January 1

First Day. Seventh Day. Pure Food. Penang Curry. Sugar Bowl. Cabbage And Black-Eye Peas. Cabbage Hill. Hoppin' John.

Happy New Year!

It's 2013, the two hundred thirty-seventh year of the United States, the two hundred first year of the statehood of Louisiana, the two hundred ninety-fifth year since the founding of New Orleans, the Chinese year of the Snake (starting February 10), Byzantine year 7521 (until September 14), Jewish year 5773 (until September 5), Islamic year 1434 (until November 4), and the thirty-seventh year of the publication of this periodical (starting January 4).

Seventh Day of Christmas

Here come the traditional seven swans a-swimming. Benny Grunch's Seventeenth Street Canal, candles a-glowing, Allen Sherman's pink satin pillow that said "San Diego" with fringe all around it, and our own seven cafe brulots. Swans are inedible, so we have nowhere to go with this one today.

Chef d'Oeuvre Du Jour

Cabbage Roll @ Lebanon's Cafe, Riverbend: 1500 S Carrollton Ave. 504-862-6200. Cabbage rolls are almost universal in Middle Eastern restaurants. The ones at Lebanon's Cafe are stuffed with beef with a bit of tomato and enough seasoning to make them mildly spicy and herbal. Although this sounds heavy, in fact it's served as an appetizer, and leaves room for an entree. Great cool-weather dish. This is one of NOMenu's 500 Best Dishes in New Orleans Restaurants. The entire list is here

Restaurant Anniversaries

Today in 2006, Galatoire's reopened for the first time after the hurricane. It was the third of the four classic Creole-French restaurants to do so. Antoine's was open three days before, and Arnaud's a month earlier. Broussard's would require several months more.

Annals Of Food Law

The Pure Food And Drug Act took effect in the United States today in 1907. The major problem that precipitated the Act was the horrible conditions in the meat-packing industry. Many of the standards that made the food supply safe in the following years remain today. It was revolutionary in its reach and effect.

Food Calendar

Today is both National Cabbage Day and National Black-Eye Pea Day. According to tradition, eating the two vegetables will bring you more money (cabbage) and luck (black-eyes). The connection between cabbage and money is obvious, but the luck of the blackeye pea has a story behind it. The tradition is primarily Southern, and is believed to date to the end of the Civil War. Union soldiers laid waste to food crops, but they believed that black-eye peas, field peas, and crowders (all members of the cowpea family) were raised as animal feed. So they left them alone, and the Southerners found in them a food supply. Supposedly.

The Yankee disdain for black-eye peas was not unique. Even in families where blackeye peas are as inevitable on January 1 as the disposal of the old calendar, they're often eaten only in maintenance of the tradition, in as small a portion as possible. Others of us like them. I personally like all the cowpeas as much as I do red and white beans--and I love those. Could be there's a flavor in there received differently by different palates, as is true for broccoli and cauliflower and--come to think of it--cabbage.

Here's one more interesting story about black-eye peas. The Babylonian Talmud makes reference to a Jewish custom of eating black-eye peas for luck at Rosh Hashanah--Jewish New Year. Even though that was months ago, I guess it could have made the jump to the goyim. Who knows?

Gourmet Gazetteer

Cabbage Grove, Florida is in the eastern Panhandle, forty-two miles southeast of Tallahassee. It's in a vast coastal plain that used to be more intensively farmed than it is now, and where cabbage, broccoli, and other vegetables of that family were grown in large fields in the fall, alternating with tomatoes and other spring crops annually. It is far away from civilization now. The nearest restaurants are in twenty-seven miles away in Perry. Revells Oyster Bar and Grill sounds good, because the oyster beds of Apalachicola are nearby.

Edible Dictionary

hoppin' john, n.--A dish made of blackeye peas and rice, with sausage or pork cooked in with the beans. It's most popular in the Low Country of North Carolina, but eaten throughout the South, even in places that don't use that name for the dish. As we don't, very much, here in New Orleans. But we certainly eat our share of it, especially on New Year's Day.

Food And Money

Today in 2002, the euro became the official currency of the European Union. It opened at the same value as the dollar, but in its first year or so it sank relative to the greenback. Oh, for those good old days. As the euro buys more and more dollars, everything from Europe has gone up in price, including wine, food, and travel.

Eating Around The World

George Town, in what is now the Penang state in Malaysia, was chartered today in 1957 by Queen Elizabeth II. Penang was a British colony at the time. Penang curry is one of the many varieties on Thai menus. It's a light red-orange color, sometimes a touch sweet, and usually a little less spicy than the typical green or red Thai curries. Its distinction is an unusually broad range of spices, lending more complexity.

Food In Sports

Today in 1935, the first Sugar Bowl football game hit the gridiron in New Orleans. The very same day, the first Orange Bowl game kicked off in Miami.

Food Namesakes

Country Joe McDonald, whose rock group was called The Fish, was born today in 1942. He became famous largely because of his appearance at Woodstock. . . Los Angeles Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke fined all the players on his hockey team $100 for not arguing with the referee on what he considered a bad call. . . Film and television actor Morris Chestnut was born today in 1969.

Words To Eat By

"Cabbage: A familiar kitchen garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man's head."--Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary.

"Cabbage is best after it is reheated seven times."--Slovakian folklore.

"Cabbage twice cooked is death."--Greek folklore.