February 20 In Eating

February 20, 2014

Days Until. . .  

Mardi Gras–12
St. Patrick’s Day 26
St. Joseph’s Day 28

Today’s Flavor 

Many websites claim that today is National Cherry Pie Day. The problem with this is that cherries are totally out of season right now, and we must make any cherry pie with canned cherries, resulting in a cloyingly oversweet dessert. Remember when you could get a cherry pie at McDonald’s and places of that ilk? Just apple now, I think (although I’m behind on my research on fast-food fried pies.)

Great Moments In Grocery Shopping 

The square-bottomed paper bag was invented by Luther Crowell of Cape Cod, who spent his spare time folding paper and attempting to make things out of it. He got a patent for his bag–which was universal in grocery stores until the plastic sack took over–in 1867. But on this day in 1872 Crowell patented the machine that made them easily and cheaply.

Beer Through History

The Yuengling Brewery opened in Pottsville, Pennsylvania on this date in 1829. It’s still in business, the oldest American brewery that can make that claim. I guess that makes them a bit older than Dixie. It continued operation during Prohibition by making a nasty drink called “near-beer.” Here’s some background on the outfit, if you’re interested.

Inventions For Better Eating

A toothpick manufacturing machine was invented on this day in 1872, by two guys, J.P. Cooley and Silas Noble. One of them did the round toothpicks and the other flat. The best toothpicks are made of alder wood. Ask the next very expensive restaurant you dine in whether they have alder toothpicks. Then tell them that they should. Let’s see how long this takes to make it into the national food magazines. Most of the toothpicks made in America, by the way, are made in Maine.

Annals Of Wine Marketing

The first wine auction that we know about took place in London on this date in 1673. Amazingly, a bottle of Phelps Insignia went for almost $2,000. No, it didn’t. The wine being auctioned was entirely in barrels, and was sold as a bulk commodity.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Muttontown is on Long Island, about thirty miles from Manhattan. Like much of Long Island, it’s a mix of woods, upscale residences, and summer homes. The Muttontown Preserve, on the west side of the Jericho-Oyster Bay Road, is a large wooded area. The nearest place to dine is Luce Ristorante, a rather nice Italian place across the road from the preserve. No sheep have been seen around there lately, but that’s probably what the name refers to in the long ago.

Edible Dictionary

mutton, n., adj.–The meat of mature sheep, preferably from castrated male animals. Mutton gets stronger in flavor the older it gets. Most of this flavor comes from the fat of the sheep, which can be substantial. Mutton has all but disappeared from markets and restaurants in the western world, and certainly in America. A restaurant guide from New York City in 1975 noted that only one restaurant (Keens) still served mutton chops, and then only to add some Irish atmosphere. They still do, but it’s more like lamb. Mutton gave lamb a bad name among the older generation of diners, but they needn’t worry about encountering it anywhere. The word comes from the French mouton, for sheep.

Dining In The Movies

Today is the birthday of Sidney Poitier, whose first big movie was Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? in 1967. It’s about the problems the older generation had when their children started hanging around with people of other racial backgrounds.

Words To Eat By

“The majority of those who put together collections of verses or epigrams resemble those who eat cherries or oysters: they begin by choosing the best and end by eating everything.”–Nicolas Chamfort, an eminently quotable author from the mid-1700s.

Words To Drink By

“What’s drinking? A mere pause from thinking!”–Lord Byron.

2 Readers Commented

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  1. Mike on February 20, 2014

    Plastic bags in 1867? Is that true?

    • Tom Fitzmorris on February 20, 2014

      The sentence reads: “He got a patent for his bag–which was universal in grocery stores until the plastic sack took over–in 1867.” In other words, “He got a patent for his bag in 1867. It remained universal in grocery stores until the plastic sack took over.” Just a quirk in my writing habits, but it’s correct.

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris