May 15

National Chocolate Chip Day

Cod. The Beast. Isidore The Farmer. Stewardess. Conservation. Chocolate Chips.

Days Until. . .

Greek Fest 11 Memorial Day 12 Father's Day 32

Gourmet Gazetteer

Cape Cod, Massachusetts was "discovered" today in 1602 by British explorer Bartholomew Gosnold. Commanding the Concord, he sailed into what is now Provincetown Harbor. He continued along the coast and, figuring the lay of the land, named the narrow hook-shaped peninsula Cape Cod. There were certainly plenty of codfish there, making the place of great importance. Cod was of the great importance items in trade. Cape Cod is now full of resorts and summer homes, and has an architecture and style of living all its own. It's loaded with restaurants, with a particularly good cluster of them in Provincetown, at its farthest extreme. But you may not find cod in them; the population has been decimated, and is only now struggling back. The great things to eat on Cape Cod are lobster, scallops, and mussels.

Edible Dictionary

baccala, bacalao, Italian, Spanish, n.--Salted, dried cod fillets, popular throughout Europe and any other place with an Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese heritage. It is particularly widespread in South America and the Caribbean. When cod was the world's most important commercial fish, long before refrigeration came along, the most common method of preserving was to gut and behead the fish, coat it in salt, and dry it completely. This worked exceptionally well for cod because of its low fat content. In this dried form, the cod could be stored almost indefinitely. To be eaten, the bacalao is first soaked in warm water for many hours before cooking. A taste for bacalao developed in the countries that used it. Some Europeans--particularly in older generations--say the cod is improved by the drying. That is disputed strongly by anyone who didn't grow up eating bacalao. The fish appears most often during Lent. It is a fixture in the Italian celebration of St. Joseph's Day, which always falls in Lent.

Food At War

On this date in 1862, General Benjamin "Beast" Butler, heading the Union occupation of New Orleans, ordered all captured women to be turned over to him for his pleasure. These were bad times, but falling early in the Civil War proved to be a good thing for New Orleans, which was not burned and looted the way many other Southern cities were. Antoine's and several other restaurants continued to operate.Meanwhile, on the very same day in another branch of the Federal government, the Department of Agriculture was founded by an Act of Congress. Celebrate the day by driving by the USDA's interesting Art Deco building in City Park at the corner of Wisner and Robert E. Lee, and recall that almost all our food starts with farmers.

The Saints

Speaking of farmers, it's the feast day of one of their many patron saints. Isidore The Farmer lived in Madrid in the eleventh century. His story is that, because he was criticized by fellow farmers for letting his work go while he attended Mass, a cadre of angels came and plowed his field. He's also the patron saint of cattle ranchers.If you have a steak today you can say it's in homage to Isidore.

Food In The Air

Ellen Church, the first stewardess on an airliner, made her first working flight on this date in 1930, from San Francisco to Cheyenne. This sounds like a joke, but it's true: she served a meal of fruit salad, chicken, and bread rolls to the passengers. What's wrong with the name "stewardess" that we can't use it anymore?

Food And The Environment

Today in 1908, American governors met with Theodore Roosevelt at the White House. They issued a declaration that conservation measures for the environment were needed. It was the first official recognition that the natural richness of America was not immune to profligate use. Here we are a hundred years later and we still haven't learned this.

Today's Flavor

Today is allegedly National Chocolate Chip Day. My wife and daughter will go for that. For the past couple of years, my daughter's breakfast has been a couple of large, gooey, freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. If she's in a hurry, sometimes she just eats the dough. I don't know how she can stand it. Chocolate chips from the major manufacturers are actually of pretty good quality chocolate, but they're coated with a thin layer of edible wax, which is what makes me use other forms of chocolate for things like chocolate mousse.

Food Namesakes

Amy Chow, who won gold and silver in the Olympics for the US in 1996, was born today in 1978. . . Katherine Anne Porter, author of Ship of Fools, was born today in 1890. She said, "It's a man's word, and you men can have it." . . . Classical composer Arthur Berger was born today in 1912. . . Wavy Gravy, peace activist, clown, Woodstock performer, and counterculture icon in the 1960s and beyond, was born today in 1936 (as Hugh Romney). . . Australian athlete Lisa Curry-Kenny was born today in 1962. She's an swimmer and an Ironwoman contender, married to an Ironman. (The mind boggles.)

Words To Eat By

"All my wife has ever taken from the Mediterranean—from that whole vast intuitive culture—are four bottles of Chianti to make into lamps, and two china condiment donkeys labeled Sally and Peppy."--Peter Shaffer, British playwright, born today in 1926."Great reviews are the worst. They mislead you more than the bad ones, because they only fuel your ego. Then you only want another one, like potato chips or something, and the best thing you get is fat and bloated. I'd rather just refuse, thanks."--Chazz Palminteri, actor, born today in 1951.

Words To Drink By

"I have the feeling that drinking is a form of suicide where you're allowed to return to life and begin all over the next day. It's like killing yourself, and then you're reborn. I guess I've lived about ten or fifteen thousand lives now.”--Charles Bukowski.