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DiningDiarySquare-150x150 The Gourmet Truck Driver. Yesterday, May 10, 2018, Clark Marter–the proud grand-nephew of famous jazz trumpeter Harry James–died on his way to the hospital. He was a few years younger than I am, a fact I know because I had already celebrated my fortieth birthday when he celebrated his. I know when he turned forty because the Eat Club–an ad-hoc group of listeners to my radio show–held a birthday party for Clark at the now-extinct Doug’s Steakhouse in the CBD. The high point of the party came when Chef Jean-Luc Albin presented Clark with a birthday cake. It depicted an eighteen-wheel truck in a jackknife skid. The reason this was funny was that Clark was a professional on-the-road driver working for Saia truck lines. Saia is a nationally-known trucking firm originally born in New Orleans, where everybody in this article so far lived.

Clark, Gourmet Truck Driver

I met Clark months before this birthday party. By that time, he had become a regular caller to my daily radio show called “The Food Show.” He was known to me and my listeners as “Clark, the Gourmet Truck Driver.” We would introduce his calls with that name and the playing of a sound-effect tape of a large truck with its horns blowing.

All this began when Clark phoned the radio show to ask if I knew any places to eat in the Kennerie area (where Kenner meets Metairie). “The truck he was driving that day had its radio tuned to The Food Show, he said. “You told the guy on the radio that a restaurant across the street from where I was made good chicken dishes. I usually just went to Burger King for lunch. Or I made a turkey sandwich at home. But the guy on the radio made me hungry. I parked the truck, went inside and asked for that chicken. It had some kind of sauce on it, and cor! that was good!.. I started going there every day!”

Clark was convinced. He kept getting that chicken dish until I pointed out that I was covering many other good restaurant dishes he could try. For months and then, Clark began checking in regularly with news about other new-to-him dishes. Soon he was a member of a group familiar to hosts of radio talk shows: the regular caller with a handle. (“Handle” is a term that comes from the truck-driver, CB-radio world.) Clark’s handle through the twenty-plus years he called The Food Show was “Clark, The Gourmet Truck Driver.” He became a well-defined figure on the radio show, and remained so until we lost him yesterday.

By then, Clark had long since become a sort of celebrity. At our Eat Club dinners, attendees always wanted to know whether Clark was there so they could meet him. He learned a lot about food over the years–more then he even knew.

His final act occurred on Mardi Gras 2018, when the Eat Club held its annual steak dinner after my annual broadcast from Gallier Hall on WWL Radio. Clark sat there and pontificated on the relative merits of the Crescent City Steak House’s many cuts of beef. Clark ordered a double porterhouse for himself and his wife. I sat next to him and split another porterhouse with other friends at the table.

I was about to pay the check for everybody at the table when the Crescent City’s co-owner and waiter Anthony Vojkovich told me that Clark had already covered the entire bill for all six people with us. He and I argued about this and insisted that we do this in a more equitable way. Clark refused and said that next Mardi Gras, it would be my turn.

Little did we know.

We will miss Clark’s unique New Orleans character. And remember him whenever we hear a record of Harry James playing his trumpet. Clark was incessantly proud of his uncle. I have no doubt that Harry is giving Clark lessons in heaven. I’ll never forget The Gourmet Truck Driver. Along the road, he taught me a few things about living.

RecipeSquare-150x150

Paprika-Parmesan Vinaigrette

Have you ever wondered why French dressing is orange in America but nowhere else? No? Well, the orange element is paprika, and in the dressing’s earliest forms it had enough paprika to make it spicy. Here’s the way we make it at our house.

PaprikaVinaigrette

  • 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. water
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. Hungarian spicy paprika
  • (or a scant 2 Tbs. sweet paprika with 1/8 tsp. cayenne)
  • 3 Tbs. very finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • Pinch white pepper

1. In a bowl, whisk the mustard, vinegar, and water together. Add the olive oil in a slow, thin stream, whisking constantly, until the dressing takes on a smooth, almost opaque quality.

2. Whisk in the paprika, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Store in a tightly closed bottle in the refrigerator.

Makes about a cup and a half of dressing.

AlmanacSquare May 11, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

Mother’s DaySunday May 13
New Orleans Wine And Food Experience May 25-27
Greek Festival May 25, 26, 27

Eating Around The World

On this day in 1949, the kingdom of Siam renamed itself Thailand. Thai people are rightly proud of two things: that they were never dominated by another country, and that their food is uniquely delicious. By coincidence, this is the birthday of history’s most famous Siamese twins, Chang and Eng. They were indeed born in what was Siam then, and they were never separated.

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Thai Food Day. Thai food is clearly Asian: cut into bite-sized morsels, dominated by vegetables with smaller amounts of protein. Its sauces make Thai food distinctive. They’re made with lots of fresh, up-front herbs like cilantro, lemongrass, and galangal (a relative of ginger). Thai cooking includes many varieties of curry, none of which are much like Indian curry. The standard varieties are red curry, green curry (usually blended with coconut milk), musaman curry, which is mild and sweet with raisins and nuts, and Panang curry, which tends to the yellow side and makes the mildest statement.

AlmanacSquare May 11, 2017

Upcoming Deliciousness

Mother’s DaySunday May 13
New Orleans Wine And Food Experience May 25-27
Greek Festival May 25, 26, 27

Eating Around The World

On this day in 1949, the kingdom of Siam renamed itself Thailand. Thai people are rightly proud of two things: that they were never dominated by another country, and that their food is uniquely delicious. By coincidence, this is the birthday of history’s most famous Siamese twins, Chang and Eng. They were indeed born in what was Siam then, and they were never separated.

Today’s Flavor

Today is National Thai Food Day. Thai food is clearly Asian: cut into bite-sized morsels, dominated by vegetables with smaller amounts of protein. Its sauces make Thai food distinctive. They’re made with lots of fresh, up-front herbs like cilantro, lemongrass, and galangal (a relative of ginger). Thai cooking includes many varieties of curry, none of which are much like Indian curry. The standard varieties are red curry, green curry (usually blended with coconut milk), musaman curry, which is mild and sweet with raisins and nuts, and Panang curry, which tends to the yellow side and makes the mildest statement.

Colorful Thai food

The curries are juicy stews, but there are other kinds of dishes. Probably the most famous is pad thai, a combination of rice noodles, chicken, shrimp, peanuts, bean shoots, carrots, and hot red pepper with a bit of chicken stock. This is a dish about which we can truly say that we’ve never had a bad version. It tastes better and better as you eat it until, getting up the last little bits, you’re hungry for more, no matter how much there was to begin with.

Thai cuisine goes well beyond those major dishes to include some great soups, spring rolls with peanut-based dipping sauces, fried rice with pineapple, and many more specialties. One advisory you find on almost every Thai menu is that they’ll cook it to any degree of hotness. The choices are usually mild, hot, extra hot, and Thai hot–the latter being on the delicious threshold of pain.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Turkey Creek runs just south of and parallel to the Nebraska state line, in northeast Kansas. Two miles past where Burger Creek runs into Turkey Creek (a rare double-food-named confluence), the Turkey runs into a fork of the Nemaha River, a tributary of the Missouri. So all this Burger and Turkey water winds up in New Orleans. If you’re near the end of Turkey Creek, stop for lunch in a place called Two Doors Down in Cuba, Kansas, eight miles northeast.

Edible Dictionary

tomato aspic, n.–A kind of jam made with tomato puree and a highly reduced beef stock made with lots of bones to release gelatin. Sometimes it made with unflavored gelatin or even Jell-O instead of stock. The final product is served cold as a savory garnish to a wide variety of dishes. Tomato aspic is most celebrated in the South, particularly in the river towns of Mississippi like Natchez and Vicksburg.

Deft Dining Rule #881:

If you’ve never had a dish made “Thai hot,” tonight is not the night to try it. Order your curry “extra hot” and see if that doesn’t do it for you.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

The combination of Thai curry paste (any color) and coconut milk is so appealing that you can use it for a vast range of dishes. Anything involving seafood or chicken, for example. Take a leap of faith on this.

Music To Eat Cake By

On this date in 1968 McArthur Park, written by Jimmy Webb and sung by Richard Harris, was released. Nobody knows what the lyrics mean. My daughter once asked me why somebody would leave a cake with green frosting out in the rain, especially if it took a long time to bake, and the baker lost the recipe. And, more important, why someone would write a six-minute song about it.

Annals Of Cocktails

Carlos Herrera, the inventor of the margarita, died on this date in 1992. He assembled the concoction of tequila, lime juice, triple sec, and ice, with a salt rim, at his restaurant, Rancho La Gloria, near Tijuana, in 1947. The story goes that he named it after an actress who called herself Marjorie King, a regular customer who preferred tequila shooters.

Annals Of Canned Food

The name Spam was registered as a trademark by the Hormel Company today in 1937. It’s short for “spiced ham.” That’s what it is: ham and pork shoulder, in a can. Not horrible, but not good, either.

Food In Show Biz

Foster Brooks, whose comedy routines were built around his allegedly being intoxicated all the time, was born today in 1912. We don’t consider drunkenness funny anymore, so his act seems appalling in retrospect. He died in 2002. . . Today in 1994, the Broadway musical Grease opened for what would be the first of 1503 performances.

Food Namesakes

The dancer and choreographer Martha Graham was born in 1894. . . Margaret Brewer, the first U.S. Marine Corps General of her sex, got the promotion today in 1978. . . Ex-Mafia boss Joe “Bananas” Bonanno died today in 2002. . . Faith Popcorn, a management consultant known for predicting trends, predicted on this day in 1947 that she would be born later the same day.

Words To Eat By

“How pleasant is the day when we give up striving to be young—or slender.”–William James, 19th-century American philosopher, born today in 1842.

Words To Drink By

“Reagan promised everyone a seven-course dinner. Ours turned out to be a possum and a six-pack.”–Jim Hightower, Texas populist politician, born today in 1943.

FoodFunniesSquare

The Television, Its Food Programs, And Days Gone Past.

The first time David Letterman featured a chef on his bygone show, the famous French chef (I forget who it was) prepared a presentation of cheese and crackers. Seriously.

Click here for the cartoon.

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