August 24

Gyros

Chef George Crum invented <strong>potato chips</strong> today in 1853. He worked in a resort in Saratoga Springs, New York. The chips were meant as an insult to a customer who complained that Crum's fried potatoes were too thick. The chef sliced them paper-thin, fried them, and sent them out. The customer loved them, and so did the chef. And they took off in popularity from there. Few restaurants serve freshly-fried potato chips locally; more ought to.

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 7

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

Chef George Crum invented potato chips today in 1853. He worked in a resort in Saratoga Springs, New York. The chips were meant as an insult to a customer who complained that Crum's fried potatoes were too thick. The chef sliced them paper-thin, fried them, and sent them out. The customer loved them, and so did the chef. And they took off in popularity from there. Few restaurants serve freshly-fried potato chips locally; more ought to.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Curdsville is a farming town of 200 people in northern Kentucky, thirty-eight miles southeast of Evansville, Indiana. It's where Panther Creek meets the Green River, a tributary of the Ohio River and therefore a contributor to the New Orleans water supply. With a name like Curdsville, one would expect cheese to be made in the area, but the only cheese we could find is on the cheeseburgers at Hayden's Drive-Inn, two miles out of town. For bean curd, it's a ten-mile drive to the Hong King in Owensville.

Deft Dining Rule #125

A fish and chips vendor without malt vinegar is like an oyster bar without Tabasco, an Italian restaurant without Parmigiana cheese, or a sushi bar without wasabi.

Today's Flavor

It is National Gyros Day--but only in the United States. Gyros, pronounced any way you like but most commonly "ghee-rho," is a staple of American Greek restaurants. It may have been invented in this country, although that's not certain. It is uncommon in Greece, except where American tourists congregate. No classical Greek dish is like it, although Lebanese shawarma is similar. It's certainly not old; no mention of it has been found earlier than the 1970s. Gyros is a processed blend of finely-chopped lamb and sometimes beef with seasonings, pressed into a tapering cylinder which is then mounted on a vertical rotisserie. Assuming the stuff is sold at a reasonable pace, the outside of this cylinder gets a little crust from the flame it passes on every rotation. The chef slices it off from top to bottom. Gyros is serves as either a platter or a sandwich. In either case, it's accompanied by pita bread, tzatziki sauce (a white sauce of yogurt, cucumber, and dill) lettuce, and tomatoes. If it's a sandwich, sometimes it's stuffed into the pocket of the pita, and sometimes the pita is wrapped around it like a taco shell. Despite its processed, fast-food aspect, gyros is pretty good. It's certainly a great change of pace from the hamburger, which it resembles in enough ways to become popular.

Edible Dictionary

puttanesca, Italian, adj.Literally, "in the style of the prostitute." A dish cooked alla puttanesca is strongly flavored with salty, briny ingredients, notably olives, capers, anchovies, tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and garlic. This concoction is usually applied to pasta, but in the current American vogue a slab of spicy, grilled tuna is frequently present. The whole idea is a borderline gross, offensive joke, about which the less you think, the better. But Italians know what's being referred to here, and are chuckling as they order and eat the dish avidly. As who wouldn't? It's delicious.

Disastrous Interruptions Of Dinner

Mount Vesuvius's most famous eruption--the one that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum--occurred on this date in 79 AD. From the excavations in the lava we've been able to learn much about the lifestyles of the Romans at that especially rich time in their history. What a strange coincidence that the earthquake that hit Italy overnight last night (2016) should have occurred on this date.

Annals Of Breakfast

Today in 1869, Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York patented a waffle iron. Although waffles existed for hundreds of years, and Thomas Jefferson brought a patterned waffle iron back from the Netherlands (where they have long been popular), Swarthout's breakthrough was in creating the grid pattern we now identify with waffles. In those days before electricity, the iron was heated over an open fire or in an oven.

Movie Restaurants

Alice's Restaurant, a movie about the place where "you can get anything you want, excepting Alice," premiered today in 1969. It grew out of a long, folky, humorous song performed by the movie's star, Arlo Guthrie. The recording was better than the movie, a prime piece of pop culture of the late 1960s.

Looking Up

Today in 2006, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of its status as a full-fledged planet. Back in the days when New Orleans had five-digit phone numbers, we dialed PLUTO to get the correct time. Before you got it, you'd hear an ad for Coca-Cola. Example: "Take five! Coke brings you back alive! Four thirty-one p.m." To this day, whenever I think of Pluto I think of an ice-cold six-ounce bottle of Coke. What a great ad buy that was! And how antique such a service seems to be now.

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Bartholemew, one of the Apostles. He is much revered in Italy, and in Florence he is the patron saint of cheesemakers and salt merchants.

Food Namesakes

Baseball outfielder Tim Salmon was born today in 1968. . . British comedian Stephen Fry was born today in 1957. . . John Cipollina, guitarist with Quicksilver Messenger Service, a major band in the Summer of Love in San Francisco, was born today in 1943. . . Max Beerbohm, a British artist of caricatures, was born today in 1872. . . . Kenny Baker, who played R2D2 in the Star Wars movies, hit the Big Stage today in 1934.

Words To Eat By

"Lyon is full of temperamental gourmets, eternally engaged in a never-ending search for that imaginary, perfect, unknown little back-street bistro, where one can dine in the style of Louis XIV for the price of a pack of peanuts."--Roy Andries de Groot, American food writer. Substitute "New Orleans" for "Lyon" and "joint" for "bistro," and the sentence remains true.

Words To Drink By

"A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring;
Their shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
--Alexander Pope.