The Food Almanac: Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Staff Writer
It's National Barbecue Baby Back Ribs Day!
Terence Ong

Baby backs are, as the name implies, the small ribs that come from the rear of its spinal column. They contain a higher proportion of meat to bone than spareribs or St. Louis style ribs.

Today's Flavor
This is National Barbecue Baby Back Ribs Day. Baby backs are, as the name implies, the small ribs that come from the rear of its spinal column. They contain a higher proportion of meat to bone than spareribs or St. Louis style ribs. They're also not as fatty. This is why baby back ribs are controversial. Some people like them better than spareribs, and some say they're inferior. But they're looking for different qualities.

Baby backs can be cooked many ways. You can bake them in the oven (preferably wrapped with aluminum foil in the early stages), grill them, barbecue them, or smoke them. Or combine two techniques--start their cooking in the oven, then finishing them on a hot charcoal grill. In my opinion, the best way by far is to season the racks with Creole seasoning, then let them smoke for a few hours. Don't let barbecue sauce get anywhere near them until they're finished cooking. The worst way is to boil them then grill them over a hot fire, which is what most restaurants do. But some people even like those, because the meat slides right off the bones.

Ribs are a great Labor Day dish. Perfect timing.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez: 
From beginner to professional, no two barbecue cooks agree on what constitutes "real" barbecue.

Edible Dictionary
St. Louis ribs, n.--A style of preparing barbecued spare ribs. The ribs come from the lower part of the pig, usually from just past the breastbone. The rack has a bout a dozen ribs, with large bones but a good deal of meat. They're cooked in a closed smoke pit at 225-250 degrees until full cooked and crusty. The next step is distinctive: St. Louis ribs, after coming off the pit, are often put into a pan full of barbecue sauce and simmered in it for a half-hour or so. This makes the ribs very tender, with the meat beginning to fall from the bone. The term is also used in some barbecue places as nearly synonymous with conventional barbecue spare ribs, without the simmering.

Deft Dining Rule #15
No smoke, no barbecue.

Food Calendar
And it's also Welsh Rarebit Day. It's pronounced rabbit, a little joke on the Welsh, who turned it around by changing the spelling. It's a potentially disgusting mixture of cheese (Cheddar, usually), mustard, beer, butter, flour, and pepper, served warm for spreading on bread. My best advice about Welsh rarebit: avoid it.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Rabbit Ridge is in central Arkansas, fifty-eight miles north of Little Rock. It's a crossroads in rolling farm country, growing corn and cotton and truck vegetables. It's named for a textbook example of a hogback ridge, running a couple of miles east-west through the area, rising over 100 feet and dropping again in a ridge only a few dozen yards wide. Rabbit Ridge is further accents by tree cover, in contrast with the open fields on both sides of fit. Growing what they grow around there, it's a certainty that rabbits are noted. If you're hungry while passing through, Grandpa's Restaurant is five miles west in Center Ridge.

Food In Music 
Tom Glazer was born today in 1914. He sang and wrote the words of a children's song I'll bet you know: On Top Of Spaghetti, sung to the melody of On Top Of Old Smokey. Here are the lyrics if you don't remember the plot. It has to do with where the meatball got off to.

Annals Of Food Technology
Today in 2002, McDonald's changed the oil in which it fried potatoes. If you're thinking "it's about time!" that's not what I mean. They shifted from a high-trans-fats shortening to a combination of corn and soybean oils. This improved the quality of the fries--although they still were much inferior to McD fries in the glory years. Back then, they used rendered beef fat for frying fresh potatoes cut on the premises. The quality has gone steadily downward since then.

Annals Of America
Today in 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed by the governments of the United States and Great Britain, making official the results of the Revolutionary War. It was the day Americans sort of went to act of sale on their new country and moved in for good. Something else to celebrate with the ribs, hamburgers, and hot dogs this weekend.

Food Namesakes
Donald Brewer, the drummer for the 1970s group Grand Funk, was born today in 1948. . . Early MTV video jock Adam Curryintroduced his life today in 1964. . . Cherry Barbara Grimm, who wrote fantasy novels under the name Cherry Wilder, had her own first page today in 1930. . . Jason "Cone" McCaslin, bassist with the pop band Sum 41, was born today in 1980. . . Race car drive Nino Farina won the 1950 Italian Grand Prix, driving a Formula One car. . . Basil Butcher--who has a rare double food name--was born today in 1933. He was a professional cricket player.

Words To Eat By 
"Around here, grillin's grillin' and barbecue is, well--sigh, sweat--what dinin' in heaven's got to be all about."--Jane Garvey, American wine writer.

Words To Drink Beer By
"Show me a nation whose national beverage is beer, and I'll show you an advanced toilet technology."--Paul Hawkins, British politician.