January 12

Casablanca Soup. Roast Chicken With Aroma. Radio Eaters. Victory Sausage. Stewed Chicken. Frytown. Wiping Chickens. Rumaki.

Days Until. . .

Mardi Gras--46 Valentine's Day--18

Food At War

You remember how hot dog makers used to stress that their products were all meat? That stemmed from something that happened on this date in 1943, when the Office of Price Administration introduced the Victory Sausage. It was like a hot dog, except that the meat wasn't specified, and soybeans were used as filler. It took decades for the wiener to live that down.

Today's Flavor

This is National Stewed Chicken Day. That's a whole chicken cooked slowly in a lot of water, which slowly becomes a stock, then a gravy. (Onions, parsley, celery, and other seasoning vegetables are in there, too.) When it comes to the table, the meat is all but falling off the bones. The bird might be pulled apart into primal pieces (leg, breast, thigh, wing), but no more than that. A half-chicken is the right portion per person, accompanied by rice and some kind of vegetable (peas are the classic, but potatoes or carrots are also good). This is a marvelous, homely dish found on fewer menus every year, and that is a shame. Solution: make it at home.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Almond is a cute little town of 460 people in the center of Wisconsin, ninety-two miles west-southwest of Green Bay. The tight street grid of the village rises abruptly out of the endless cornfields that surround and define the town. Almond was founded in 1850, not long after the Menominee Indians were screwed out of their land by the U.S. government. Almond was at first a stagecoach stop, then grew with the coming of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. There's a hump on Highway D where the tracks used to be. There are no almond trees here--the weather is entirely wrong. The town was named for Almond, New York, from which its first postmaster hailed. The town's hot spot for food and beverage is the Two Lakes Supper Club, two miles west of downtown Almond.

Edible Dictionary

escargot, [ess-car-GO], French, n.--The French word for snail is the one most commonly used on menus. While escargots are identified with gourmet dining, they have been eaten since ancient time, and were much liked by the Romans. Not all snails are edible. The two most widely enjoyed are the petit gris snail (Helix aspersa) and the larger and slightly better gros blanc or "apple" snail (Helix pomatia). To get them ready for eating, they must first be purged for a few days, because snails eat some things that are poisonous to humans. They're then removed from their shells, cleaned, then poached briefly. The classic preparation for escargots is bourguignonne--with garlic and herb butter. But many more recipes have come to the fore in recent years. Dirty secret about escargots: virtually all of them, even in the best restaurants--come out of cans. Live helix escargots are in fact illegal in Louisiana and many other states.

Deft Dining Rule #549:

Beware of dishes whose goodness is lost on people too young to have heard of them before. Nostalgia is an ingredient that cannot be detected by the palate.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

There's not a chicken dish in the world that isn't improved by wiping the chicken first with a lemon wedge.

Big Mouths

Radio windbag Rush Limbaugh was born today in 1951. Rush's favorite restaurant in New Orleans was the old Brennan's, where he dined on many occasions, according to Ted Brennan. To follow Rush blindly, order Brennan's turtle soup, oysters Rockefeller, steak Diane and bananas Foster. That's actually a pretty good dinner. . . Strangely enough, today is also Howard Stern's birthday, in 1954. I find him as unlistenable as I do Rush. . . And in 1959 Bob West was born. He's the voice of Barney, the big purple dinosaur, who makes much more sense than either of these other guys. But I know nothing of his dietary preferences. (He looks carnivorous.)

Food Namesakes

Actress Farrah Forke was born today in 1967. . . Hattie Caraway became the first woman elected to the United States Senate on this date in 1912. She was already a Senator, filling her late husband's term. Huey P. Long was a fan of hers. . . American rock guitarist and singer Kris Roe, of the Ataris gave his first riff today in 1977.

Words To Eat By

"I went on a diet, swore off drinking and heavy eating, and in fourteen days I lost two weeks."--Joe E. Lewis, comedian and actor, born today in 1902.

Words To Drink By

"My grandmother is over eighty and still doesn't need glasses. Drinks right out of the bottle."--Henny Youngman, king of the one-liners, born today in 1906.