August 27

Toll House Cookie Day

Bananas. Toll House. Fish Creek, WI. Speck. Burning Man. Crawfish Monica.

Today's Flavor

Coolinary Summer Specials End 9

Deft Dining Rule #815

It's not a myth: bananas whose skins are thoroughly speckled with black spots are the most delicious bananas.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

Overripe bananas are best for banana bread or banana pudding. If you don't have time to make those right now, puree the bananas in a food processor with a little lemon juice, put it into a food storage bag, squeeze all the air out, and freeze it.

Deft Dining Rule #193

Bananas are easier to peel from the bottom to the top--that is, from opposite the stem end. Try it and you'll see.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Fish Creek is a little town in the extreme northeast corner of Wisconsin, on the peninsula that separates Green Bay from Lake Michigan. A small cove off Green Bay makes a natural spot for docks; logically enough, Fish Creek is a haven for people with boats. It has been so since 1853, when the first docks were built. The Alexander Noble House in the town was built in 1874, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. No fewer than eleven restaurants are clustered in one block, with the Cookery in Fish Creek being the most interesting. I wonder what's on the menu.

Edible Dictionary

speck, German, Italian. n.--A dry-cured, smoked ham most popular in extreme Northern Italy and Austria. It is becoming more common in this country, however. Speck is almost identical to prosciutto, with the addition of the natural smoke flavor. So it has characteristics of both the Italian style of salt-curing ham and the German tradition of smoking it. Like prosciutto, speck is so intense in flavor that it's usually sliced paper thin. It's used in sandwiches, but sparingly. It also turns up with melons and other sweet fruits as an appetizer.

Unusual Food Celebrations

Today in 1977, the first Burning Man Festival was held in the Black Rock Desert north of Reno, Nevada. A tall effigy of a man (nobody in particular) is built and burned. The event seems to be a spontaneous celebration of itself, and is otherwise hard to explain. (Here's the web site that leaves no stone unturned in the effort to do so.) This year's festival began August 25 and runs through Labor Day. Our interest in it concerns the Burning Man sushi roll, served by many Japanese restaurants across the country. It has spicy tuna inside, with seared peppered tuna, avocado, and salmon on the outside. It's one of the better big rolls we've had.

Annals Of Cookies

Today in 1940, the Nestle Company registered a trademark for Toll House cookies--the original chocolate chip cookies. They rolled out the chocolate chips a few months earlier, and saw that it would be a huge new product for them. The cookies were invented at a 1709-vintage inn (and actual toll-collecting point) on the road from Boston to New Bedford, Massachusetts. In the 1930s, Ruth Wakefield, who owned the inn with her husband, made a batch of cookies with chunks of chocolate in them. They were so popular that Nestle made a deal with her: if she would turn over the rights to the recipe, she would get all the chocolate she wanted for the rest of her life. After awhile, to save people the trouble of chopping chocolate bars, Nestle created the familiar chocolate chips.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Monica. She is most remembered as the mother of St. Augustine, but her own life was such that she's the patron saint of homemakers. She's also a patron saint of alcoholics; Augustine was one of those in his young days, and so was Monica. In a roundabout way, she's also the namesake of crawfish in a spicy cream sauce over pasta, locally called crawfish Monica. It was invented by Monica Davidson, who keeps her recipe a secret and has the name under trademark.

Weather Report

This is the birthday, in 1965, of Hurricane Betsy, the first really bad hurricane in the memory of most New Orleanians, and the first hurricane in America to do over a billion dollars in damage. It hit town September 7.

Food Namesakes

Jeff Cook, singer and guitarist with the country-rock group Alabama, wailed for the first time today in 1949. . . Pro hockey center Adam Oates hit The Big Ice today in 1962. . . Charles Stewart Rolls, one of the founders of the luxury automobile maker Rolls Royce, took to The Road today in 1877. . . Catfish Hunter pitched his sixth win of the month for the Yankees today in 1978; no losses that August. . . Peanuts Lowrey--speaking of baseball--was born today in 1917. He played mostly for the Cubs. . . Hickory Smoke won the 1957 Hambletonian Stakes, a harness race with trotting horses, this day that year.

Words To Eat By

"I want cold pizza for breakfast
And a pinch of cold spaghetti will do
But there's nothin' in the world that I like better than
Eatin' cold pizza with you."--Christine Lavin, American singer.

"All critics should be assassinated."--Man Ray, art photographer, born today in 1890.

Words To Drink By

Here is to loving, to romance, to us.
May we travel together through time.
We alone count as none, but together we're one,
For our partnership puts love to rhyme.
Irish toast.