The Food Almanac: Tuesday, June 4, 2013

It's National Blue Cheese Day!
Wikimedia Commons/ Nataraja

Food Calendar
It is National Blue Cheese Day. Today in 1070, Roquefort cheese is said to have been discovered. A shepherd found a chunk of cheese he left in a cave some time earlier near the town of Roquefort, France. It was moldy, but he was hungry. He found the mold gave the cheese an exciting new flavor. This is probably just a legend. Cheeses that become delicious after being infected with molds have been known since Roman times.

Roquefort is the most famous of all blue cheeses, and the first cheese to have been recognized as unique to the place where it is made. It even has a slogan: "The King of Cheeses, and the Cheese of Kings." (It's not the only cheese that claims this.) The only true Roquefort comes from that same small area of France, where the Lacaune breed of sheep produce the milk from which it is made. Cheesemakers claim that the plants in that area, and the limestone caves in which the cheese is aged, are what's unique. The mold produces an acid that gives blue cheese its distinctive tang. The mold is the same penicillin mold that shows up on old bread. Roquefort has a particularly powerful taste. 

Roquefort is not the only blue cheese. Among the more famous others are Stilton (from England), Gorgonzola (Italy), and Maytag (Iowa). Danish blue cheese probably outsells all of those put together. And there's lots of generic blue cheese out there.

Deft Dining Rule #421
(Mary Leigh's Law Of Wedge Salads.) The less expensive the iceberg wedge salad with blue cheese dressing, the better the salad.

Edible Dictionary
washed-rind cheese, n.--Medium to small cylinders or balls of cheese that have been soaked with a liquid before aging begins. The most common washing agent is salt water, but some cheeses are washed with wine or spirits--usually from the area where the cheese is made. The point of this is to add moisture lost when the curds were drained, giving the interior of the cheese a creaminess you wouldn't guess was there from the apparently desiccated rind. Washing also makes the rind less permeable, and keeps the inside of the cheese soft. Brie is probably the most familiar washed-rind cheese. Some of them are inoculated with penicillium mold and develop blue streaks inside; Dorset is a good example.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Dressing Point is an island in the center of Matagorda Bay, an arm of the Gulf of Mexico coast of Texas. It's ninety-one miles south of Houston, the last half-mile of it over water. That water is very shallow--you could wade out the island if you wanted to. The highest point on the island is two feet above sea level. I guess that's where you'd make the dressing for the salad, or for the turkey. You may well be the only one there, not counting millions of birds and fish. The nearest restaurant is Sting Rae's Waterfront Grill, nine miles up the marshy shoreline.

Food Inventions 
A machine that turned large amounts of stale bread into even larger amounts of bread crumbs was patented today in 1895 by Joseph Lee. This paved the way for oysters Mosca and stuffed artichokes. . . The supermarket shopping cart was invented today in 1936 by Oklahoma supermarket owner Sylvan Goldman. The baskets on wheels looked much like the ones in use today, but smaller.

Annals Of Winemaking 
Jean Antoine Claude Chaptal was born today in France in 1756. He was a chemist who worked in many fields, including winemaking. He introduced the practice of adding sugar to grape juice to assist poor vintages in fermenting to reasonable alcohol levels. Chaptalization, as the technique is now called, is still used in French winemaking. It is forbidden in the United States.

The Saints
Today is the feast day of St. Francis Caracciolo, who lived in the 1500s. He is the patron saint of the Association of Italian Cooks. Also the city of Naples, so have a slice of pizza in his honor today.

Annals Of Cheap Drinks 
Today in 1974, the Cleveland Indians introduced Ten-Cent Beer Night to boost attendance. It worked okay, but at those prices anybody could get drunk. And they did. Badly-behaved fans, many of whom were paying no attention to the game, turned the stadium into a brawl. The Indians had to forfeit the game. The same has not happened in restaurants with two-bit (or cheaper) cocktails. Which proves that people who spend their leisure time in restaurants behave better than sports fans. I rest my case.

Food Namesakes
Bergland Icey, an actor from (appropriately enough) Iceland was born today in 1977.

This isn't a food name, but every year I note the 1815 birthday of Jefferson Parish Kidder. He was a traveling politician in Vermont, Minnesota, and finally the Dakota Territory. But he sounds like the guy who suggested to Aaron Broussard that he send the pumping station operators home during the hurricane.

Words To Eat By
"What I know about our blue cheese dressing is that you'll either love it or hate it--no in between."--Dottye Bennett, the longtime waitress (now retired) at Charlie's Steakhouse (she was Charlie's daughter).


Words To Drink By
"Don't forget that the flavors of wine and cheese depend upon the types of infecting micro-organisms."--Martin H. Fischer,Cincinnati physiology professor.