January 14

Cotechino Sausage. Pork Creek. Toussaint. Hot Pastrami Sandwich. Sandwich Creek. Andy Rooney. Oysters Rockefeller. Wesson Oil.

Days Until. . .

Mardi Gras--45 Valentine's Day--17 Today is Friday The 13th. Dine in a bad restaurant today.

Food Inventions

Today is the birthday, in 1861, of David Wesson. His 1899 breakthrough was figuring out a way to make cottonseed oil usable in cooking. The raw material was available in enormous supply, inexpensively. But cottonseed oil had a terrible odor when heated. Wesson deodorized it with a high-temperature vacuum process. That brought Wesson Oil to the kitchen, and it's still there. More than a few cooks say it's still the best oil for frying.

Today's Flavor

It's National Pastrami Sandwich Day. Not a bad idea. Pastrami is beef--usually brisket--that's been cured, lightly smoked, and often peppered on the outside. It makes a great sandwich. Because of its association with New York-style delis, pastrami is usually served on rye or other deli-style breads. But it makes a great poor boy sandwich. The best places for a pastrami sandwich are Martin Wine Cellar Deli, Stein's Deli, Kosher Cajun, Casablanca, and Maspero's.

Deft Dining Rule #270:

The pastrami on a sandwich should be sliced no thicker than the thickness of a credit card. The mustard should be brown, and spread uniformly and thinly enough to be visible only from above, not in cross-section. No mayo.

Edible Dictionary

mocha, adj.--Having a flavor with characteristics of both coffee and chocolate. The name is that of a city that stands at the southern entrance of the Red Sea. Once a major port for coffee shipments, it gave its name to a variety of coffee whose flavor had a natural similarity to that of chocolate. It had such appeal that in European coffeehouses, the flavor was faked up with real chocolate. The mocha flavor is found not only in coffee but in a wide range of patries, cakes, and candies.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Sandwich Creek runs about nine miles south in a canyon next to Skookum Peak, in the northeast corner of Washington State. Its confluence with the Pend Oreille River--which cuts a fertile valley through the mountains around there--is fifty-five miles north of Spokane. Adding to the mouth-watering possibilities is Sandwich Creek's only tributary: Cook's Creek, which is almost as long and runs alongside Sandwich Creek about a quarter-mile west. The nearest restaurant to Sandwich Creek is Audrey's, twenty-three miles downstream on the Pend Oreille in Newport.

Music To Eat Gumbo By

Today is the birthday, in 1938, of Allen Toussaint, the leading contender for the title of Greatest New Orleans Musician Of All Time (Not Counting Louis Armstrong). Toussaint is a mellow guy who seems to prefer the edge of the spotlight to the center of it. Listen to him play piano--even if he's just noodling around--and you hope he plays for hours. He wrote a long list of New Orleans classics, including most of Irma Thomas's songs and the Number One hit Southern Nights. Beyond his powerful musical presence, the man has a superb personal style. He's always impeccably attired, his tastes running to beautiful suits with stunning ties.

Food On The Air

Today is the birthday (1919) of Andy Rooney, who until he died in 2011 was the quirky, funny, iconoclastic feature reporter on CBS's 60 Minutes. The first I ever heard of him was a special he made in the late 1970s called "Mr. Rooney Goes To Dinner." In it he gave his philosophy of dining. Most of his tenets were along the lines of "Never eat in a restaurant with an 'Open' sign in the window. If they're good, they won't need to tell anybody they're open." The most interesting part of the piece showed two visits to Antoine's--one he made anonymously with a hidden camera, the other with a full camera crew very much in evidence, with the full P.R. treatment. It was embarrassing for Antoine's, and especially for the waiter (whose identity I can't remember). Rooney said that all sorts of malfeasances had occurred on his anonymous visit, and that the waiter who was so accommodating when the camera was rolling was the same one who'd treated him shabbily the day before.

Food Namesakes

Trumpeter Billy Butterfield, one of the founding members of the Worlds Greatest Jazz Band, sounded his first note today in 1917. . . Record producer T-Bone Burnett laid down his first sound today in 1948. . . Pitcher Catfish Hunter was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame today in 1987. . . Another big-league pitcher, Steve Cooke, walked onto the Big Mound today in 1970. . . Harrison Salisbury, long-time New York Times correspondent, write his first lines today in 1908. . . In 1890 on this date, George K. Cooke patented a new kind of gas burner that was self-lighting, with both a main gas jet and a smaller pilot jet.

Words To Eat By

"Anytime a person goes into a delicatessen and orders a pastrami on white bread, somewhere a Jew dies."--Milton Berle.

Words To Drink By

"I should never have switched from Scotch to martinis."--Humphrey Bogart, who died today in 1957. Those are alleged to have been his last words.