July 7

It's World Chocolate Day

Crabmeat Louie. Chocolate. She-Crab Soup. Pecan. Fontina Cheese. Pins In Beef. Sliced Bread. Cap Bread. TV Dinner. A French Cook For Us.

Days Until. . .

Food Calendar

This is National Crabmeat Louie Day. It's an excellent cold presentation of lump crabmeat with a sauce made from mayonnaise, chili sauce, and a little mustard. It is not known who Louie (or Louis, as it's sometimes spelled on menus) was. But we do know that the dish is about a century old and emerged into public consciousness in San Francisco. It is less well known in New Orleans than elsewhere, despite the excellence of the local crabmeat. Here, crabmeat ravigote (a.k.a. crabmeat maison) fills the space on the menu where crabmeat Louie would be seen elsewhere. Nevertheless, it is a great cold appetizer. Sometimes it's built up into a salad, often with avocados in addition to the greens and tomatoes. A classic presentation of crabmeat Louie uses half an avocado as the base, with the saucy crabmeat served in the pit. Today is also World Chocolate Day. A subject less important to me, but more so to much of the population. It is speculated that today in 1550, chocolate first arrived in Europe. It was consumed mostly as a drink by nobility for the first few centuries, and it wasn’t until the 19th century that manufacturing advances allowed for its mass-production and its popularity to spread. Personally, I don’t get it. It falls under my Theory of Dessert-Eaters. I believe there to be three types of dessert-eaters. You either like fruit desserts, chocolate desserts, or custard dessert, and seldom do you stray from your preference when ordering. A well-rounded dessert menu should always include something from each of these categories, no matter the caliber of restaurant.

Gourmet Gazeteer

Pecan is a country crossroads in the southwestern corner of Georgia, forty-six miles north of Dothan, Alabama. It is exceptionally well named: hundreds of acres of pecan orchards surround it on all sides, with new orchards being planted all the time. Not many houses nearby, but lots of pecans. It's three miles from the Walter F. George Reservoir on the Chattahoochie River, where there's a state park. For a good lunch or dinner, drive three miles west to Fort Gaines, where Tommy's restaurant waits to serve you. Try the pecan pie.

Edible Dictionary

she-crab soup, n.--The name tells most of the story: it's a soup made with female crabs, preferably those carrying eggs. It's made by combining crabmeat and crab stock with milk or cream to make a mild soup whose flavor comes predominantly from the crabs. It's sometimes thickened with a blond roux or pureed rice, and flavored with some kind of onions--usually snipped green onions. The soup is a specialty of the Low Country of South Carolina, and rarely found elsewhere--at least not under that name. The advantage of she-crabs--the roe--has been obviated by the fact that in most places the law requires that any crab bearing eggs must be returned to the water, in order to continue the species.

Deft Dining Rule #749

For a reality check, next time a waiter who offers to top your entree with crabmeat, ask how much extra that will be. You will learn why this offer is so often made.

Food Inventions

Joseph-Marie Jacquard did not have beef in mind when, in 1805, he devised a system of programming weaving needles with punch cards. (That idea later found its way into early computers.) But his name has been applied to a method of tenderizing meats with arrays of flat, narrow pins. When shoved into a tough piece of meat, they break connective tissues. A very advanced version of this injects fat into the meat, imitating the natural fat found in the likes of prime beef. Jacquarded beef has a bad reputation among connoisseurs, but I've heard worse ideas.

Annals Of Bread

A more important culinary invention was rolled out today in 1928. The first loaf of pre-sliced bread was sold, the product of a machine invented by Otto Frederick Rohwedder. The place was Chillicothe, Missouri, and the product was called Wonder Bread. It wasn't long before pre-sliced bread loaves transformed the marketing of bread across America. Of course, this brings up a question: what was the best idea before sliced bread?

Annals Of Food Writing

Simone "Simca" Beck was born today in Normandy in 1904. A cooking school instructor and cookbook author in France, she became famous as one of Julia Child's collaborators on her landmark cookbook, Mastering The Art Of French Cooking.

Food Namesakes

Organist and composer Robert Stevens Baker popped out of the oven today in 1916. . . Big-league shortstop Chuck Knoblauch emerged into the Big Infield today in 1968. He has an extremely rare bilingual double food name. His first name is the English word for a beef shoulder roast, and his last name is the German word for garlic. . . U.S. Air Force General Earle "Pat" Partridge flew into the world today in 1900.

Words To Eat By

"Good cooking is when things taste of what they are."--Curnonsky, the "Prince of Gastronomy."

Words To Drink By

"A prohibitionist is the sort of man one wouldn't care to drink with--even if he drank."--H.L. Mencken.

Cheese Of The Day

Fontina, n., adj.--A cheese made from cow's milk in the Val d'Aosta in northwestern Italy, well into the Alps. It has a washed rind and a soft, pale yellow interior. The best and most particular Fontina carries "Val d'Aosta" as a sort of surname. It's required to be made from unpasteurized milk, all of which must come from a single day's milking. It's a much more assertive cheese than the generic Fontina found in supermarkets. The latter is rarely seen with the rind and has no pungency at all. It's flavor is lightly nutty. However, even this Fontina is celebrated as being among the best cheeses in the world for melting. It does so uniformly and without releasing a great deal of fat. So it makes a good fondue. It's also an excellent choice when stuffing cheese inside meats. It's most famous use in that regard is veal chop Valdostana, a popular dish in many Northern Italian restaurants.

Food In World Politics

Today in 1976, President Gerald Ford and his wife Betty hosted a state dinner in Washington, D.C. in honor of Queen Elizabeth. It was the first time such a dinner was televised. The Queen and Prince Philip were here to participate in the Bicentennial celebration.