The Food Almanac: Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Food Calendar
In New Orleans, it's Seafood Poor Boy (And Loaf) Day. The seminal seafood poor boy is the oyster loaf. Fried oysters, buttered French bread, a few shots of hot sauce, pickles. . . perfection. 

Variations abound. Almost any other seafood that can be fried finds its way onto French bread. Shrimp poor boys are almost as popular as oyster. (The price hike in oysters from the oil spill may have even made shrimp sammiches more popular.) Catfish has all but replaced speckled trout on poor boys. Soft-shell crabs present a unique poor boy experience, as you start off eating legs and claws, work into the body, and end up with legs and claws at the end.

A rare and wonderful variation on the seafood sandwich is the seafood "boat." It starts with an unsliced loaf of regular white bread, with the top cut off and the inside hollowed. After being toasted and buttered, it's filled with oysters, shrimp, or catfish, or all three. Chad's Bistro in Metairie and Morton's in Madisonville are the only restaurants I know make boats these days. Casamento's uses the same bread, but cuts it differently to make their oyster and shrimp loaves.

Of this there is no question: a seafood loaf made with freshly-fried, crisp seafood on fresh and toasted bread is one of the greatest pleasures of the neighborhood New Orleans cafes and seafood houses.

Deft Dining Rule #655
Any poor boy shop that puts fewer than a dozen and a half oysters on an oysters loaf is not worthy of selling the sandwich.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Mayo is a rural crossroads in central Kentucky. It's in pretty, rolling country side where horses once were raised. It's now becoming a place for large exurban homes, owing to the presence thirty-two miles north of Frankfort, the state capital. But there's still some farming in the area. It's on the western edge of the valley of the Salt River, a tributary of the Ohio. This allows Mayo's drainage to make its way to New Orleans. The nearest restaurant of note is Eddie Montgomery's Steak House in Harrodsburg, seven miles south.

Edible Dictionary
romesco, (Spanish), n.–A Spanish sauce, usually served at room temperature, made of equal amounts of roasted tomatoes and roasted red bell peppers, plus garlic, almonds, vinegar, and bread. All of this is pureed into a paste that resembles ketchup, but with much different flavor. The recipe is subject to wide variations, depending on where the cook is from. Some versions use some hot red peppers in the mix. Romesco is popularly served with grilled or fried fish, but it's pretty good with a wide range of other foods. I keep thinking that romesco would be a great spread on an oyster or shrimp loaf.

Speed Eating 
The first parking meters in America were installed on this date in 1935, of all places, Oklahoma City. They cost a nickel for an hour, but it was the middle of the Depression (and the Dust Bowl, too.) I wonder how many meals were rushed to ruin by the threat of a parking meter about to run out of coin. I use parking meters a lot, and was very pleased when the ones on New Orleans streets began accepting credit cards. But I still carry a small cache of dollar coins for the older meters.

Annals Of Cookbooks
Today is the anniversary of the first appearance on the Web of, in 1995. Now the web site is a major force to be reckoned with in the sales of books. Finding cookbooks on Amazon is incomparably easy. I like the fact that they rank books by sales within many categories.

Music To Eat Turkey By
Today in 1967, Arlo Guthrie first performed Alice's Restaurant, his twenty-minute-long song/comedy routine at the Newport Folk Festival. Alice's Restaurant was a real place, and still exists. In the recorded version of the song, Guthrie talks about eating two "Thanksgiving dinners that can't be beat."

Food Entrepreneurs
Today is the birthday of Orville Redenbacher, in 1907. He lived to be 88; he died of a heart attack while taking a whirlpool bath. Although his name and face became synonymous with branded, high-end popcorn, he was a real person–a real agronomist, in fact, working with actual grain and fields and production equipment before he rolled out his popcorn in 1976. I had him as a guest on my radio show in 1979; he was exactly like the guy you saw on TV. Although he's gone, ConAgra Foods (which owns the brand now) has brought his digitized image back to life.

Food Namesakes
Dancer and actor Ginger Rogers was born today in 1911. . . General Amos Fries was appointed the first chemical warfare head of the U.S. Army, which has since sworn off such things, today in 1920. . . Hollywood movie producer Jude Tucker was born today in 1989. "Tucker" is Australian slang for "food." That's his middle name; his real last name is Fitzmorris. I am his father. Jude's spending his birthday morning in a meeting at Paramount about a new movie.

Words To Eat By
"Do one thing and do it better than anyone."–Orville Redenbacher, born today in 1907.

Words To Drink By
"Everyone who drinks is not a poet. Some of us drink because we're not poets."–Dudley Moore, in the movie Arthur.