The Food Almanac: Wednesday, May 15, 2013

National Chocolate Chip Day
Wikimedia Commons/ Editor at Large

Gourmet Gazetteer
Butter Creek runs nine miles through the rolling fields of southern Illinois, fifty miles south of St. Louis. Coincidentally, it runs into Nimemile Creek, a tributary of the Kaskaskia River, which six miles south runs into the Mississippi. The nearest place to eat in this bucolic setting is the Farmer's Table Restaurant in Evansville, six miles north.

Edible Dictionary
fingerling potato, n.--A variety of potato that produces small tubers about the size and shape of a finger or sausage. They're not merely small standard potatoes. A dozen or so varieties of fingerling potatoes are grown. The best-known is the Russian banana, which has a pale, yellowish-brown skin and a moist, smooth interior like that of a creamer. Other varieties are drier and flakier, like baking potatoes. Fingerlings can be cooked in all the usual ways, from boiling to baking. They're significantly more expensive than standard potatoes, and so are usually served whole instead of mashed or cubed, where the shape and size don't matter.

Food At War
On this date in 1862, General Benjamin "Beast" Butler, heading the Union occupation of New Orleans, ordered all captured women to be turned over to him for his pleasure. These were bad times, but falling early in the Civil War proved to be a good thing for New Orleans, which was not burned and looted the way many other Southern cities were. Antoine's and several other restaurants continued to operate.

Meanwhile, on the very same day in another branch of the Federal government, the Department of Agriculture was founded by an Act of Congress. Celebrate the day by driving by the USDA's interesting Art Deco building in City Park at the corner of Wisner and Robert E. Lee, and recall that almost all our food starts with farmers.

The Saints 
Speaking of farmers, it's the feast day of one of their many patron saints. Isidore The Farmer lived in Madrid in the eleventh century. His story is that, because he was criticized by fellow farmers for letting his work go while he attended Mass, a cadre of angels came and plowed his field. He's also the patron saint of cattle ranchers.If you have a steak today you can say it's in homage to Isidore.

Food In The Air 
Ellen Church, the first stewardess on an airliner, made her first working flight on this date in 1930, from San Francisco to Cheyenne. This sounds like a joke, but it's true: she served a meal of fruit salad, chicken, and bread rolls to the passengers. What's wrong with the name "stewardess" that we can't use it anymore?

Food And The Environment
Today in 1908, American governors met with Theodore Roosevelt at the White House. They issued a declaration that conservation measures for the environment were needed. It was the first official recognition that the natural richness of America was not immune to profligate use. Here we are a hundred years later and we still haven't learned this. Today's despoilment: the creation of dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico right off our shores, as a result of the gross overuse of fertilizers in the Corn Belt.

Inventions In Taste
Listerine was registered as a trademark for a mouthwash today in 1923. The funny thing about mouthwash is that it makes orange juice drunk immediately afterward taste worse than the mouthwash itself.

Today's Flavor
Today is allegedly National Chocolate Chip Day. My wife and daughter will go for that. For the past couple of years, my daughter's breakfast has been a couple of large, gooey, freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. If she's in a hurry, sometimes she just eats the dough. I don't know how she can stand it. Chocolate chips from the major manufacturers are actually of pretty good quality chocolate, but they're coated with a thin layer of edible wax, which is what makes me use other forms of chocolate for things like chocolate mousse.

Food Namesakes
Amy Chow, who won gold and silver in the Olympics for the US in 1996, was born today in 1978. . . Katherine Anne Porter, author of Ship of Fools, was born today in 1890. She said, "It's a man's word, and you men can have it." . . . Classical composer Arthur Berger was born today in 1912. . . Wavy Gravy, peace activist, clown, Woodstock performer, and counterculture icon in the 1960s and beyond, was born today in 1936 (as Hugh Romney). . . Australian athlete Lisa Curry-Kenny was born today in 1962. She's an swimmer and an Ironwoman contender, married to an Ironman. (The mind boggles.)

Words To Eat By
"All my wife has ever taken from the Mediterranean—from that whole vast intuitive culture—are four bottles of Chianti to make into lamps, and two china condiment donkeys labeled Sally and Peppy."--Peter Shaffer, British playwright, born today in 1926.

"Great reviews are the worst. They mislead you more than the bad ones, because they only fuel your ego. Then you only want another one, like potato chips or something, and the best thing you get is fat and bloated. I'd rather just refuse, thanks."--Chazz Palminteri, actor, born today in 1951.