The Food Almanac: Tuesday, October 11, 2012

In The Food Almanac, Tom Fitzmorris of the online newsletter, The New Orleans Menu, notes food facts and sayings.

Today's Flavor
It's appropriate that, right in the middle of Oktoberfest, this should be Schnitzel Day. A schnitzel is a piece of meat that has been pounded thin, and then cooked. Usually it's breaded and sizzled in a pan of hot oil, along the same lines as our familiar pannée meat, but with a lighter breading and less seasoning.

It's not certain where schnitzels originated. The most credible history has it first in Alpine Italy, from which it spread to Austria, then to Germany. The original schnitzels were made not with veal, but pork, which — makes sense. (I much prefer pork cooked this way to veal.)

The most famous of the schnitzels is Wiener schnitzel — or, as some restaurants have it, Vienna schnitzel, in honor of the place from which it came. It's simple, with a scattering of capers and a spritz of lemon juice. One I always liked was Holsteiner schnitzel — the same idea, but with a fried egg on top.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
The best veal medallions (scaloppine, schnitzel, collops, etc.) are cut from the round across the grain. It's astonishing how many meat cutters don't seem to know that veal cut along the natural orientation of the muscle tissues is anything but tender.

Edible Dictionary
hasenpfeffer, German, n. — A stew of hare, unusual among German dishes in that it traditionally contains a good deal of black pepper. It's mellowed by the addition of pasta dumplings or noodles and sour cream. Hares are bigger than rabbits, as well as gamier in flavor. Because of those two conditions, the meat is usually marinated a few days before cooking in wine or even vinegar.

Looking Up
Late this evening, the Hunter's Moon reaches fullness. It's almost as bright as last month's Harvest Moon, and nearly as high in the sky. But what would you be out hunting in the dark? Mushrooms?

Food Entrepreneurs
Today is the birthday, in 1844, of Henry John Heinz, he of the 57 varieties of pickles and sauces. He found his path early, raising vegetables and selling them to grocers in Pittsburgh when he was 12. By the time he was 25, he was bottling prepared horseradish — in a clear jar, so you could see what you were getting. Then on to pickles, sauerkraut, mustard, pepper sauce, and soups. But the company's biggest hit was its ketchup (they've always spelled it that way). It's the leading brand in America. Heinz still uses the "57" as a trademark, although they have plenty more varieties of products than that.

Food Inventors
William A. Mitchell, a food chemist working for General Foods, created some of the most successful products in food marketing history. Tang, for example. A powder that you mixed with water to make a drink that tasted vaguely like orange juice, it actually replaced juice for a lot of people, who considered it modern. Mitchell patented Pop Rocks candy in the 1950s, but had to wait until the 1970s to see it explode — literally. Pop Rocks contain bubbles of pressurized carbon dioxide, and they pop when the candy dissolves in your mouth. His next hit was Cool Whip, the non-dairy whipped cream substitute, sold in a plastic bowl with a tight-fitting lid. Many containers of Cool Whip were no doubt bought for the container. I wonder whether Mitchell made anything that was real or tasted good. Well, you can't knock his success — 70 patents. Mitchell was born today in 1911.

Food In History?
This sounds like a kitchen accident, but wasn't. Today in 1922, Turkey and Greece called a cease-fire.

Annals of Chefs Gone Nuts
In 1999, in Paris on this day, chefs, incensed about a 20 percent tax on restaurant meals, rioted. Things got nasty enough that it had to be quelled with tear gas. The chefs' weapons? Eggs. Imagine.

Food Namesakes
Pro football player Ron Mayo was born today in 1950 . . . Texas Congressman J.J. Pickle was born today in 1913 . . . If only we could find someone named Ketchup and another named Mustard whose birthdays are today!

Words to Eat By
"Every man will have to give an account of himself for every good thing which he would have liked to eat, but did not." — Hillel.

Words to Drink By
"One of the disadvantages of wine is that it makes a man mistake words for thoughts." — Samuel Johnson.

Check out other Food Almanac columns by Tom Fitzmorris.