May 13

Diners Club. Apple Pie. Corn Macquechoux. Apple Pie. Hill. Apple Butter. Stevie Wonder. Gout.

In most of America, today is National Apple Pie Day. For all its fame as an icon of American eating habits, apple pie has become a rare dessert on restaurant menus. It's found most often now in chain restaurants and diners. Turning up an apple pie made in house is even more difficult. What happened? My theory is that the crazy idea of topping a slice of hot apple pie with melted cheese may have scared a lot of people off. ¶ Apple pie isn't American, anyway. It almost certainly came from England, where pies a lot like it have been made since the fourteenth century. Apples baked in pastry is well known throughout Europe, again for a long time before we Americans got into the act.

Days Until. . .

Phase 1 Restaurant Reopening-- 2

Food Calendar 

In most of America, today is National Apple Pie Day. For all its fame as an icon of American eating habits, apple pie has become a rare dessert on restaurant menus. It's found most often now in chain restaurants and diners. Turning up an apple pie made in house is even more difficult. What happened? My theory is that the crazy idea of topping a slice of hot apple pie with melted cheese may have scared a lot of people off.Apple pie isn't American, anyway. It almost certainly came from England, where pies a lot like it have been made since the fourteenth century. Apples baked in pastry is well known throughout Europe, again for a long time before we Americans got into the act.Most of us bake or buy apple pies only around the holidays. I make today a special holiday: for reasons too complicated to go into, I know that on this date in 1967, at around 7:30 p.m., I ate a slice of apple pie with ice cream after a cheeseburger and fries at the soda fountain in a drugstore. It was pretty good. In Cajun country, it's Corn Macquechoux Day. In Cajun country, it's Corn Macquechoux Day. Macquechoux is a staple of southern Louisiana cooking. It's corn cooked with onions and butter or oil, with perhaps some tomatoes, and maybe even crawfish or shrimp. The corn gets soft as its starches caramelize and turn sweet. Macquechoux is usually served as a side dish, but with the shrimp or crawfish added it can become a light lunch or supper. It may be the only dish in which the crawfish or shrimp component can get a little overcooked and still taste good. In fact, that's a reasonable target to aim for, because what comes out of the crawfish seems to get into the corn.Nobody is quite sure what the word "macquechoux" means, or even if it's one or two words. Different theories say it's Spanish, Cajun French, or Native American.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Macquechoux is best a bit on the spicy side. The best way to accomplish that is not with the usual Louisiana touch of cayenne or hot sauce, but with crushed red pepper flakes, which have a mellow flavor that goes well with the corn.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Apple Pie Mountain, Georgia is a wooded ridge in the Appalachians, in the northeastern corner of Georgia near the South Carolina state line. It has a view of Tallulah Falls on the Tugaloo River, a mile away. Look for food at the Tallulah Grill, a mile and a half away.

Edible Dictionary

apple butter, n.--A spreadable, intensely-flavored kind of preserves. It's made by simmering apples in apple juice, peeling and pureeing them, and finally straining and reducing the apple flesh down to a smooth consistency with no lumps. While reducing, the puree is flavored with cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and a sweet wine like sherry or port. Depending on the apple variety, apple butter may or may not require added sugar. It rarely has nearly as much sugar as any other kind of fruit preserves. It's an old-fashioned product that's delicious on whole-grain toast, or for making layers in the likes of a bread pudding. I think it's time to revive the apple butter idea.

Deft Dining Rule #172

Never order the last slice of pie in a roadside diner, especially not if you are offered a substantial discount off its price. Exception: it's okay if you get one other slice served from the same pan.

People We'd Like To Have Dinner With 

Stevie Wonder was born today in 1950. During our dinner, I'd tell him my favorite song of his is "For Once In My Life." Brilliant man, a real natural, a moving performer. A great sense of humor, too.

Dining On The Cuff 

On this date in 1950, Diners Club issued the first credit card, eight years before the American Express card appeared. The early Diners Club card was exclusively for use in restaurants, but it expanded its scope quickly. As late as 1984, cash and checks accounted for more white-tablecloth restaurant spending than cards. Now, cards are used so overwhelmingly that most restaurants have to get cash from the bank to tip out the waiters at the end of the night.

Famous Words Of A Gourmet 

On this date in 1940, Winston Churchill offered "blood, toil, tears and sweat" to Parliament. Five years later, England exploded in a riot of joy as the European phase of World War II ended. VE Day was actually May 8, but the main celebration was on this date.

The Saints 

This is the feast day of Saint Erconwald, a monk of the seventh century in England. He is the patron saint against gout, the ailment of men who indulge in the best food and wine. I will say a prayer to him with regard to a current attack your humble servant is suffering.

Food Namesakes 

Hamish Pepper, a crew-of-one yachter in the 1996 Olympics for New Zealand, was born today in 1971. . . Lyle Mouton, a White Sox outfielder from Lafayette, Louisiana, was born today in 1969. You know, of course, that Chateau Mouton-Rothschild is one of the first-growth Bordeaux. . . Golfer Terry Dill is 69 today. . . And, to keep this from being all athletes, Nigel Butterley was born in 1935. He was an Australian composer of classical music, especially of vocal works.

Words To Eat By 

"Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness."--Jane Austen.

Words To Drink By

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."--Ernest Hemingway.