June 27


Days Until. . .

Annals Of Silverware

Around this day in 1630, John Winthrop, the first colonial governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, began using at his dinner table what may have been the only fork in the colonies. He encouraged its use. As omnipresent as the fork is now, it was only then coming into widespread use in Europe.

Food Through History

Today is the birthday (1835, London) of Fred Harvey, who more than any other one man brought civilization to the Wild West. He emigrated to America and worked in restaurants in New York, New Orleans and elsewhere. Railroads were just beginning to carry passengers long distances, and Harvey saw an opportunity. Building hotels and restaurants along the tracks, he aligned his new operation with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. The railroad was completing its line from Chicago to Los Angeles in the 1880s, and Harvey kept right up with it. He hired young women from all over America to move West as waitresses. The wholesome Harvey Girls found many single men looking for wives. They married and settled, bringing real community to Western towns. Fred Harvey's motto was "Maintenance of Standards, Regardless of Cost." His restaurants were the best in the West. It lasted until the end of widespread train travel. Only a little of the Harvey empire remains, most notably the grand El Tovar Hotel in the Grand Canyon

Annals Of Food Writing

The author of the first Creole cookbook was born on this date in 1850. Lafcadio Hearn wrote La Cuisine Creole in 1885. Its subtitle was "A Collection of Culinary Recipes, From Leading Chefs and Noted Creole Housewives, Who Have Made New Orleans Famous for its Cuisine." The recipes would seem odd to us now, but their style is very recognizable as New Orleans food. The book establishes that Creole cooking was all-encompassing and indeed famous way back then, long before the same could be said of other regional American cuisines.

Today's Flavor

Today is National Indian Pudding Day. Indian pudding is made with cornmeal, eggs, and molasses. It's also National Orange Blossom Day. An ingredient important in both Southern bars and Middle Eastern bakeries comes from those flowers. Orange flower water is a fascinating and under-utilized ingredient. The Ramos gin fizz cannot be made with out it. I forgot to mention it throughout the month, but June is National Papaya Month. I have not had a papaya lately, but I will. I think it's one of the most delicious fruits in the world, when you catch it at optimum ripeness--but that's not easy.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Potato Patch, Arizona is about two-thirds the way from Phoenix to Flagstaff, in the middle of Prescott National Forest. It's a camping area, near the top of Mingus Mountain, with the widely-scattered trees characteristic of that part of the country. The Hassavampa River flows from a spring of the same name and forms a small lake nearby. It's excellent hiking and camping country. Those who don't enough food to grill over the campfire can find a few restaurants in Jerome, four miles northeast. They include the Red Rooster, the Flatiron, the Mile High, and Asylum. Hmm. I wonder which one has the loudest music.

Edible Dictionary

puff pastry, n.--A pastry which, when baked, shows many thin layers, with air gaps between them. It's made by rolling out a thin dough made of little more than flour and water. Butter (or lard or shortening) is spread over the dough, which is folded and rolled out to about the same thickness it had before it was folded. This is repeated many times, with rests for the dough between each rolling. After ten fold, the dough has over a thousand layers. The fat between the layers causes the get expansion in the oven. Puff pastry is probably a descendant of phyllo, which is made slightly differently. Croissants are made in much the same way, but with yeast added to the flour and water.

Deft Dining Rule #241

Ask whether tomato paste is in the marinara sauce at every Italian restaurant. (Correct answer: no.)

Eating Across America

On this day in 1985, US Route 66--the road made famous by two songs and a television series, along with many guidebooks--was scratched off the list of certified highways and ceased to exist. It ran from Chicago to Los Angeles, and carried so much traffic that its route had long since been paralleled by Interstate highways. One of the many books I lost in the flood was a dining guide to Route 66, written in the 1930s. Even now, a few of the diners and cafes along the old route remain open.

Food Namesakes

Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, who produced the James Bond films, died in 1996 on this date. The vegetable that bears his name was developed by an ancestor. Broccoli is a hybridized cauliflower, crossed with raab. . . Actor Jack Lemmon died on this date in 2001. . . Blues immortal Robert Johnson recorded a song called Come On In My Kitchen on this date in 1937, along with nine other songs that would become classics of the genre.

Words To Eat By

"Don't cut the ham too thin."--Fred Harvey, born today in 1835. These were his last words to his son when he died in 1901. It's bad advice. For a sandwich, anyway, you can't cut the ham thin enough.

Words To Drink By

This bottle's the sun of our table,
His beams are rosy wine;
We planets that are not able
Without his help to shine.
--Richard Brinsley Sheridan.