Days Until. . .
Coolinary Summer Specials End Today
National Squid Day reaches its tentacles around our dining and cooking today. As fried things go, few are as appealing as a pile of fried calamari. It seemed to be made of two different animals, the golden rings crosscut from the bodies, scattered with the fried spiders from the head section. When fried lightly and sent out immediately afterwards, they're impossible to stop eating.
Fried calamari around New Orleans are neither as common nor as good as they once were. The restaurant that did them best--La Riviera--was a Katrina casualty. The best now are at Impastato's. The all-time greatest local squid restaurant no longer serves them at all. Before charbroiled oysters, Drago's had a magnificent squid platter including fried, stuffed, and grilled squid, all delicious.
Squid come in every imaginable size. They can be as small as your little finger or big enough to fight a sperm whale to the death. The ones as big as your arm often turn up on sushi bars, panes of their bodies cut out and crosshatched to make them chewable. They're very tough and not very flavorful.
Smaller squid are better. They're best fried with a light but well-seasoned coating, preferably with a little marinade of something lemony. (Lemon juice would work perfectly.) While many restaurants serve calamari with a side order of red sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, that wouldn't be necessary if they were lighter and seasoned better.
Scotch egg, n.--Scotch egg A boiled egg covered with a thick coating of sausage, and then fried. To make them, the egg is boiled medium hard, the shell is removed, and a finely-chopped mixture of sausage, bread crumbs, and enough egg to hold the mixture together is patted around the egg. The entire assembly is then fried. In England and in British pubs the world over, these are served as bar snacks, usually cold. Some people make them at home, where they're typically served warm. The dish was invented in the 1850s by Fortnum and Mason, the famous London department store. (Then and now, it had a large food department.)
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
When cleaning squid that are very fresh, beware that it may still be alive. It has a small beak that can bite. It feels like a nip from a small fingernail clipper.
Pecan was a small rural town in the center of the Florida peninsula, fifty-one miles south of Jacksonville. The good news: pecan groves do grow in the area. Bad news: most of this former farmland is now the most unsavory kind of industrial zone, with waste water ponds, railroad spurs, and a large junkyard nearby. Let's get out of here and calm down with a drink. The nearest place to do that is Little Italy On The St. John's River, about a half-mile away from where Pecan used to be.
Food In Publishing
William Shawn, the second and longest-serving editor of The New Yorker magazine, was born today in 1907. Shawn ran the highbrow publication throughout its glory years, and was among the most influential figures in American literature. He rarely published his own words, and never allowed his name to appear in the magazine. He lunched at the Algonquin Hotel every day with his writers, ordering the same thing every day: a glass of orange juice and a bowl of Special K cereal with skim milk. No wonder the magazine only recently began writing about restaurants.
Music To Forget Food By
This is the anniversary, in 1969, of the New Orleans Pop Festival, our answer to Woodstock. It took place in the Louisiana International Speedway near Gonzales. The organizers offered free camping (although not free admission) and quite a musical lineup: Chicago, Canned Heat, Country Joe and the Fish, the Grateful Dead, It's a Beautiful Day, Iron Butterfly, Janis Joplin, Oliver (the worst act there), Santana, Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Youngbloods. . . and Dr. John, then known as the Night Tripper. The event is seldom recalled, perhaps because many of us who were there can't remember anything about it. Drugs were everywhere. The food situation was unspeakable. But 1969 was the low point for New Orleans cuisine in the last half of the twentieth century anyway.
Annals Of Drinking
Robert F. Borkenstein was born today in 1912. He invented the Breathalyzer, one of the first machines for determining the level of a person's blood alcohol. It gave the cops a tool to keep drunk drivers off the road--an unarguably important development. However, a side effect was the demise of fine-dining restaurants located far from population centers. When the New Orleans Police Department cracked down on drunk drivers in the 1980s, it devastated volume at restaurants like LeRuth's on the West Bank and Crozier's in New Orleans East. People started dining closer to home.
Annals Of Popular Cuisine
Arthur Godfrey was born today in 1903. Godfrey started brilliantly in radio, then became the biggest star on early television. Godfrey invented the TV talk show as we know it. A Prairie Home Companion is essentially an updated version of Arthur Godfrey Time, which ran on CBS radio for twenty-seven years. CBS built a theater especially for his television variety show; it's still in use as the Ed Sullivan Theater, the home now of David Letterman. Godfrey was such a master of ad-libs that he was for a long time the only person allowed to work without a script on network radio. Godfrey's commercials made Lipton the dominant tea brand in America. For all that, so little of his work was recorded that he's almost unknown to anyone under the age of sixty.
Jeff Frye, pro baseball pitcher, was born today in 1966. . . John Parsons Cook, a Congressman from indiana, was born today in 1817. . . Burton Y. Berry, ambassador to Turkey and Greece in the 1950s, was born today in 1901. . . Actor Chris Tucker was born today in 1972. ("Tucker" is Australian slang for food.)
Words To Eat By
"We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink."--Epicurus.
Words To Drink By
"A man ought never to get drunk above the neck."--Unknown.
Or--even more important--below the waist.