The Food Almanac: Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Food Almanac: Tuesday, January 28, 2014

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Tom Fitzmorris publishes The New Orleans Menu.

Gourmets Through History

Today is the feast day of Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor. At Charlemagne’s banquets, roses were scattered over the tables and guests ate with utensils, not fingers. (The implements were mostly knives, the fork having not yet been invented.) One of the world’s greatest white wines is named for him: Corton Charlemagne, all Chardonnay, big and rich. He wasn’t a saint, but he was beatified.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Cereal, Illinois is well-named. It’s in the middle of the vast cornfields on central Illinois, 109 miles south-southwest of Chicago. It was founded as a a station on a branch of the Illinois Central Railroad from Kankake to Bloomington. The line was spun off into its own company some years ago, and is now called the Bloomer Line. All it does is haul corn from grain elevators to major rail connections. A branch of Indian Creek loops around Cereal, and a few farmhouses are scattered nearby. The nearest restaurant is Marie’s Meating (!) Place in Chatsworth, about five miles away.

Today’s Flavor

This is International Lasagna Day. The cold weather likely on this date makes a big casserole dish full of meaty, saucy, cheesy, heartwarming lasagna seem perfect. Lasagna is a long time in the oven—what could be better than a winter day for that?

Like many dishes, lasagna is named for the container in which it is made. In this case, it’s unappetizing. The Greek word from which lasagna descends meant “chamber pot.” The first versions were baked in large, deep dishes. The ingredients and their assembly probably evolved from the many layered, baked casseroles (Greek moussaka is the most familiar) that are still found in the Balkans. Lasagna as we know it—with its layers of cheese, meat, and sauce—is probably not much more than a hundred years old.

However, recently a story broke in England claiming that the dish originated there. This is not entirely incredible, because layered dishes (shepherd’s pie) are also of long standing in the Isles. Here’s the story from the BBC.

The current controversy among cooks of lasagna in America is whether the dry noodles (flat, broad sheets, sometimes wavy at the edges) should be layered into the dish cooked or uncooked. Both seem to work, but we have a better idea: the best lasagna is made with fresh (undried) pasta sheets, uncooked.

Many sources report that today is also Blueberry Pancake Day. Fresh blueberries are completely out of season in America. They are, however, growing nicely and ready to fly or float in from Chile. They’re not even all that expensive. Still, this doesn’t seem like the right day for this. Not even the pancake part. Pancakes are associated with Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras to you and me), whose earliest possible date is eight days off.

Edible Dictionary

edamame, [ed-eh-MAHM-ee], Japanese, n.–The Japanese name for soybeans. It literally translates as “beans growing on bushes.” In this country, it refers to lightly boiled, salted pods of soybeans. They’re served cool as an appetizer in Asian restaurants, particularly sushi bars. They seem uninviting until you squeeze the pod, pop a bean out, and munch it. After that, it’s hard to stop eating them. The beans are underripe, green, and soft. The water in which they’re boiled is quite salty, so the beans are too. It may be a plot to get you to drink more beer, with which edamame goes well.

Deft Dining Rule #834:

You should never be able to finish a restaurant serving of lasagna comfortably.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

The perfect lasagna has exactly twice as much cheese–both in kind and in quantity–as it has meat.

Music To Dine By

Today in 1830, Daniel-François-Esprit Auber’s opera Fra Diavolo opened in Paris. It was about a reprobate from Naples bearing the same name as the opera. Fra Diavolo means “brother devil.” It appears on Italian menus as a spicy dish of shellfish (shrimp and lobster, most commonly) and a peppery red sauce.

Annals Of Food Writing

This is the birthday, in 1873, of Sidonie Gabrielle Colette, a French novelist who wrote under her last name alone. She was highly quotable on the subjects of eating, drinking, and loving. Here are a few of her memorable lines:

“The three great stumbling blocks in a girl’s education are homard a l’Americaine, a boiled egg, and asparagus.”

“As he chops, cut, slices, trims, shapes, or threads through the string, a butcher is as good a sight to watch as a dancer or a mime.”

“If you aren’t up to a little magic occasionally, you shouldn’t waste time trying to cook.”

“If I can’t have too many truffles, I’ll do without truffles.”

Food Namesakes

Today in 1945, General “Vinegar” Joe Stilwell reopened the Burma Road from that country to China, a victory in World War II. . Jackson Pollock, the painter famous for dripping paint on canvases, was born today in 1912. (Pollock is the northern Pacific fish used to make fake crabmeat.). . Marty Fried, drummer for the 1960s rock band the Cyrkle (who opened for the Beatles when they toured America) was born today in 1944. . Jan Lamb–Hong Kong stand-up comedian, radio personality, and voice-over artist–bleated his first today in 1967.

Words To Eat By

“Voluptuaries, consumed by their senses, always begin by flinging themselves with a great display of frenzy into an abyss. But they survive, they come to the surface again. And they develop a routine of the abyss: ‘It’s four o clock. At five I have my abyss.’”–Colette, French playwright and author, born today in 1873.

Words To Drink Zinfandel By

“Someone is putting brandy in your bonbons, Grand Marnier in your breakfast jam, Kahlua in your ice cream, Scotch in your mustard and Wild Turkey in your cake.”–Marian Burros, New York Times food writer.

The almanac

Today is Tuesday, Jan. 28, the 28th day of 2014 with 337 to follow.

The moon is waning. The morning stars are Mars, Saturn and Venus. The evening stars are Jupiter, Mercury, Neptune and Uranus.

Those born on this date are under the sign of Aquarius. They include Roman Catholic St. Thomas Aquinas in 1225 Canadian Prime Minister and statesman Alexander MacKenzie in 1822 British explorer Henry Morton Stanley in 1841 Cuban revolutionary and poet Jose Marti in 1853 French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette in 1873 concert pianist Arthur Rubinstein in 1887 abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock in 1912 musician Acker Bilk and sculptor Claes Oldenburg in 1929 (age 85) actor Alan Alda in 1936 (age 78) former Liberian leader Charles Taylor and ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, both in 1948 (age 66) former French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 1955 (age 59) singer Sarah McLachlan in 1968 (age 46) comedian Mo Rocca in 1969 (age 45) actors Susan Howard in 1944 (age 70) and Elijah Wood in 1981 (age 33) and singers Joey Fatone in 1977 (age 37) and Nick Carter in 1980 (age 34).

In 1547, Henry VIII died and 9-year-old Edward VI became king of England.

In 1782, the U.S. Congress authorized creation of the Great Seal of the United States.

In 1813, "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen was published.

In 1878, the first commercial telephone switchboard began operation in New Haven, Conn.

In 1958, The Lego Group received a patent for its toy building blocks.

In 1965, the Canadian Parliament accepted a new national flag design that included a red maple leaf in its center.

In 1974, Israel lifted its siege of Suez City and turned over 300,000 square miles of Egyptian territory to the United Nations, ending an occupation that had begun during the October 1973 war.

In 1982, kidnapped U.S. Army Brig. Gen. James Dozier was rescued in Padua, Italy, after being held 42 days by Italian Red Brigades militants.

In 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 72 seconds after launch from Cape Canaveral, killing all seven crew members, including civilian teacher Christa McAuliffe.

In 1993, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled that the U.S. military's policy against homosexuals was unconstitutional because it was "based on cultural myths and false stereotypes."

In 1995, the United States and Vietnam agreed to exchange low-level diplomats and open liaison offices in each other's capital cities.

In 1997, five former police officers in South Africa admitted to killing anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko, who died in police custody in 1977 and whose death had been officially listed as an accident.

In 2000, the U.S. government admitted that workers making nuclear weapons were exposed to radiation and chemicals that led to cancer and early death.

In 2004, the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq told Congress government officials "were almost all wrong" in believing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and called for an outside independent investigation of the apparent intelligence failure.

In 2005, Condoleezza Rice was sworn in as the 66th U.S. secretary of state. She was the first African-American woman to hold the office.

In 2009, the World Health Organization said more than 3,000 people died of cholera during an outbreak in Zimbabwe.

In 2011, Tunisia's interim government issued an arrest warrant for ousted president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali who fled to Saudi Arabia after massive demonstrations forced him from office.

In 2013, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands announced she would end her 33-year rule in April.

A thought for the day: "Getting ahead in a difficult profession requires avid faith in yourself. That is why some people with mediocre talent, but with great inner drive, go much further than people with vastly superior talent." -- Sophia Loren

Pet Food Conference to be hosted January 28, 2014, at IPPE in Atlanta, Georgia, USA

The American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) in partnership with the Poultry Protein and Fat Council will sponsor the seventh annual Pet Food Conference on Tuesday, January 28, 2014, the first day of the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE). The conference will be held at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, from 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

The meeting's topics will range from updates on the Food Safety Modernization Act, third-party certification programs including AFIA's Pet Food Manufacturing Facility Certification Program, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), as well as a panel discussion on communication and industry best practices. The conference will feature several industry experts discussing topics impacting today's petfood and petfood ingredient manufacturers, including Svetlana Uduslivaia of Euromonitor International, speaking about domestic and global industry trends.

New for 2014, the conference will include a luncheon with guest speakers from Nutra Blend LLC discussing the "Drive to Feed the World/Chew on This" tour as well as consumer-outreach messaging.

"We are excited to kick off IPPE with AFIA's annual Pet Food Conference, which attracts more than 200 participants each year." said Leah Wilkinson, AFIA director of ingredients, petfood and state affairs. "The seminar covers everything from product claims, marketing and nutrition to regulatory and technical aspects of production and is a great networking opportunity."