January 24

Cracklin' Rose. Peanut Butter. Lobster Dumplings. Tomalley. Lobster Bay. Eskimo Pie. Boy Scouts. Beer Can.

Days Until. . .

Mardi Gras--35 Valentine's Day--20

Music To Eat Creole Gumbo By

This is the. . . wait. This doesn't seem possible. The seventy-third birthday of Aaron Neville? He doesn't look it. Certainly doesn't sound like it. One of the great singers to ever emerge from New Orleans, he has an instantly recognizable voice, one with such a high register that it seems unlikely coming from a burly guy like him.

Music To Drink Cheap Bubbly Wine By

Neil Diamond was born the same day and year as Aaron Neville. He had two hits with food titles: Cherry Cherry and Cracklin' Rosie. The latter is a reference to a bubbly, fruity wine called "crackling rose," which was already fading from the scene by the time the song got around to it. The best-known version of crackling rose in these parts was Pink Ripple.

Today's Flavor

It's National Peanut Butter Day, but none of the peanut butter makers agree. (One says it's March 3.) Peanut butter is something you either love or are totally indifferent to; I'm in the latter category. I was especially leery of the use of peanut butter in desserts, until the first time I had the peanut butter pie at Feelings years ago. It's also rumored to be Lobster Thermidor Day. We're not going along with that, for two reasons. First, this is a notably bad time of year for Maine lobster. Although the Yankees say their lobsters are always in season, the big bugs are better in the summer and early fall. Second, the word "Thermidor" comes from the ancient Gallic name for the month we now call July. As if that weren't enough, lobster Thermidor is a dish of the past, and is almost never seen on menus anymore. The last permanent slot it held on a New Orleans menu was at Antoine's, which has not brought it back since the storm. No great loss. The sauce is a basic white sauce blended into fish stock with a bit of cheese, cream, and cayenne.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Maine lobster requires six minutes in a pot of salted (1 tsp. per quart) water at a rolling boil--for a one-pound lobster. For each additional pound, add three minutes. That's for the smallest lobster in the pot. Let the bigger ones stay the allotted time, as if they were the only ones in the pot.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Lobsterville, Massachusetts is an area along the beach near the westernmost tip of Martha's Vineyard. We'll bet they have more beachside lobster and clam bakes there than they do lobstering operations, the Vineyard being the kind of real estate that it is. The last active commercial fishing port on the Vineyard is a couple of miles away.

Edible Dictionary

stone crab, n.--A large crab with an almost square body, stone crabs are well named. Their shell is thick and hard. That's true even for the claws, which are the parts of the crab that are eaten. The shell on the claw, when broken, can be so sharp that if an eater isn't careful he can cut his fingers rather badly. (As I have.) Found along the Gulf of Mexico coastline, stone crabs are most commonly found in Florida, where they are widely served in restaurants. They are expensive but large. A single claw can weigh six ounces or more. They're usually steamed and served cold with a mayonnaise-like dipping sauce. The flavor of the meat is distinctly sweet. The method of harvest is interesting: the crabs are pulled from the bottom (where they eat oysters, among other things), and one claw is removed. The crab is put back into the water, where the claw will grow back. Stone crabs are fished a bit in Louisiana, but they don't make it to market much. One more truth that must be told: stone crab claws in restaurants can be very, very expensive. Which may be why we don't see them often in Louisiana.

Annals Of Popular Cuisine

Eskimo Pie was introduced on this date in 1922 by an Iowan named Christian Nelson. It's a simple enough concept: a slab of vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate that hardens into a shell upon contact with the cold ice cream. I don't remember seeing Eskimo Pie until the 1960s. Before then, we got something similar, but on a stick, from the ice cream truck. We called it a "polar bar," although I can't remember ever having seen those words on the wrapper. And you could also get something a lot like an Eskimo Pie at the Dairy Queen, where they would dispense one of their cones from the machine, then dip it in hot fudge. If all went well (sometimes the act of holding an ice cream cone upside down had predictable results), you got the same kind of chocolate shell.

Around The Campfire

Today is the anniversary of the Boy Scouts, formed in England by Lord Baden-Powell in 1908. The Scouts were a big and immensely enjoyable part of my life for ten years, as my son grew through its ranks. We cooked and ate many a fine meal (and many a terrible one, too) on our 60 or 70 nights of camping out. Our all-time best was a twenty-pound fillet of lemonfish and an equally large whole sirloin, both grilled over an open wood fire, seasoned with Tony's. The Scouts have something in common with New Orleans, the ratings in this publication, and the Saints: all use the fleur de lis as their insignias.

Annals Of Beer

Today was the birthday, in 1935, of canned beer. The American Can Company had been working on the idea when Prohibition came in, and got back to work when it went out. The first brewery to get its beer into cans was the Gottfried Kreuger Brewing Company of Newark. The early cans were made of steel, and were taller and much heavier than the paper-thin aluminum balloons they use now. You needed the old "churchkey" can opener to make its distinctive triangular holes in the top, rom which you drank or poured, depending on your preference for formality.

Food And Drink Namesakes

Today in 1995, the O.J. Simpson murder trial began. My radio station carried the entire thing live. It interrupted my radio show maddeningly, sometimes several times in one show. But it brought lots of new listeners. People still tell me they started listening to the show during the trial. . . It is the birthday of Oral Roberts, 1918. . . The Apple Macintosh computer was introduced today in 1984. It's a pun, of course, on the Mcintosh (no "a") variety of apple. . . Tennis pro C. Gene Mako served up the first day of his life today in 1916. (Mako is an eminently edible species of shark.) . . . Doris Haddock, a liberal political activist who became famous for walking 3200 miles across the country in her late eighties to demand campaign reform, was born today in 1910. She died last year at a hundred.

Words To Eat By

"Do you know why kids like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Because they're good!"--Dick Brennan, Sr.

"I owe it all to little chocolate donuts."--John Belushi, Saturday Night Live original cast member and one of the Blues Brothers, born today in 1949.

Words To Drink By

"Beer has long been the prime lubricant in our social intercourse and the sacred throat-anointing fluid that accompanies the ritual of mateship. To sink a few cold ones with the blokes is both an escape and a confirmation of belonging."--Rennie Ellis, Australian writer and photographer.