s.

“Doctor, do you think it could have been the sausage?”–Alleged to be the last words of French poet Paul Claudel.

Words To Drink By
“Never cry over spilt milk. It could’ve been whiskey.”–Pappy Maverick, in the TV showMaverick.