August 14

It's National Corn On The Cob

Fig Newton. Corn on the Cob. Buckle. Creamsicle. Locust. Social Security.

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 29

Today's Flavor

Today is National Corn on the Cob Day. In the parts of America where corn is vital, the sweet corn festivals have already begun, as the vast corn farms move towards harvest. Most of those endless plantings are of what's called "field corn," used as livestock feed, corn syrup, ethanol, and the like. The corn we eat off the cob is specially grown and called "sweet corn." It really is sweet when picked at its prime moment and cooked immediately. Indeed, in the Midwest they talk of the importance of picking the corn, running right into the house where the water is already boiling, and dropping it into the pot as quickly as possible. The sugar in corn does begin turning into starch almost immediately, and a lot of research has gone into figuring out how to preserve that sweetness in the corn we find in the store. (Without much luck.)Here's how to boil the good fresh corn on the cob we find out there these days. Bring the pot of water to a boil. Drop the shucked corn in and turn the heat off. Let the corn sit there for five minutes, and start eating. Really, the corn doesn't need to be cooked--just heated. An alternative is to grill the whole ears. The technique there is to remove all but the innermost layer of the husk, and put the corn on a moderately hot grill. When you can see the pattern of the kernels browned onto the husk, turn it until the patters is visible all over. Then it's ready to eat.The right amount of butter on corn on the cob is enough so that it runs down your arm as you munch away.There's a widespread Web rumor that it's National Creamsicle Day. A Creamsicle is ice cream on a stick surrounded by a sherbet-like, thick layer that tastes like oranges with vanilla, or something like that. It's the same as a Dreamsicle, except that the latter is made with ice milk in the center.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Newton, Massachusetts is the ancestral home of the Fig Newton cookie. It's a suburb of Boston but a pretty big place in its own right, an amalgamation of thirteen villages--among them Newton Centre, Newton Corner, Newton Highlands, Newton Lower Falls, Newton Upper Falls, Newtonville, and West Newton. Its name, which the people clearly love, is a contraction of "Newtowne." The city is a little too sophisticated to have a Fig Newton monument or anything like that, but on the one hundredth anniversary of the cookie (in 1991) there was a festival featuring a performance by the singer Juice Newton.

Edible Dictionary

buckle, n.--An odd term whose origin is not known, which which I suspect may have been created to sound good with "blueberry," by far the most common variety of buckle. A buckle is similar to a cobbler. The bottom layer is a light, moist cake, sometimes riddled with berries, other times topped with them. It's topped with a crumbly cake batter and baked. (A cobbler would be made by pouring a fruit mixtures over a batter light enough to rise above the fruit when it bakes.) Just saying you're going to make a blueberry buckle gets people's attention, because most don't have a clear idea of what it is. Which may be the best reason to make it.

Deft Dining Rule # 349

Flirting with the hostess in a restaurant will not get a man a better table, no matter how good-looking he is. However, beautiful women can get whatever they want from a male host.

Entomology In Food

As if the people in Saharan Africa don't have enough to worry about, on this day in 2004 a plague of locusts swarmed over the country of Chad, dealing a cruel blow to their scarce food crops. What I wonder is why the locusts went there, where the pickings are slim. Locusts--large grasshoppers with voracious appetites--are edible. In fact, they're explicitly recommended as kosher in Deuteronomy. I've eaten a few. They're not especially tasty, but I can tell you they're harmless. I'm thinking that the usual method of cooking them--deep-frying--might be inferior to boiling them as if they were shrimp and serving them, legs and head removed, with remoulade sauce. Next time I run into some fresh locusts I'm going to try that.And, indeed, we are experiencing a rare population boom in grasshoppers around New Orleans. Even downtown, I'm seeing many more Eastern Lubbers than I have in many years. Eat up!

Eating In Our Waning Years

Today in 1935, the Social Security Act was signed into law. While it obviously addresses a crying need, there was a great deal of opposition to it. But the plan removed a depressing (especially in the Depression) uncertainty among older people without means, who sometimes could not even afford minimal food and shelter before Social Security brightened up their outlook.

The Saints

It's the feast day of St. Arnulf of Soissons, who lived in France in the eleventh century. He's the patron saint of millers of flour and brewers. . . And of St. Werenfridus, a Dutch Benedictine in the eighth century. He's the patron saint of vegetable gardens--and stiff joints.

Food Namesakes

This is the birthday, in 1966, of actress Halle Berry. . . Russell Baker, a long-time columnist for the New York Times, was born today in 1925. . . Canadian Olympic swimmer Nancy Sweetnam splashed into the world today in 1973. . . Wrestler "Beautiful" Bobby Eaton ran into the big ring today in 1958.

Words To Eat By

"A bad review is like baking a cake with all the best ingredients and having someone sit on it."--Danielle Steel, mystery author, born today in 1947.

Words To Drink By

“Satiety comes of too frequent repetition; and he who will not give himself leisure to be thirsty can never find the true pleasure of drinking.”--Michel de Montaigne.