August 4

It's National Chocolate Chip Day and Red Beans Day

Satchmo. Red Beans. Chocolate Chips. Runner Beans. Baker. Poppin' Fresh. Dom Perignon. Butterworth.

Days Until. . .

Music To Eat Red Beans And Rice By

It's Louis Armstrong's birthday, in 1901. He claimed to have been born on the Fourth of July, but records say otherwise. After all these years, it's mostly jazz buffs who understand just what a sweeping effect he had on the music of America. And the music of rest of the world, for that matter. You can learn fast enough: listen to the jazz Satchmo made in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, and it all becomes clear. Another way: Terry Teachout's terrific biography, Pops. That was one of his other nicknames. He signed his letters with the ultimate New Orleans valediction: "Red Beans and Ricely Yours."

Food Calendar

In honor of Louis Armstrong's birthday, today is Red Beans and Rice Day. It's lucky that we eat lots of red beans in New Orleans. Of all the beans, red beans may be the most salubrious. Loaded with soluble fiber, they have the ability to absorb and remove fat from your digestive tract--perhaps even from your blood. We counteract those good effects by cooking beans with ham fat and eating them with sausage. But they're still among the healthiest meals we eat. Like many New Orleanians, I have a lifelong habit of eating red beans on Mondays. My mother cooked them every Monday, sure as the sunrise. I don't eat red beans every Monday, but I do many weeks, and I'm thinking about it the other ones. The lore about Monday red beans is that it was laundry day, and the homemaker didn't have time to cook anything that required a lot of attention. Red beans simmer for hours. (It has been pointed out that in most homes every day is laundry day, but never mind.) Red beans are also inexpensive enough that the longshoremen in the family could eat enormous servings of them and be both satisfied and well-nourished. Beans and rice together provide a complete protein. You could live on them meatlessly if you were of a mind to. The most plausible source of our bean-eating habit is the Caribbean, where the beans of choice were black beans. Those didn't grow around here, but red beans did. (Most of the red beans we eat now grow in New York and Michigan.) A few local farmers do grow red beans, though. If you ever see fresh red beans, try them. They need no soaking, cook quicker, and taste better. The major issue about red beans is how thick they should be. I grew up eating beans that were rather discrete, in a runny sauce by today's standards. I still prefer them that way. Others like the liquid component to be much thicker. Some have no whole beans at all. Today is also allegedly National Chocolate Chip Day. Every day is chocolate chip day for my wife, whose idea of a proper breakfast is a dish of chocolate chips and a glass of milk. And my daughter, who bakes a big, soft chocolate chip cookie every chance she gets. I note that in recent years dessert chefs have shown too great an interest in chocolate chips, shoving them into all kinds of desserts where they don't belong. Two particularly inappropriate places: bread pudding and cheesecake.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Baker, FL 32531 is forty-eight miles northeast of Pensacola, Florida, in the western extreme of that state's panhandle. It was established as a town in 1907, along a trail that since pre-Columbian times was used by the people living there to migrate as necessary. A general store opened there in 1908. It's still there, and is now the Baker Block Museum, full of artifacts from the area. Raising cattle has long been a major business. About 7200 people live in Baker now. The place to eat is the Gator Cafe, right in the center of town.

Annals Of Wine Marketing

By tradition, this is the day in 1693 when Dom Perignon, a Benedictine monk, tasted a bottle of Champagne wine that had gone through a second fermentation, thereby giving it bubbles, and said, "Come quick! I am tasting stars!" This is supposed to have been the creation of bubbly Champagne as we know it. The tale seems to be more legend than fact, but it has such a memorable ring to it that the makers of Champagne Dom Perignon do nothing to gainsay it.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

This day in 1970, Poppin' Fresh--a.k.a. the Pillsbury Doughboy--was registered as a trademark in the U.S. Patent Office. He was created by adman and novelist Robert Ross. Originally, the Doughboy's squeaky voice was performed by deep-voiced radio and cartoon actor Paul Frees.

Edible Dictionary

runner bean, n.--A family of edible beans originating in Central America, runner beans are better known for their brilliant red flowers than for the beans they produce. Some people grow them ornamentally. The beans themselves are unusually colored, ranging from white to black. There's a purple runner bean with a lavender color which, unfortunately, changes to tan when cooked. (There is no blue runner, other than the trademark for canned red beans. Runners are unusual in that they grow a thick, starchy, edible root and can live for a number of years. (Most other beans are annuals.)

Food And Drink Namesakes

Composer Arthur Butterworth was born today in 1923. . . Poet and multicultural writer Allison Hedge Coke expressed her first though today in 1958.

Words To Eat By

"But since he stood for England
And knew what England means,
Unless you give him bacon
You must not give him beans."--G.K. Chesterton.

Words To Drink By

"brandy, n. A cordial composed of one part thunder-and-lightning, one part remorse, two parts bloody murder, one part death-hell-and-the-grave and four parts clarified Satan.--Ambrose Bierce, in his satirical The Devil's Dictionary.