The Food Almanac: Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Food Calendar

The Web reports that today is National Pizza With Everything Except Anchovies Day. That's obviously the creation of someone without much taste in composing pizzas. 

It's also National Broccoli Day. The broccoli crop around New Orleans is peaking right now. It and the other cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage are also being picked for the Thanksgiving table.

Broccoli is a hybrid of cauliflower and a wild cabbage. It was originally a thin-stalked plant with small florets. Over the centuries, new cultivars came along with much bigger heads, made of thousands of small flower buds. The stems became bigger, too, in response to consumer preference for fleshier vegetables.

Broccoli inspires either love or hate. Supertasters–about twenty-five percent of the population, they have more taste buds and a more acute sense of taste–usually hate broccoli, because they taste something offensive in it that most of us can't. For the majority of us who like it, though, it's an essential vegetable. It looks good and tastes good. Eating it has many health benefits. I like broccoli two ways: cooked with olive oil spiked with crushed red pepper and lemon juice, or simply steamed with hollandaise sauce. (You can feel the healthy broccoli and the unhealthy butter and eggs fighting it out inside you.)

Deft Dining Rule #440
Broccoli au gratin is just overcooked broccoli with melted cheese on top. Why would you want that?

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
Broccoli is the best reason to buy a steamer insert for a saucepan. It's a gentler way of cooking that gets the job done better than boiling or microwaving, and allows you to catch the vegetable after it stops squeaking but before it turns to mush.

Edible Dictionary
cruciferous vegetable, n.–The old name for plants in the Brassicaceae family, which includes many edible species. Some of them are broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, and kale. They are grown and eaten throughout the world, but especially in the Mediterranean region. Many of them are winter crops. They name "cruciferous" means "cross-bearing," so called because the flowers have four petals that form a cross. All the cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolate–also known as mustard oil. This gives a distinctive aroma when cooking that some find offensive. The cruciferous vegetables are considered not only delicious but very healthful to eat.

Annals Of Seafood
Today in 1974, a salmon attempting to swim up the River Thames for spawning purposes was captured and positively identified. It was the first time in 141 years that a salmon had been found in the long-polluted river that runs through London. Since salmon won't spawn in hostile water, this was a milestone in environmental efforts in England. The salmon kept coming, with over 300 of them spawning in the Thames in 1993. It's since dropped back down to about 50.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Salmon Creek, Washington is a suburban town across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. It has a healthy population of about 17,000 people.The actual creek of the same name is a tributary of the Columbia. It is one of thirteen streams in Washington State that bear that appropriate name, what with salmon spawning in most of them. This particular Salmon Creek is twenty-six miles long, originating in the foothills of the Cascade Range. Back to the town: the restaurant scene in Salmon Creek is dominated by chains, but for something with more personality go to the Cafe at 134th, less than a mile from the center of Salmon Creek.

Music To Eat Shrimp By
Today is the birthday, in 1917, of Jo Stafford, one of the two or three finest female vocal interpreters of popular song. She was the girl singer with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra when Frank Sinatra was the boy singer. She followed that gig with a long, successful solo career. Two of her biggest hits–Jambalaya and Shrimp Boats–were about Louisiana food, even though she wasn't from here. Might have been the influence of her husband Paul Weston, who liked New Orleans enough that he composed Crescent City Suite.

Food In The Movies
It's the birthday, in 1943, of writer and actor Wallace Shawn. His most interesting major role was the lead in My Dinner With Andre.

Exotic Places To Dine
Today in 1956, the most massive iceberg ever sighted was found by an American research ship named (appropriately) the USS Glacier. The iceberg was 208 miles long and 60 miles wide. That's bigger than Belgium. It had recently broken off Antarctica. Cruises to Antarctica are so popular that it's hard to book space on them. What a stop this would make! And at the rate restaurants are opening and closing, the place could have a normal life span until the floe melted!

Politics In Food
Today in 1977, Ernest N. "Dutch" Morial was elected mayor of New Orleans. Among the innovations in his administration was the French Quarter Festival, from which both the Creole Christmas and Satchmo Festivals later grew. All are major food festivals now. The alley behind the French Market (from which you reached Bella Luna when they were there) is also named for him, as is the Convention Center.

Annals Of Medicine In Eating
Today in 2003, Pfizer's new drug Lipitor passed tests that concluded that it could lower cholesterol levels, thereby inspiring the much greater eating of steaks, bacon, and butter by patients receiving the drugs. (Some of them, anyway.)

Food Namesakes
Booker T. Jones, who had an instrumental hit in the mid-1960s with a great jazzy pop song called Green Onions, was born today in 1944. . . British singer Errol Brown, of the band Hot Chocolate, was born today in 1948.

Words To Eat By
"An onion can make people cry, but there has never been a vegetable invented to make them laugh."–Will Rogers.

Words To Drink By
"Men, I feel, are like wine—before buying, a real connoisseur takes a small sip, and spits them out."–Jill Tweedie, English writer.