The Food Almanac: Tuesday, July 22, 2013

Staff Writer
It's National Vanilla Ice Cream Day!
Steven Depolo

Food Calendar
It is National Vanilla Ice Cream Day. Vanilla ice cream is derided by many--especially the chocolate lovers. But try to imagine Baked Alaska, bananas foster, cherries jubilee, mile-high ice cream pie, or apple pie a la mode without it. The best vanilla ice cream in my experience was the French vanilla made by the late Chef Warren Leruth at his revolutionary Gretna restaurant. He claimed that it had an astronomical twenty-five percent butterfat content. He confided to me once that it was actually higher than that. He also made his own vanilla bean extract that had a flavor so wonderful you could almost use it as a perfume. The Leruth formulas are now being made by Ronald Reginald's.

The timing is right for this observance. July is National Ice Cream Month, so declared by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Deft Dining Rule #103
Women who prefer vanilla ice cream to chocolate make boring dinner dates.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine
Today is one of several that has been named as the birthday of the ice cream cone. We know the year (1904) and the place (the St. Louis World's Fair), and the story (an ice cream vendor who ran out of cups bought some waffles from a nearby vendor and used them as plates, which people then rolled up), but the names differ. Today's story involves one Charles Menches. Eat an ice cream cone today in honor of whoever is real innovator.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Cone is thirty-seven miles by road northeast of Lubbock, Texas. It's in the vast irrigated prairielands of the Panhandle, and is the headquarters for several enormous grain farms. It was an actual town in 1901, when it was founded by James Stanton Cone. It got a post office two years later, then a school, and by 1939 reached a peak population of 150. It declined after that to its present seventy. The nearest restaurant--Estela's--is eight miles south in Ralls, which is also where the school is now.

Edible Dictionary
ice milk, n.--A frozen confection made with less than ten percent milkfat, but all the flavors and sweeteners of ice cream. Ice milk's reputation was as a low-price, low-quality product, and sometimes was sold under a different brand name than that of the company that made it. Its reputation sank so low--especially as Americans became more conscious of food quality in the 1980s--that the name has largely disappeared from freezers in stores. But the product is still there under a new, more appealing name: low-fat ice cream.

People We'd Like To Dine With
It's the birthday in 1930 of former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu. He's the founder of a political dynasty, what with son Mitch now in the mayor's chair, and daughter Mary a powerful figure in the Senate.

Annals Of Wine Criticism 
It's the birthday, in 1947, of the world's most influential wine writer. Robert M. Parker Jr. was an attorney who was so intent on finding and enjoying the best wines that he became a tireless investigator of the viticultural world. He tastes thousands of wines and writes voluminously on the subject in his newsletter, The Wine Advocate. Rating wines on a scale of 100, Parker's reviews became so important that many wine stores began posting his ratings right next to the prices of wines. It became a wine-snob boast to never drink a wine rated below 90 by Parker.

Parker's integrity has always been solid. He spurns the hospitality of winemakers and buys the wines he reviews instead of accepting free samples. Nevertheless, he has been under attack in recent years. Some say that his enormous influence has an unnatural effect on the wine world, causing too many winemakers to make wine's to his preferences, just to get high scores and thereby sell more wine. It's not Parker's fault, but that of the winemakers and wine drinkers, who ought to have more confidence in their own tastes.

Annals Of Soft Drinks
Today is the birthday of Diet Coke, introduced today in 1982, and now the biggest-selling diet drink in the world. It now seems such an obvious product one wonders why Coca-Cola was so reluctant to use its vaunted name on it. But when Coca-Cola came out with its first diet cola, they called it Tab. Diet Coke sold far better than Tab ever did. It wasn't just because of intense marketing, but also because it tasted better--sweeter than Tab. Less well known is that Diet Coke was really the first appearance of a the flavor that later appear as New Coke.

The Saints
Today is the feast day of St. Apollinaris, who goes back so far that he's mentioned in Acts. He is the patron saint of those with the gout, that intensely painful joint affliction of (mostly) men who indulge in excellent food, wine, and love. I had occasion to ask for St. Apollinaris's intercession just this weekend.

Food Namesakes
Pitcher Catfish Hunter was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame today in 1987. . . It's the birthday, in 1947, of 1980s pop singer David Essex, whose real name was David Cook. . . Pro basketballer Darvin Ham dribbled for the first time today in 1973.

Words To Eat By 
"I could never understand what Sir Godfrey Teale saw in Jill Bennett, until I saw her at the Caprice eating corn on the cob."--Coral Browne, Australian actor, born today in 1913.

"Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone."--Jim Fiebig.

The Ultimate Vanilla Ice Cream Taste TestCelebrate National Vanilla Ice Cream DayHow to Make Vanilla Ice Cream at Home

Words To Drink By
"None so deaf as those who will not hear. 
None so blind as those who will not see. 
But I'll wager none so deaf nor blind that he 
Sees not nor hears me say, 'Come drink this beer.'"
--W. L. Hassoldt.