January 18

Keith Young's Is Six. Wired Beef. Sliced Bread. Sandwich Islands. Walker. Margarine. Peking Duck. First Bacchus. Lima Food. Today is the official celebration of the life of <strong>Martin Luther King.</strong> Somehow, trying to note a food connection to the great man seems too trivial. So I salute him and the large number of Americans who benefited from his life. Really, all of us have. Many offices are closed; many people take the day off.

Days Until. . .

Mardi Gras--41 Valentine's Day--26

Restaurant Anniversaries

Keith Young's Steak House opened today in 2005, in Madisonville. Keith was part of the family that opened Young's Steak House in Slidell many years ago. He decided to strike out on his own, and opened a restaurant with a similar menu to the one at the original place, but in a much more attractive building. Indeed, it's one of the handsomest restaurants on the North Shore. During the past few years, Keith added more dining rooms and a bigger bar to handle the crowd. He expanded the menu, too. The beef remains terrific. Stick a candle in one of those four-inch-high filets!

Inventions For Better Eating

Joseph Glidden was born today in 1813. He is as responsible as anyone else for the amount of beef we eat in America. Glidden invented barbed wire--cheap but very effective in keeping cows from running off. Before its use, cattle roamed freely over the range, making things tough on farmers and cattlemen alike. With it, the beef industry boomed. Barbed wire made Glidden a very rich man.

Annals Of Breadmaking

Fifteen years after the creation of pre-sliced bread (the wonder of Wonder Bread), today in 1943 the Federal government banned its sale, a measure that remained in place until the end of the war. Bread-slicing machinery used metal needed for the war effort. So its manufacture was taken out of the market, and its use restricted. Bakeries issued instructions to consumers on how best to slice their bread. Its most interesting instruction was to lay the loaf on its side, the bottom facing you. I wonder whether this gave rise to "pan bread," the thickly-sliced white bread they use at Casamento's (and nowhere else I can think of). It's just regular white bread, cut manually end to end instead of crosswise. Toasted and buttered and covered with fried oysters, it becomes something great. Speaking of. . .

Eating Around The World

On this date in 1778, Captain James Cook "discovered" what he called the Sandwich Islands, in honor of the Earl of Sandwich. These were the Hawaiian Islands, previously unknown to Europeans but home to a numerous seafaring people. Meanwhile, the Earl of Sandwich--who is said to have created the assembly of bread and meat that bears his name--kept on eating them while continuing his workaholic ways at his desk.

Annals Of Food Writing

On this date in 1980, Peter Jenkins completed a six-year walk from New England to New Orleans to Oregon. He wrote about it in two terrific books, A Walk Across America and The Walk West. Peter got married in New Orleans in the middle of his walk, and he lived in Slidell for a few years. He's become a friend, and in Along The Edge Of America he wrote about a lunch he and I had together at Uglesich's. His latest book, Looking For Alaska, is another great read about his close-to-the-ground travels. A Walk Across America inspired me to take a 1200-mile bike ride from here to Chicago in 1986.

Great Moments In Food Law

Today in 1950, the Federal tax on margarine was repealed. It was begun in the 1880s as a result of lobbying by the dairy industry, which did not like the intrusion of margarine into the market for butter. Other restrictions on margarine were pushed through by friends of the butter boys. One of the most peculiar said that margarine could not be colored. In its natural form, it was nearly white. For a long time, margarine came with a packet of coloring agent that the consumer had to mix in if he wanted his margarine to look like butter. Remember when margarine was popular and modern? When I started writing about restaurants, one thing my reviews noted was whether a restaurant served margarine or butter. Now few restaurants serve margarine routinely. (Although quite a few cook with it.)

Food Calendar

Today is Peking Duck Day. That's a good dish you don't see much around town anymore. Ding's and the original Dragon's Garden began roasting Peking ducks in the late 1970s, ushering in a new era of Chinese cooking in New Orleans. The dish takes several days to prepare. The first step is hanging the duck to air-dry for a few days. Next, it's roasted with a coating of honey and herbs. When it comes out of the oven, the chef presents it grandly on a platter at the table. After a round of ooohs and aahhs, the chef returns to the kitchen to cut the ducks up, separating the skin from the meat. It returns on the platter with some green onions and hoisin sauce. You roll all of that in a "pancake" (like a soft, thin flour tortilla) and eat it with the fingers, like a burrito. The best I've had locally was at Cafe East, where not only do they present the duck as just described, but with an additional stir-fried dish with vegetables and the miscellaneous parts of the duck. It's a meal in itself.

Food In Sho-Biz

Danny Kaye--comedian, actor, and the first King of Bacchus--was born today in 1913. In addition to his brilliant stage presence, he was a very accomplished and ambitious gourmet cook. Ruth Reichl tells about a dinner at his house in her book Comfort Me With Apples.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Citrus Heights is an incorporated suburb of Sacramento, California. It's ten miles northeast of the state capitol. Almost entirely residential, Citrus Heights is home to some 87,000 people. Cripple Creek runs through the town; this is not the same one as was celebrated in the song. The town is well named. Freezing nights are rare, so citrus could be grown there. And Citrus Heights is on a rise that leads to the foothills of the High Sierra. The most intriguing restaurant in Citrus Heights is The Omelette Professor.

Edible Dictionary

snow peas, n.--A crunchy, flat pod containing immature peas, eaten whole. Snow peas were once the exclusive property of Chinese restaurants, but now many people buy them for side dishes or salads. They're a variety of the standard pea that's picked when the peas inside them are so small that they barely make a bulge in the pod. We've heard two explanations of the name. The first is that since they're planted late in winter and soon harvested, in some places there may actually be snow on the ground at the harvest. The other is that the pods give a whitish reflection from sunrays. Some recipes call for removing the strings from the pods, but that's not necessary.

Food Namesakes

Confederate Brigadier General James Chesnut, Jr. was born today in 1813. . . Football player Julius Peppers, the only man ever to play in both the NCAA Final Four and the Super Bowl, was born today in 1980. . . Famous French racehorse Epinard (French for spinach) was stolen by the Nazis today in 1941. Epinard was retired to stud, but wound up pulling supply wagons.

Words To Eat By

"The white Aylesbury duck is, and deservedly, a universal favourite. Its snowy plumage and comfortable comportment make it a credit to the poultry-yard, while its broad and deep breast, and its ample back, convey the assurance that your satisfaction will not cease at its death."--Isabella Beeton, early British cookbook author.

Words To Drink By

"Nyuk nyuk nyuk!"--Curly Howard, the funniest of the Three Stooges. He died today in 1952.