August 9

National Rice Pudding Day

Riz Au Lait. The Compleat Angler. King Edward. The Virginia Housewife. Szechuan Pepper. SuperDog.

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 22 Three-course dinners $39 (or less). All the menus can be found here.

Annals Of Fishing

On this date in 1593, Isaak Walton was born in England. He was to write a book that not only set down everything one could know about fishing at that time, but set the standard for books that studied any particular field. It was called The Compleat Angler. Its antique spelling lives on as a common affectation. The book was more about catching fish for food than for sport, although fun was part of it too.

Annals Of Smoking

Today in 1902, King Edward VII was crowned as the monarch of England, succeeding Queen Victoria, his mother. His first official act when he appeared before Parliament was to rescind an edict of the late Queen with this line: "Gentlemen, you may smoke." He smoked a dozen cigars a day, plus a pack of cigarettes. That's why a popular line of inexpensive cigars was named for him.

Food Calendar

This is National Rice Pudding Day. Rice pudding is one of those dishes that's much loved but rarely eaten. It's brought up on the radio show six or seven times a year always with an undertone of longing for some wonderful memory of the past. It even has a cherished old French name: riz au lait. I have a recipe for it in today's newsletter. (It's also in my cookbook, if you have it.)

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

To really love rice pudding, you must be over seventy.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Mushroom Farms, Pennsylvania is thirty-one miles east of Scranton, in the Pocono Mountains. They really do grow and package mushrooms in the area, which is wooded and hilly enough that many wild mushrooms probably grow, too. Maybe some of them turn up on the pizzas you can order for dinner at Napoli Pizza, a half-mile away.

Cookbooks Through History

This is the birth date, in 1762, of Mary Randolph. She married into one of the most prominent families of Virginia and lived a life of privilege, until her husband fell into disfavor with Thomas Jefferson and lost his job. Their fortunes declined. Mary Randolph opened a boarding house, where her skills at running a large manor made it a success. She wrote a cookbook called The Virginia Housewife, . It is considered the first major work on the subject of Southern cookery. Written for women with genteel lifestyles, it was carefully assembled, and included exact measurements of ingredients--a rare quality in recipes of the time.

Edible Dictionary

Szechuan pepper, n.--The husks of the fruits of Zanthoxylum piperitum and related plants, all native to central China. When used in combination with other hot peppers (usually red chilies), Szechuan peppers create the distinctive hot flavors and sensations found in the dishes from the Szechuan region. The peppers are unusual in that the husks, not the seed inside, are used in cooking. It doesn't have much of a flavor, per se; it works on nerve endings to make them more receptive to other flavor sensations. True Szechuan peppers are not often found in American Chinese restaurants, which usually get by with only the red chili peppers.

Annals Of Public Buildings

The Superdome's first public event--a loss for the Saints against the Houston Oilers in a pre-season game--took place today in 1975. Best food: the SuperDog, created by the now-gone local King Cotton meat-packing company. The dog was indeed bigger than normal, and better, too, with an interesting spice and garlic component. . . Today in 1173, construction began on the Campanile in Pisa, Italy. Better known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, its image is seen somewhere in three out of four American Italian restaurants. I wonder how many pizzerias with the name "Tower Of Pizza" there are around the world. We have one here, of course.

Food Namesakes

Claude I. Bakewell, former U.S. Congressman from Missouri, was born in St. Louis today in 1912. . . Baseball pro Mike Lamb was born today in 1975.

Words To Eat By

"Blessed be he that invented pudding, for it is a manna that hits the palates of all sorts of people; a manna better than that of the wilderness, because the people are never weary of it."--Francois Maximilien Mission, French writer.

Words To Drink By

"Drinking is a way of ending the day."--Ernest Hemingway.