The Food Almanac: Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It's National Hard Candy Day!
Hard Candy
Wikimedia Commons/Adam Zivner

Hard Candy


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

Days Until. . . 
New Year's Eve--12
Make those reservations now!

Todays Flavor
Today is National Hard Candy Day. This is the time of year when my Aunt Una and millions of people like her set out bowls of candies in red and greens in celebration of the season. I liked the ones that had the preserves-like goo inside. Striped red or green peppermints--the kind many restaurants put out near the exit--also qualify as hard candies. How many may one have? They don't cost much, but if everyone too a handful the bowl would have to be emptied several times a night. On the other hand, when I ask whether I may have three or four, I always get a look from the hostess that says, "Three or four? Some people take fifteen or twenty! Of course! What do I care?"

Gourmet Gazetteer
Lamington is a rural crossroads in north central New Jersey, forty-three miles west of Times Square in New York City. Its name comes from a Native American word for "place within the hills." This describes it well. The farm fields cover wide patches of flat land. The highway and the river--a tributary of the Raritan River--bear the same name as the town. Over a hundred spellings of the name have been recorded over the centuries. The first European permanence came with the establishment of a Presbyterian church in 1740. The nearest restaurant is Houndstooth, a mile and a half away in Oldwick.

Edible Dictionary
lamington, n.--A square of sponge cake coated in chocolate, fondue-style, then sprinkled with coconut. These are a midwinter specialty in Australia and New Zealand. The coconut is supposed to resemble snow. Lamingtons are traditionally made by young people. Youth groups like the Scouts sometimes sell them as fundraisers. This has made them a beloved part of the Australian culinary scene. Although midwinter is in July in Australia, what little currency lamingtons have gained in the United States has come during the Christmas season.

Deft Dining Rule #99:
If you're going to bring a bottle of wine to a restaurant, you will get better cooperation from the management if you buy a bottle if its wine and drink that before you open your own.

Food On The Comics Page
On this day in 1918, Robert Ripley began his illustrated "Believe It Or Not" feature in the New York Globe newspaper. The feature still runs, and has created all sorts of spinoffs, from museums to a television show. I check it every now and then for food facts, like this one from about a week ago: Believe It Or Not! Ninety-three percent of Americans eat pizza at least once a month. Really? Uh. . . actually, I find that quite easy to believe. Let's try another one: Believe It Or Not! This past October, doctors in Australia saved a man from poisoning by giving him an intravenous drip feeding of vodka for three days. Wow! Hmm.

Food In The Movies
The Stanley Kubrick movie A Clockwork Orange premiered today in 1971, although it was a few months before it showed up here. Violent, confusing and weird, it depicted a dark future. It doesn't hold up as well as Kubrick's other works. The memorable food aspect was the milk bar where the ultraviolent protagonist hung out. Drinking milk?. . . In 2007, a movie called Flakes opens today. It's about a couple of harmlessly wacko young people who open a cereal bar and have some luck with it. The place becomes hip, and customers not only eat cereal but discuss the relative merits of various kinds of cereal. Then the idea is ripped off by a restaurant chain, and further fun ensues.

Criminal Eating
Today in 2003, Marie Denise Flowers swallowed a one-and-a-half-carat diamond ring in a jewelry store near Tampa, Florida. Someone saw her do it, and when her stomach was X-rayed, the ring was seen. She was put into custody until the ring reappeared. Which it did, three days later--on her birthday, as it turned out. It still had the price tag attached: $20,000.

Music To Eat Red Beans By
Today is the birthday, in 1918, of Professor Longhair. Henry Byrd (his real name) was one of the seminal figures in early New Orleans R&B. His music influenced almost everybody playing that style today. In funky backstreet joints of all kinds around town, it won't be long before a Fess song comes up. Just hearing his voice makes one hungry for red beans and fried chicken.

The Ecology Of Food
The overharvest of bird's nests in Thailand for use in Chinese restaurants was reported today in 2000. It was identified as the cause for a crash in the population of swiftlets, the birds that make the nests out of saliva. If you ever see a bird's nest soup, here, the nests are made of pasta, not bird spit.

Food Namesakes
Cyril Collard, a French film director, started production of his life today in 1957. . . Mary Ashton Livermore, an early proponent of women's rights in America, was born today in 1821. . . Su Shi, “Su Dongpo,” a Chinese writer and philosopher, was born today in 1036.

Words To Eat By
"Fools make feasts, and wise men eat 'em."--Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard's Almanack, first published on this date in 1732.


"One sits the whole day at the desk and appetite is standing next to me. 'Away with you,' I say. But Comrade Appetite does not budge from the spot."--Leonid Brezhnev,Premier of the USSR in the 1970s, born today in 1906.