The Food Almanac: Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Staff Writer
It's National Waiters and Waitresses Day!
Robert Dicksee

Annals Of Service
This is National Waiters and Waitresses Day. One of the four major elements in the restaurant organism (cooks, management, and customers are the others), service people probably contribute more to the personality and success of a restaurant than any other force. Every survey ever done on the matter has shown that service is more important to restaurant diners than anything else. If you want to get better service, make up your mind never to give less than a twenty percent tip. A server can smell that fact about you, and will respond in a way that will be worthy of that gratuity.

Today's Flavor 
Today is Southern Wild Blackberry Day. At this time of year in the New Orleans area, blackberries and the closely related dewberries are ripening all over. There's a frustrating aspect to this. Even though we always find lush stands of dewberries everywhere around us, they are rarely on our own property. You have to walk down the road to an open field to find the really good berry-picking grounds. We have a few blackberry vines, too, producing juicier berries, but not many of those either. But we still have lots of fun going out there and picking the berries, eating as we go. We never seem to find enough to outpace our eating.

Gourmet Gazetteer
One of two places named Veal, Georgia is at the crossroads of State Highways 68 and 57, forty-five miles east of Macon, near the center of the state. A few farmhouses and barns are there, as well as rolling fields interspersed with woods. Unless one of the Vealians invite you in for a bite, you have at least ten miles to drive to find a place to eat, and then your choices will be among the usual fast-food outfits. And Thompson's Cove in Toomsboro, nine miles west on GA 57.

Deft Dining Rule #320
If you have to choose between ordering breakfast a la carte or getting it from the buffet, the presence of fresh blackberries on the latter tilts the decision toward the buffet.

Edible Dictionary 
spatchcocked, adj.--An old word that's coming back into vogue again, meaning the same thing as "butterflied" when applied to small birds or (less often) fish. It adds one more detail: the cut is made along the backbone, which is then removed with the rib cage. The rest of the bird is flattened out, and the breast remains in one piece. This is the best way to dispatch a quail or a squab for fast, uncomplicated cooking. It takes a little practice to get the hang of spatchcocking.

Gourmets On Television
Today is the birthday, in 1917, of actor Raymond Burr. He began his career in radio westerns (!), but became a superstar on television as Perry Mason, attorney. He went on to star in other big programs. As could be told by his growing size, he was a dedicated eater. He liked New Orleans and was a regular at Commander's Palace until not long before his death in 1993.

Philosophy Of Eating 
The Greek philosopher Plato was born today in 427 B.C. his theories about the ultimate expression of a state of being gave rise to Richard Collins' expression "platonic dish" in his New Orleans Underground Gourmet, the city's first critical restaurant guide, in the 1970s. The term was so original that it is still used, often by people who have no idea where it came from. Some of the dishes he deemed platonic were oysters Rockefeller at Antoine's, shrimp remoulade at Galatoire's, crabmeat St. Francis at LeRuth's, and eggs Hussarde at Brennan's.

Restaurants Through History 
Today in 1923, Delmonico Restaurant in New York City closed. It is regarded the first modern restaurant in America, opening almost a century earlier. Prohibition was blamed for its demise. Delmonico's was the kind of place one went for the most lavish of meals with celebratory quantities of wine and spirits. It just didn't seem right without the beverages, but styles were changing too. Delmonico's and the Jazz Age didn't really fit together well. It would later reopen, close, and reopen again (it's on now). Its intermittent past allows Antoine's to claim to be the longest-running restaurant in the country. Many restaurants around the country used the Delmonico name even when there was no connection at all. The one here, for example.

Food Namesakes 
Today in 1955, Chuck Berry recorded Maybelline, the song that pushed the accelerator of his career to the floor. . . Oil executive Armand Hammer, who had no connection with the baking soda of the same name, was born today in 1898. . . Jazz pianist and composer Fats Waller was born today in 1904. . . Tabasco Cat won the Preakness today in 1994. . . British social reformer Elizabeth Fry came into the cold world today in 1780. . . Chris Raab, comic actor in the Jackass series and others, jerked out today in 1980.

Words To Eat By 
"Pepper is small in quantity and great in virtue."--Plato.

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Words To Drink By
"The harsh, useful things of the world, from pulling teeth to digging potatoes, are best done by men who are as starkly sober as so many convicts in the death-house. But the lovely and useless things, the charming and exhilarating things, are best done by men with, as the phrase is, a few sheets in the wind."--H.L. Mencken.