June 12

Crabmeat Au Gratin Day

Havarti. Lillian Russell. Spoon Digging. Crabmeat Au Gratin. Crab Pond. Crab Fat. What's Fresh? Broccoli And Bush.

Days Until. . .

Father's Day 8

Food Calendar

Celebrate National Crabmeat Au Gratin Day. The crabmeat is big and fat right now, and that means this is the time of year to eat this rich casserole of crabmeat, cream, a small amount of cheese, garlic (if you're lucky), cayenne, and a sprinkling of bread crumbs over the top, baked till bubbly.We see more crabmeat au gratin these days, mainly because of the availability of cheaper pasteurized crabmeat. Used to be that you could get the essential jumbo lump crabmeat only this time of year; now it comes in from all over. It's sad that even some of the most expensive restaurants in town have taken to using canned crabmeat from Southeast Asia here. So it's a mixed blessing: we get less flavorful crabmeat, but we can get crabmeat au gratin all the time.But in crabmeat au gratin it makes less of a difference, I'd say, than in a cold crabmeat appetizer. The sauce is so rich that the fine points of the crabmeat's flavor are, if not lost, at least hidden. It doesn't have to be expensive: at Fury's, they give you a tub of white (not lump) crabmeat whose only flaw is that there's too much cheese (ask them to leave off the two slices they melt on top).

Edible Dictionary

crab fat, n.--This is exactly what it sounds like, but some explanation is necessary. Crabs don't have a lot of fat--not enough to worry about in terms of your diet. But in the best part of the season the biggest crabs are often found with a great deal of the orangish fats throughout the body. It sticks to the meat and makes it taste better. But after a crab has been picked, if you simmer the shells, crab fat will be dislodged and will float to the surface. This can be collected and used to improve the flavor of a stuffing, sauce, or soup. Indeed, crab fat is considered by many to be among the most delicious stuff in the world.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Crab Pond is the name of two small lakes in the vast Adirondack State Park in upstate New York, about ninety miles north of Schenectady. The two Crab Ponds are only about five miles apart, but in different counties. They're both surrounded by tall mountains, with the 2500-foot Pharoah Mountain rising some 1200 feet about the ponds' shores. A trail that rises to the top of that mountain connects the two Crab Lakes--and that's the only way you can get to them. Both are superb for fishing and backpacking. You'd better pack a lunch, too. The nearest restaurant is Southwoods, a seven-mile hike into the interestingly-named town of Paradox.

Annals Of Silverware

On this day in 1962, three prisoners on Alcatraz dug to freedom using soup spoons. I guess they didn't like the soup du jour. One may have said, "This is an outrage. I've had soup du jour all over the world, and it tastes nothing like this!"

Gourmets Through History

Lillian Russell married for the fourth time today in 1912. In her day, Russell was the heartthrob of American males, including her long-time squire, playboy Diamond Jim Brady. She was a noteworthy gourmet, and could keep up with Brady or any other man at the table in her in her consumption of food and drink. As in four dozen oysters as an appetizer. She had the figure to prove her eating acumen. At that time in America, fleshy women were much admired.

Food And The Law

Today in 2004 in federal court, a Department of Agriculture rule to the effect that frozen, batter-coated French fries are fresh vegetables was upheld as valid. The judge said, in essence, that the term "fresh vegetables" had no real meaning. That's how ketchup once flew in as a vegetable. Many, many restaurants claim to use fresh vegetables when in fact they used canned or frozen--again, I suppose because of this absurd reading of the English language. Seems obvious to us that fresh means fresh. As in unprocessed, uncooked, unfrozen. Right? I say we should raise this standard. And raise hell, too.

Annals Of Candy

Today in 1928, the trademark "Good and Plenty" was registered for the colorful, sugar-coated, soft licorice candy. It is the oldest branded candy in the United States, having first been marketed in 1893. And remember: licorice is the liver of candies.

Deft Dining Rule #107:

One of the first steps to becoming a gourmet is deciding whether you want good or plenty.

Food Namesakes

Vanessa Baker, a diver in the 1996 Olympics for Australia, was born today in 1974. . . In the same games was the unrelated Philippa June Baker, born today in 1963. She was a rower from New Zealand. . . Today in 1837, British inventors William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone patented a telegraph, a few years before Samuel Morse did. Morse's method, however, became dominant. . . Bun Carlos, the drummer with the band Cheap Trick, got the beat today in 1951. . . David Rockefeller was born today in 1915. The famous oyster dish was named for his grandfather, because he had a lot of money and the sauce was green.

Words To Eat By

"I do not like broccoli and I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli. Now look, this is the last statement I'm going to have on broccoli. There are truckloads of broccoli at this very minute descending on Washington. My family is divided. For the broccoli vote out there: Barbara loves broccoli. She has tried to make me eat it. She eats it all the time herself. So she can go out and meet the caravan of broccoli that's coming in."--George H.W. Bush, born today in 1924.

Words To Drink By

"When alchemists first learned how to distill spirits, they called it aqua vitae, the water of life, and far from considering it the work of the devil, they thought the discovery was divinely inspired."--Gene Logsdon, American essayist.

Cheese Of The Day

Havarti, (Danish), n.--A semi-soft, off-white cheese made from cow's milk. It has with enough substance to be easily sliced or cut into cubes. The trend has been for Havarti to be made firmer and richer. It's already moderately high in fat, at around sixty percent, but it's getting higher. The curds are not pressed so hard that all the air comes out; most Havartis have narrow gaps running like veins throughout. It was created in the 1800s by Hanne Neilsen, who ran a farm called Havartigaard in Denmark. Havarti is now made all over the place, with the resulting wide range of quality. Real Havarti with some age on it has a marvelous flavor a bit sharper than the supermarket kind. It's a great snacking cheese, and good on sandwiches, too.