July 21

National Junk Food Day

Scary Picnic. Dinner At Antoine's. Heavy Drinking In Literature. Mizithra. Winesap. Kay Starr. Junk Food. Flour Saint.

Days Until. . .

Today's Flavor

Today is allegedly National Junk Food Day, but does that really make it stand out from all the other days on the calendar? We all get hooked by some kind of junk food at some time in our lives. The makers of the stuff know exactly what flavors, colors, and textures address subconscious desires. We're hard-wired to like sweet food, for example. And high-fat foods. It doesn't care what kind of sweet or fat it is. So we get trans-fat emulsified with high-fructose corn syrup. Pure garbage.And we don't just like it. We develop attachments to certain junk foods, and feel we must be loyal to them. Some people will get mad when I say that this applies to doughnuts. Sno-balls. Candy bars. Fried pies (i.e., Hubig's). Most hamburgers and most fries. Rationally, we shouldn't eat any of that stuff. It's not good for you. Nor does it even taste good--not as good as food made with good ingredients in careful ways. A little bit of good eats gives a lot more satisfaction than a lot of junk.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Winesap is a farming country crossroads in hilly central Kentucky. It's eighty-four miles south of Louisville. The place is certainly named for the apples that grow in that part of the country. It's not far away from the Green River--a major tributary of the Ohio--and Mammoth Cave National Park. Beautiful countryside around there. The nearest restaurant to Winesap is Cub Run Cave, five miles west.

Ruined Picnics Through History

On this date in 1861, the first major battle of the Civil War was fought at Manassas Junction. It's also known as the Battle of Bull Run Creek. So certain were the Unionists that the U.S. Army would rout the Confederates that people actually dressed up and went to the battle site with picnic lunches to watch it. In fact, it was a decisive victory for the South, and gave General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson his nickname.

Edible Dictionary

entomatada, [en-TOE-mah-TAH-dah], Spanish, n.--A soft tortilla, usually made of corn masa meal, rolled up around a filling of cheeses, chicken, shredded or dry beef or pork. The meats are combined with a light sauces of tomatoes, hence the name. It's the same idea as an enchilada, but with tomatoes instead of chili. As with enchiladas, usually two or three make up a plate.

Food In Literature

Francis Parkinson Keyes (pronounced "kize") was born today in 1885. She wrote, among many other things, Dinner At Antoine's. As a result of that book's popularity, New York food writer Lucius Beebe suggested to the Brennans that they create Breakfast at Brennan's, which they did. Back to Keyes: the house at the corner of Chartres and Ursulines is named for her.Ernest Hemingway, whose books always include lots of eating and drinking (because he enjoyed both himself), was born today in 1899. Indeed, in a recent re-reading of A Farewell To Arms, I was struck by the sheer quantity of booze the characters ingested. I couldn't have kept up with them.

Music To Eat At Little Tables By

One of my favorite girl singers, Kay Starr, was born today in 1922. She was a stunning woman with a powerful voice--a real belter with a jazzy, original style and a great vibrato. She had a bunch of big hits in the late 1940s and early 1950s, but didn't cross over into the rock era. She's still singing, I think. . . ¶ I wonder if she's ever confused with Kenneth Starr, who wasted a lot of time and money going after Bill Clinton in the 1990s. It's also his birthday today, in 1946. He doesn't sing nearly as well.

Food Around The World

This is the national holiday of Belgium, commemorating the 1831 crowning of that country's first king, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. Throughout history, Belgians have joked with a sigh of resignation about their having been conquered and run over by just about every neighboring country, both before and after their independence. In 1831, they rose up against their Dutch rulers, and for a change most of its other neighbors--notably France--were on its side.From a culinary perspective, Belgium is the most underrated country in Europe. It's restaurants are mostly French in style, although the Flemish (Dutch) influence makes it distinctive. Not only is Brussels full of great eateries, but other towns--including the smallest ones--show off marvelous dining possibilities.

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Victor of Marseilles. He is one of the patron saints of flour millers. He's also the patron of cabinetmakers, and where would our kitchens be without them?

Food Namesakes

Barry "The Bean" Whitwam, one of the original members of Herman's Hermits, was born today in 1946. I think he's still in the band (which is still performing). . . Sam Bass, a train robber in the 1870s, was born today in 1851. . . Taco Ockerse, a Dutch singer and stage actor, was born in Indonesia today in 1955. He usually goes by just his first name.

Words To Eat By

The key dietary messages are stunningly simple: Eat less, move more, eat more fruits and vegetables, and don't eat too much junk food. It's no more complicated than that."--Marion Nestle, author of the book What To Eat.

Words To Drink By

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."--Ernest Hemingway, born today in 1899.

Cheese Of The Day

mizithra, (Greek), n., adj.--A fresh cheese made in Greece, Cyprus, and Crete (and copied elsewhere). It's made of the milk of sheep or goats (or both), traditionally unpasteurized. It's very white, and visually resembles fresh-milk mozzarella. But the flavor is much tangier, and the texture is more like that of aged ricotta. It breaks easily but doesn't crumble. The name "mizithra" is almost as generic as "cheddar" is in this country. It has no defined place of origin, and there are wide variations from one mizithra cheese to another. It is not as common as it once was, perhaps because similar but better Greek cheeses have taken its place. On the other hand, the Cretan and Cypriot mizithras are held in great esteem on those islands.