The Food Almanac: Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It's National Candy Corn Day!

Candy corn is another one of those foods (to stretch the definition) like blue cheese, liver, and anchovies: you either love it or you hate it.

Food Inventions
Today in 1894 Domenico Melegatti won an Italian patent on an apparatus for producing pandoro on a commercial scale. Pandoro is a rich, eggy, sweet, yeast cake that looks sort of like a bundt. It's name means "bread of gold," and its was so expensive to make in the days before easily-available sugar that it was only on the tables of the nobility. Now we can all enjoy it, along with its close cousin pannetone. Both of them are traditional Italian treats around the holidays.

Today's Flavor
This is Cochon de Lait Day. Cochon de lait is a small pig, still suckling its mother's milk (hence the name). It's roasted whole over an open fire. It's a mainstay of festivals at this time of year throughout Southeast Louisiana. My direct experience with it came from roasting them at Boy Scout campouts. One of the other dads had rigged up a rotisserie, and the forty-pound pig roasted on it from eight in the morning until about five in the afternoon. What came out was eminently tender, smoky, and wonderful. Forty pounds might be a bit large for cochon de lait, but the idea is the same. The typical way to roast them is to butterfly the pig on a flat metal rack, which is then propped up in front of the fire and turned every now and then. 

Such a process goes beyond what most restaurants want to undertake. Very few restaurants offer cochon de lait these days. The most prominent is Donald Link's appropriately named Cochon, where the whole idea is to recapitulate all that Cajun butcher shop cookery in the Acadiana. 

If you want to try it yourself, the hard part is getting a pig. Langenstein's will order one for you, and the Gourmet Butcher Block also has them on special order. I like the product, but having watched the process a few times I must say it's not something I'm inclined to perform myself--even though my wife has been badgering me for years to dig a pit and try. She may ultimately win out, but I hope not. 

Today is also to be National Candy Corn Day. A great deal of candy corn has been purchased for distribution tomorrow across America. Candy corn is another one of those foods (to stretch the definition) like blue cheese, liver, and anchovies: you either love it or you hate it.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine
Today in 1952, Clarence Birdseye--the inventor of frozen food as we know it--presented his new frozen peas to a waiting world. Peas became much more popular after they didn't need to be shelled. . . Today in 1989, the Smith Dairy of Orrville, Ohio made the world's record milk shake: 1575 gallons. The flavor is unknown.

Delicious-Sounding Places
Pig, Kentucky is halfway between Louisville and Nashville, on the southeast boundary of Mammoth Cave National Park. It's a pretty, rolling area of farm fields and strips of woods, with numerous houses spread well apart. Probably pigs are raised, and certainly they are eaten around there. Memphis-style barbecue rules. If you want to be served, it's a six-mile drive to the Porky Pig Diner in Smith's Grove.

Edible Dictionary
boucherie, n., French--The French word for "butcher shop" takes on a special meaning in the Cajun country of Southwest Louisiana. There are found many small shops specializing in smoking and curing meats, making sausages, roasting whole pigs, and creating other meat specialties. The cuts, cooking methods, seasonings, and final products are highly distinctive to the area. Andouille and boudin are the most popular, but just the beginning of the Cajun boucherie's range. More's the pity, the concept has not spread far from Acadiana. The French roots of these shops is clear, although in France the products would be different, with a greater emphasis on pates and terrines and less on smoked meats.

Deft Dining Rule #901
Cochon de lait roasted by a bunch of guys standing around an open pit drinking beer will always be incomparably better than that which comes from a restaurant.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
Slow and low is the most delicious way to cook a whole pig. But too slow and too low will kill you.

Annals Of Food Writing
Andrew Jackson Downing, who wrote about landscaping in the early 1800s, was born today in 1815. His landmark book was The Fruits and Fruit Trees of America. He was an influence on Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed many of the major American city parks.

Food Namesakes
Today in 1974, pitcher Catfish Hunter won the American League Cy Young Award. . . Television actor Ken Berry was born today in 1933. . . . The man who created the Little Golden Books we all read as children, Albert Rice Leventhal, was born today in 1907. . . American actor Rex Cherryman took The Big Stage today in 1897.


Words To Eat By
"Any part of the piggy
Is quite all right with me
Ham from Westphalia, ham from Parma
Ham as lean as the Dalai Lama
Ham from Virginia, ham from York, 
Trotters, sausages, hot roast pork. 
Crackling crisp for my teeth to grind on
Bacon with or without the rind on
Though humanitarian
I'm not a vegetarian.
I'm neither crank nor prude nor prig
And though it may sound infra dig
Any part of the darling pig
Is perfectly fine with me."--Noel Coward, British songwriter.