January 19

National Popcorn Day

Louis XVI. Neon. Doublemint. Popcorn. Buster Lake. Cajun Popcorn. Paula Deen.

Days Until. . .

Mardi Gras--28Valentine's Day--25

Today's Flavor

Today is National Popcorn Day. The Popcorn Board has a bunch of popcorn recipes on its site, along with history and FAQ's about the stuff. We can't live without popcorn. It's essential for the movies, of course. But it's also helpful when you're trying to lose weight. The Boy Scouts sell great microwave popcorn every year. Popcorn was the first food tested in a microwave oven. My last Golden Retriever, who died in 2005, was named Popcorn. Popcorn is omnipresent.Popcorn is such a popular snack that it has been studied intensively. The most fascinating discovery was explained by Orville Redenbacher, when he appeared on my radio show a long time ago. He said some kernels pop into mushrooms" (industry jargon for rounded pieces) and others into "butterflies" (with what look like wings). Orville, who did a lot of popcorn research, said that the mushrooms look better but the butterflies taste better.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Buster Lake is in East Texas, 131 miles northeast of Houston. It's unlikely that buster crabs are caught here, but possible. The lake is an abandoned curve in the Angelina River, which runs through a marsh before flowing into the Neches River behind the Ba Steinhagen Lake, a reservoir. Crabs need brackish water at least, though, so maybe it's better to fish for sac-a-lait and catfish here. If even that fails, the Catfish Hit is eight miles east in Jasper.

Edible Dictionary

baby corn, n.--The cute, three-inch-long whole ears of corn that you find in Chinese and Thai cooking don't have a complicated story: they really are baby corn. They're just regular corn that's picked when the ear is still so small that the cob is tender and edible. So many people have jokingly picked up a baby corn and try to nibble the kernels like they would on a full-grown ear. Although there are some varieties of corn especially designed for baby corn, the plants themselves are the standard. And baby corn can be taken from a regular corn plant. Usually, the ones lower down on the stalk are the ones chosen for corn infanticide. When the silk appears, it's time to pick. They're usually pickled in brine and canned.

Deft Dining Rule #958:

Buttered popcorn is better in theory than in practice. That's not butter, it's grease.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Don't let anybody tell you that better popcorn can be made in a pan than in a microwave oven. It was once true, but is no longer. Unless you have an industrial-strength popper.

Celebrity Chefs Today

Television personality, cookbook author, and Savannah, Georgia restaurateur Paula Deen was born today in 1947. Her entire presentation involves Southern homestyle cooking, which she delivers with a famous drawl and charm.

Food Through History

King Louis XVI was sentenced to death on this day in 1793, as the French Revolution hit its stride. Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, ruled over a period of excess and decadence among the French aristocracy. It's this over-the-top grandeur that Mark Smith and George Huber (both of whom passed away in 2004) had in mind when they named their new French restaurant after the last ancien regime king of France. When it opened in 1970, Louis XVI French Restaurant was unparalleled for hauteur in the annals of New Orleans dining. The city's gourmets took to Louis XVI warmly. Few thought the formality, Frenchness, and high prices would last long. But the restaurant was a success for thirty-five years, until Katrina.

Annals Of Restaurant Marketing

The neon tube light used to make advertising signs was patented in the United States today in 1915 by Frenchman George Claude. Expensive at first, neon signs took a few years to catch on. But they soon transformed outdoor advertising. Some local restaurants--notably Acme Oyster House and the extinct Toney's Spaghetti House--became famous for their neon displays.

Food Patents

Wrigley's Doublemint Gum became a patented trademark today in 1915, allowing many sets of twins to get acting work in television commercials for the chaw. . . Two New Yorkers patented a process for safely canning oysters and other seafood on this date in 1825. Every time I see oysters in a can I wonder how they do that, and who would want the results.

Food Namesakes

Lysander Spooner, an American philosopher and abolitionist, was born today in 1808. . . Famous billiards player Minnesota Fats (real name Rudolf Wanderone) was born today in 1913.

Words To Eat By

"The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution."--Paul Cezanne, French painter, was born today in 1839.

Words To Drink By

"Whiskey—I like it, I always did, and that is the reason I never use it."--Robert E. Lee, born today in 1807.