AlmanacSquare January 5, 2017

Days Until. . .

Carnival Begins 1.
Mardi Gras & Valentine’s Day 39.

Eleventh Day of Christmas

Eleven pipers will be piping. Some old lady is trying to cross Veterans Highway with eleven Schwegmann bags. Allan Sherman got an automatic vegetable slicer that works when you see it on television but not when you get it home. Andy Williams’s friend brought gifts for one and all. And in my own attempt at this song, I’ll barbecue for you eleven jumbo shrimp. Tomorrow is Twelfth Night, the end of the Christmas season, and the beginning of the Carnival season.

Annals Of Food Research

Nobody (including him) knew what day he was born, so we note that this is the day in 1943 when George Washington Carver died. The son of a slave, Carver made revolutionary discoveries in agriculture, most of them motivated by a desire to help poor farmers in the South. He is best known for turning peanuts into a major cash crop. He also encouraged the wider consumption of sweet potatoes. He was brilliant enough that Henry Ford, among others, wanted to hire him. But he stayed at Tuskegee Institute and dedicated his life to helping the lot of poor farmers.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Eaton is a town of 8400 people in west central Ohio, twenty-five miles west of Dayton. It was founded in 1806, and named for General William Eaton, a hero of the war against the Barbary pirates in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The town grew quickly because it was at the junction of north-south and east-west turnpikes. If I were eatin’ in Eaton, I’d go the the Red Mule Inn, right in the middle of town.

This is the first in a series of Gourmet Gazetteer entries beginning with “Eat.”

Edible Dictionary

yam, n.–Around Louisiana, the word “yam” means nothing other than the sweet potato we grow widely here. But that’s not strictly a correct usage. The sweet potato–a New Word vegetable–is not related even distantly to a true yam. That’s a root vegetable, genus Dioscorea, that originally grew mostly from Africa through Asia. Its roots are much thicker, yellower, and more bitter than the sweet potato. It also contain bitter elements that need to be cooked out. The roots burrow deep into the soil, and they’re hard to harvest, especially in Africa (which gave the yam its name). People usually ate them only when there was nothing else. The Africans brought them to the Caribbean, where they remain popular. If you ever encounter true yams, they’ll probably be involved in a dish with Caribbean roots (no pun intended).

Food Inventions

Today is the birthday, in 1914, of Aaron Lapin, the inventor of whipped cream in an aerosol can. He called it Reddi-Wip, and it really was (and still is) whipped cream, not plastic stuck together with vegetable gum that commonly comes from a can. Reddi-Wip was made with light cream, although they have a fattier and creamier version.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine And Food Writing

The trademark Home of the Whopper was issued to Burger King on this date in 1965. That very year, Burger King became the first restaurant I ever dined in on my own, with my own money. It was the one on Airline Highway near Turnbull, the first location of the franchise in New Orleans. I had a Whopper, fries, and a Coke. I got there on my bicycle after a ride of about three miles. I was fourteen.

Food Calendar

Because of the item about Reddi-Wip above, today is National Whipped Cream Day. As long as it’s real whipped cream, we love it. It’s easy enough to make, even by hand. You may use either regular or heavy whipping cream. Gadgets have even been developed to use light cream, half-and-half, or even skim milk to make whipped “cream,” but you’d be better off using less of the real thing instead of more of that less satisfying stuff.

It’s fortunate that the whipped cream observance should be today, because we are now well into the Louisiana strawberry season. We bought some real beauties from a roadside stand yesterday, and my daughter has already eaten three pints of them. Sweet and wonderful, with or without whipped cream.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

When making your own whipped cream: a) Keep the cream cold; 2) Whip in a back-and-forth, not circular, motion, and iii) Don’t overbeat, or the whipped cream will break into butter and whey.

Etymology Of Dish Names

Today is the birthday, as far as we know, of the word hamburger. It first appeared in the expression “hamburger steak” on this day in 1889, in the Union-Bulletin newspaper in Walla Walla, Washington. It was in an ad for a restaurant that served a popular dish among the many German immigrants: the Hamburg steak, made of ground beef.

Restaurants And The Economy

The Consumer Age in America was born on this date in 1914, when Henry Ford announced a new plan for the employees of the Ford Motor Company. He reduced the work week to five days of eight hours a day, with no reduction in pay. He also set the minimum wage at five dollars a day. “We believe in making 20,000 men prosperous and contented rather than follow the plan of making a few slave drivers in our establishment multi-millionaires,” Ford said.

Ford was widely criticized in business management circles for this decision, but it transformed the country. Ford employees, with more money and time on their hands, spent it on leisure pursuits. One of the first things they did was buy cars. Now the American economy is largely fired by consumer spending, as a result of the trend Ford set in motion. We certainly wouldn’t have our enormous restaurant industry were it not for the prosperity of the average American.

Food Namesakes

Tracy Ham, a Canadian professional football quarterback, passed into life today in 1964. . . Michael DeWine, a Congressman from Ohio, was born today in 1947. . . And the aforementioned Reddi-Wip inventor Aaron Lapin was born today in 1914. “Lapin” is the French word for rabbit.

Words To Eat By

“When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘that knowledge is for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well, George, that’s more nearly your size.'”–George Washington Carver.

“Nothing important has ever come out of San Francisco, Rice-a-Roni aside.”–Comedian and writer Michael O’Donoghue, born today in 1950.

Words To Drink By

“When your companions get drunk and fight,
Take up your hat and wish them good night.”–Unknown, Irish.