August 28

Cornbread

It's <strong>National Cornbread Day.</strong> Cornbread has a distinctly country, home-cooked identity. When you start talkin' 'bout cornbraid, ya gotta git yersef into a Southern draaaawwwwwl. I guess that's why we only rarely see cornbread in restaurants. Or it could be that restaurants can't buy ready-made cornbread of any quality. It must be baked on site. But why not? It's simple enough: cornmeal, flour, baking powder and soda, eggs, milk, oil. Unless you want to get ambitious an add cheese and jalapeno peppers and the like. Which is not a bad idea.

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 3

Annals Of Condiments

Today in 1837, pharmacists John Lea and William Perrins introduced the sauce that bears their name, and the generic name Worcestershire sauce. They concocted it from fermented anchovies, tamarinds, molasses, vinegar, garlic, chili peppers, cloves, and a few other things, on the orders of Lord Marcus Stanley. Stanley had just returned from many years in India, and he was trying to duplicate a sauce he's become addicted to there. (Most likely, it was something along the lines of Southeast Asian fish sauce, variations of which are widely used in cooking there.) The first attempt tasted horrible. Lea and Perrins left it in a barrel in their basement and forgot about it for two years. When they found it again, they discovered that it had fermented into something rather good. And the rest is history. We use it constantly in our cooking, as does most of the English-speaking world.

Annals Of Wine Marketing

The venerable Beringer winery in St. Helena, in the Napa Valley, was bought today in 2000 by the Foster's Brewing Company of Australia. Beringer had, under previous owners, already evolved into a medium-low-end winery with a few excellent flagship wines. It seems to me that in the Foster's years their overall quality has improved a bit, but that may be because wines in general have improved a lot. In any case, Beringer's wines have become more popular.

Food On The Air

Today is the anniversary of the first paid-for broadcast commercial, aired on New York radio station WEAF for an apartment development, today in 1922. Until that time, everyone was excited about radio, but nobody had figured out what would pay for the costs of broadcasting. This was the answer. Or an answer, anyway. It keeps my radio show alive, that's for sure.

Today's Flavor

It's National Cornbread Day. Cornbread has a distinctly country, home-cooked identity. When you start talkin' 'bout cornbraid, ya gotta git yersef into a Southern draaaawwwwwl. I guess that's why we only rarely see cornbread in restaurants. Or it could be that restaurants can't buy ready-made cornbread of any quality. It must be baked on site. But why not? It's simple enough: cornmeal, flour, baking powder and soda, eggs, milk, oil. Unless you want to get ambitious an add cheese and jalapeno peppers and the like. Which is not a bad idea. Most cornbread is baked in a cast-iron pan, from the kind that has impressions of ears of corn to full-size black iron skillets. The main controversies over cornbread are over texture and sweetness. The more flour in the mix, the smoother the crumb. You use more cornmeal if you like it good and crumbly. All cornbread has at least a little sugar in it, but some recipes have quite a lot, and taste distinctly sweet. Both flavors have vocal partisans who love one and hate the other. Cornbread may be too assertive to be served as the only bread on a dinner table, but certain dishes cry out for it. Red beans and rice, fried catfish, and barbecue come to mind. The best cornbread in New Orleans is the jalapeno cheese cornbread at K-Paul's, followed closely by Emeril's cornbread with whole corn kernels inside. Most of us have always had our cornbread at home, for breakfast. My mother gave it to us right out of the oven, with cane syrup to dip it in. Dat's good stuff, yeah.

Edible Dictionary

cacciatore, [kah-chyah-TOE-reh], Italian, adj.--Italian for "in the hunter's style." When attached to the name of another food (chicken cacciatore, to give the most familiar example), it means that food has been cooked and served with a tomato sauce with mushrooms and savory herbs, such as might be found in the woods. Although cacciatore dishes remain in full currency in Italy, we're seeing them less and less often in the United States. I can think of fewer than ten restaurants in New Orleans that have cacciatore dishes. They are, however, easy to make at home, and quite delicious, especially if the mushrooms are interesting. Because it's cooked down a long time, chicken cacciatore can be made with the more flavorful but tougher hens or roosters, rather than fryers.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Soda Springs is in the mountains in the southeast corner of Idaho. The nearest major city is Ogden, Utah, 140 miles south. But Soda Springs is substantial in its own right, with 3400 residents. It was known as Beer Springs in the late 1800s, when it was the point where the California Trail veers south from the Oregon Trail. It was incorporated as Soda Springs in 1896. The springs of the name are very impressive. It's a geyser that shoots up 100 feet every hour on the hour. It was created in 1937 by drilling down to a spot where warmish water came into contact with carbon dioxide. It is the only full controlled geyser in the world. Soda Springs has quite a few restaurants, of which the most appealing is The Trail, right in the middle of town. Try a soda.

Food In Medicine

Today in 1878, George H. Whipple was born. He's the man who discovered that pernicious anemia, a problem you don't hear about much anymore, can be addressed by feeding the patient liver. Or the essence of liver, which is how it's done now. I'd much prefer to eat the liver, especially if it's the Provimi veal liver at Clancy's or Pascal's Manale. . . Also, the Oral B trademark for dental floss was registered today in 1951. Now it's on everyone's lips.

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Augustine, former man about town, gourmet, lover of wine, and all-around playboy who reformed and became one of the greatest early philosophers of the Church. As Bishop of Hippo, in Northern Africa, he has come to be revered by those of African descent. I was baptized in St. Augustine's Church in the Treme section of New Orleans, and spent first and second grades in their school. This is probably not mere coincidence: St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest permanent European town in the United States, was founded today in 1565.

Food Namesakes

Anne "Honey" Lantree, the drummer with the British rock group The Honeycombs, was born today in 1943. . . Former U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg Rosemary Ginn was born today in 1912.

Words To Eat By

"If you ever have to support a flagging conversation, introduce the topic of eating."--Leigh Hunt, British writer, who died today in 1859.

Words To Drink By

"A guy once told me I didn’t need to drink to make myself more fun to be around. I told him, I’m drinking so that you’re more fun to be around."--Chelsea Handler.