June 30

It's National Ice Cream Soda Day

Double Gloucester, No Single. Electric Stove. Nectar Soda. Pricklypear Creek. Mellorine. Mint. Safe Food. Chinese Vendors. Sinatra.

Days Until. . .

Fourth Of July 6

Today's Flavor

Today is National Ice Cream Soda Day. This sounds like one of those hot dogs-apple pie-baseball kinds of things, but when's the last time you had an ice cream soda? Even ice cream parlors rarely have them anymore. The reason: the lack of the kind of soda fountain making an ice cream soda requires. It mixed carbon dioxide with water, then shoots it in a thin, string stream into the other soda ingredients. And that you don't see too much since around 1980.Today is allegedly National Ice Cream Soda Day. In New Orleans, this would be a nectar soda. The flavor "nectar" is unique to our part of the world. A pink syrup best known these days as a sno-ball flavor, it blends the flavors of almond and vanilla with a little citric acid to produce a distinctive and delicious hybrid. Although nectar is now most common as a sno-ball flavor, its first appearance was in drugstore soda fountains. At the behest of Katz and Besthoff, the I.L. Lyons company--a maker of various items for drugstores--developed the formula. They colored it with cochineal, a now-outmoded concoction made from scale insects, with a magenta hue. It was pink when it showed up in a soda, with or without ice cream. But then the drugstore soda fountain died, and K&B itself went away. Afterwards, the nectar changed. A company called the Nectar Cream Soda Company says it has the original recipe from Lyons, but it doesn't taste exactly as I remember it. I'm willing to believe that it's my taste buds that may have changed. Anyway, the closest approximation to the nectar taste of old comes by mixing Barq's cream soda with condensed milk and freezing it. I wonder what else can be done with nectar. Nectar creme brulee? Nectar cake? Nectar martinis? Why not?

Gourmet Gazetteer

Pricklypear Creek runs some ten miles through the rolling ranch country fifty miles east-southeast of Austin, Texas. As the name implies, this is dry country, with no small number of pricklypear cactuses growing. Both the flat pads and the fruits are edible. (I have a big pricklypear cactus and turn the fruits into jelly every year.) Pricklypear Creek falls into Barton's Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River (the one in Texas). The nearest restaurant to the confluence is in Smithville, four miles away. It has the inviting name Zimmerhanzel's Bar-B-Que.

Edible Dictionary

mellorine, n.--mellorine, n.--A substitute for real ice cream, made with fats other than that of cream. What makes ice cream creamy is the milkfat (also known as butterfat) that makes up 30-40 percent of heavy cream. Ice cream can be made by adding unsalted butter to a mix of whole milk instead of cream, without seeming peculiar. In mellorine, the fats used can be anything from animal fats to vegetable oils. This brings a distinctly different flavor and mouthfeel to the product. It was created in the late 1940s and was at its peak of popularite in the late 1950s. That mellorine is now only rarely even heard of is evidence that the "good old days" weren't all that good.

Food Inventions

Today in 1896, James Hadaway received a patent for the first electric stove. Electric stoves are roundly derided by those who cook with gas, and there's no doubt that gas is preferable. However, those of us who are forced by circumstances to cook on electric stovetops soon learn to adapt to its operating quirks. I am one of these unfortunates, and I'd say that I cook as well on an electric element as I could on gas. The worst problem: skillets and saucepans must have absolutely flat bottoms. As for electric ovens, I prefer them to gas.

Deft Dining Rule #188

The best table in most restaurants is the one that's most isolated one in the main dining room, especially if it's next to a window.

Music To Drink Martinis By

Frank Sinatra's career went into high gear today in 1939, when he made his first appearance with the Harry James orchestra. Harry James discovered a lot of great talent. He was also the great-uncle of Clark, the Gourmet Truck Driver, a regular visitor to my radio show.

Annals Of Food Research

The Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act were signed into law by Theodore Roosevelt. It was the first time any serious standards were brought to bear on the food supply in this country. Although its effect was overwhelmingly salubrious, it did ultimately remove from the market certain gourmet items that involve an above-average risk. A modern example of that would be raw milk and cheeses made from it.

Eating Around The World

Today in 1755, the government of the Philippines--which was more or less controlled by that of Mexico and, in turn, by Spain--declared that all Chinese food vendors owned by non-Catholics (which would be most of them) must close. It was the Far Eastern version of the Inquisition.

Food Namesakes

Shirley Fry an Australian tennis player who won her share of the major tournaments, was born today in 1927. . . On this date in 1967, Cookie Rojas pitched in relief for the Phillies. Afterwards, he could say that he'd played all nine positions on the team. . . Frankie Lymon of the rock group the Teenagers was born today in 1942. Later they would make Sprite out of his namesake fruit.

Words To Eat By

"Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos."--Don Kardong, writer and running enthusiast.

Words To Drink By

“Man being reasonable must get drunk;
The best of life is but intoxication;
Glory, the grape, love, gold--in these are sunk
The hopes of all men and of every nation”
--Lord Byron.

Cheese Of The Day

Double Gloucester, n.--There is barely such a thing as Single Gloucester, although small amounts of it are still made. It was made in small wheels on small farms since the 1600s, using the milk from a strain of cow that is all but extinct. Double Gloucester is a much bigger cheese made in commercial quantities, and is one of the most popular traditional cheeses in England. It's made from cow's milk, and colored orange with an extract of the annatto bean. It will remind many eaters of Cheddar in appearance, although its a bit firmer and has a more assertive taste. Most of it is aged about four months before being sold, but some ages longer and gets harder, sometimes developing islands of blue mold inside. Wheels of Double Gloucester have a natural rind. Sometimes they're involved in contests in which men attempt to catch large wheels of Gloucester rolling down a hill.