June 2

Italy. Food Energy. Velveeta. Bean Salads. First Prohibition. Madiera. Strawberry. Chili Bean. Candy Man.

Days Until. . .

Phase 2 Begins--3 Father's Day-- 19

Today's Flavor

Today is Bean Salad Day. Here in New Orleans, the tradition of eating a steaming plate of red beans and rice wanes a little--even on Mondays--when the heat of summer settles in. (As it has.) Its summer replacement is served cool or cold, marinated in the usual salad dressings. And they're good that way, even with rice. The beans have to be undercooked a little and allowed to stand with the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and herbs for at least a few hours. Beans are healthful in many ways, and adding them to a salad obviates the need for the grilled chicken or fried shrimp on top for protein. A red beans and rice salad garnished with herbs and baby lettuces, and perhaps even thin slices of a dense, smoky, spicy sausage hits the spot.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

The best beans for making salads are fresh beans. But fresh beans are only around when they want to be, not when you want them to be.

Edible Dictionary

Madeira, n.--A red wine produced on the Atlantic Ocean island of the same name. It is commonly drunk as an after-dinner wine. But it's just as widely used in cooking. It's a classic ingredient in, among other things, tournedos Rossini. Madeira has long been part of Portugal, and the wines there have elements in common with ports. They're fortified wines--meaning that their alcohol is elevated by the addition of brandy. They range from dry to sweet. Madeira has a unique story. It was thought to be a poor wine until a shipment of it in barrels made a long voyage in a ship. All the sloshing around caused the wine to oxidize a bit, which softened the wine and added the perfect flavor note. Now it's oxidized on purpose, as sherries and some other wines are. Malmsey Madiera--the sweetest--has long been admired in England, and was much liked by Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and other American founding fathers.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Strawberry is a ghost town in northeast Kansas, near the Nebraska state line, 120 miles northwest of Topeka. Named for wild strawberries found there, it was settled in the 1860s, became a township in 1871, and by 1909 was a happening place. It had not only a general store but a skating rink and a dance hall with musicians good enough to draw people from many miles away. It was all downhill from there. In 1951, a new road and bridge elsewhere brought the hamlet to an end. Now, if you get hungry while reading the historical marker that tells all this, you have to drive eight miles to Palmer Cafe, in the town of the same name for something to eat.

Music To Eat Beans By

The Paul Biese Trio recorded the jazz number Chili Bean today in 1920, in New York City.

Eating Around The World

Today is the national holiday of Italy. On this date in 1946, a national referendum decided that the wreck of the Fascist state should be rebuilt as a republic, not a monarchy. (The king voted the other way.) Governmental chaos has continued ever since, but Italy functions reasonably well, in its own way, with a lot of the business world flying below the government's radar. It's the world's best eating country, if you ask us. It's all about taste. Very little about mind games.

The Physiology Of Eating

Max Rubner, a physiologist, was born today in 1854. His discovery was that the energy potential of food was the same whether an organism ate it or whether it was just set on fire. Same number of calories released. He did not determine how heartburn works into the equation.

Tirophilia Today

On this date in 1928, the Kraft Cheese Company (that was its name then) rolled Velveeta out to a waiting world. What is Velveeta, anyway? The Kraft web site is silent on the matter. The package says it's "pasteurized prepared cheese product." Which is. . . what? Apparently the invention was not so much the cheese as the package: a foil-wrapped oblong of soft, rubbery, day-glo yellow cheese inside (originally) a wooden box (now it's cardboard). Before that there were cheese spreads, but sold in cans. Canned cheese. Now there's something that reminds us that those were not the good old days.

Food And The Law

Today in 2003, the Department of Agriculture said that, for dietary purposes, batter-coated frozen French fries were to be considered fresh vegetables. Once again, dietary considerations diverge widely from those involving taste. Fries made from freshly-cut potatoes are clearly more enjoyable to eat--although so many people have only eaten frozen that they sometimes reject fresh ones the first time they taste them.

Annals Of Teetotaling

Maine became the first state in America to ban alcoholic beverages, on this day in 1851.

Music To Rot Your Teeth By

And your brain, too. Today in 1972, Sammy Davis Jr. had a number one hit with [Wait! Before I tell you, don't let the song start playing in your head, lest it stay there for days!] The Candy Man. To his credit, Sammy didn't like the song and didn't put much into it.

Food Namesakes

Lydia Lunch, a writer and experimental performer in many media, was born today in 1959. . . Tim Rice-Oxley, keyboard player for British rock group Keane, was born today in 1976. . . Today in 1910, Charles Rolls became the first person to fly a double crossing of the English Channel. He co-founded Rolls-Royce.

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Erasmus, also known as St. Elmo. He lived in the third century. St. Elmo's fire--the discharge of static from your body--is named for him. He is a source of intercession if you're troubled with abdominal or stomach pains, or colic.

Words To Eat By

"I'm a McDonald's girl; several times a week. Usually the two-cheeseburger combo meal."--Nikki Cox, actress, born today in 1978.

Words To Drink By

"An alcoholic has been lightly defined as a man who drinks more than his own doctor."--Dr. Alvan L. Barach.