May 9

Foie Gras

Days Until. . .

Greek Festival 18Memorial Day...21

Pharmaceuticals In Dining

On this date in 1960, the Food and Drug Administration approved sale of the birth control pill. That changed many things, among which was the restaurant business. Dating suddenly became much more urgent. People who might not have had a particularly deep interest in fine dining started going out to dinner more often, to get the ball rolling. What came of that was a new category of restaurant with an interesting environment but unchallenging food. Burgers, even. It gave birth to the category that stretches now from TGI Friday's to Houston's.

Alternatives To Dining Out

Today in 1961, Newton Minow of the Federal Communications Commission used the term "vast wasteland" to describe commercial television programming. It was the harshest criticism ever leveled at the industry. Now we have hundreds of channels, and still nothing's on. I'd rather go to a restaurant.

Literate Dining

Dante Alighieri, the author of the epic poem The Divine Comedy, was born today in 1265. I once heard a waiter at the old T. Pittari's say that the pasta there was always prepared "al dante." What? The way they do it in the Inferno? Dante's name was taken by Carmelo Chirico for his small chain of pizza parlors. We also had Dante's Kitchen here, a great Creole bistro with Chef EMan Loubier at the helm. who has since moved to Trenasse.

Music To Eat Dessert By

Today in 1946, the song Shoo Fly Pie (And Apple Pandowdy) was Number Two on the pop music charts. It was performed by Stan Kenton's very modern big band, but it's best remembered for making June Christy a singing star.

Edible Dictionary

Hass avocado, n.--The most popular and best of the many varieties of avocado. The avocado tree is believed to have developed in what is now Nicaragua. But it is known with absolute certainty that the Hass avocado came from a single tree grown by an amateur farmer in Los Angeles. All Hass avocado trees can trace their lineage to that tree, which was one of many in Rudolph Hass's grove in 1926. Its fruit was so much richer in flavor than any of the others that he patented it--the first tree to receive a patent. Grafts were taken from that tree and spread throughout all the avocado-growing areas of the world. The "mother tree" died in 2002, but every time you eat guacamole or an avocado salad, you're probably eating its genetic offspring. One more thing: It's "Hass," not "Haas."

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

The reason so many young chefs have started using so much foie gras is that it keeps them from having to cook.

Deft Dining Rule #238:

To check on whether a restaurant is serious about foie gras or just posturing, ask the waiter if it's Grade A duck liver, and insist on finding out for sure.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Sugar Creek is a small farm town sixteen miles from downtown Indianapolis. The suburban sprawl doesn't head far in that direction however, and the fields are still covered with crops and dairy animals. The town is named for a stream of pretty good size running north-south through town. It forms a small reservoir here. Through intermediate streams its water winds up in the Ohio, then rolls all the way to New Orleans and the Gulf. The nearest place to eat is four miles in the direction of Indy, where we find Ole McDonald's Cafe. (Not the hamburger place.)

100 Mother's Days

President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed this date as Mother's Day in 1914. That was such a natural observance--how can we ever repay our mothers for what they do?--that it evolved into, among other things, the busiest day of the whole year for the restaurant business. This is not universal knowledge among the public, and still, every year people slap their foreheads of Mother's Day morning and say, "I've got a good idea! Instead of making Mom cook today as usual, how about if we take her out to a nice Sunday brunch!" As if everyone in America wasn't already working on that idea.

Food Namesakes

Edward Pollock, a woodwind musician who is best known for his quotation, "Love is friendship set to music," was born today in 1899. Pollock is that North Pacific fish that they make into fake crabmeat (surimi) for sushi bars. . . Tommy Roe, who recorded a few bubblegum-music hits in the late 1960s, turns 64. . . Former CBS reporter Terry Drinkwater was born today in 1936. . . .And here's an amazing double-food, single-drink name: Zita von Bourbon-Parma, the last Empress of Austria-Hungary. She was born today in 1892. A zita is a single pasta tube, usually used in the plural ziti. Parma is a variety of prosciutto.

Words To Eat By

"My idea of heaven is eating pate de foie gras to the sound of trumpets."--Sydney Smith.

Words To Drink By

"Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die."--1 Corinthians, 15:32.