September 7

Acorn Squash

Days Until. . .

Summer ends 15

Today's Flavor

Today is National Summer Squash Day. There's something virtuous about eating squashes, and I can tell you what that is: they have almost zero food value other than fiber and beta carotene. If you're trying to lose weight, they're a great thing to fill out your plate; you can eat all you want and add nothing to your waistline. On the other hand, they're also more or less free of any significant flavor. Their flesh contains so much water that they don't work out particularly well in a casserole, either. All that said, we come back to the first premise: they make you feel virtuous when you eat them.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Bread Loaf, Vermont is roughly in the center of the state, forty-six miles south of Burlington. It's in the middle of the beautiful Green Mountains, and is named for the 3835-foot Bread Loaf Mountain. The nearby Bread Loaf Inn is the site of an annual writier's conference organized by poet Robert Frost. Restaurants (mostly chains) are in the nearby college town of Middlebury. We pick Rosie's Restaurant as the best bet, eight miles from Bread Loaf.

Namesakes Of Great Dishes

This is the birthday of French playwright Victorien Sardou, in 1831. His plays were famously advertised by the Art Nouveau poster artist Alfonse Mucha; they're still being sold, and you'd probably recognize them immediately. But Sardou is more famous for a popular fancy egg dish. Eggs Sardou was created at Antoine's in the dramatist's honor. The original recipe had poached eggs on artichoke bottoms with some chopped anchovies, all topped with hollandaise. Brennan's revised the dish, dumping the anchovies and adding creamed spinach. That version of eggs Sardou is the one that became a hit. Thousands of orders of it go out of New Orleans kitchens every year.

Annals Of Cheesemaking

Today in 1995, a Canadian company called Agropur made a cheddar cheese weighing 57,508.5 pounds for Loblaws Supermarkets, in Granby, Quebec, Canada. That set the record, according to Guinness. Over a half-million pounds of milk went into the making of the big cheese.

Food In The Funnies

Today in 1930, the comic strip Blondie made its first appearance in newspapers. Dagwood quickly evolved from a playboy into the nutbar husband of former flapper Blondie Boopadoop (that was her last name, all right). Soon he made culinary history by creating the sandwich that's named for him, loaded with every food imaginable.

Food On The Radio

Today is the birthday, in 1944, of Garrison Keillor, the creator of A Prairie Home Companion on public radio, and of its "sponsor" Powdermilk Biscuits. I've been trying to duplicate the recipe for those, but I can't seem to locate organic powdermilk. Keillor is allegedly ready to retire some time in the near future, but his retirement never seems to actually happen.

Food And Gas Stations

Today in 2000, taxi drivers in France began what they called Operation Escargot. It was a protest against high gasoline prices. They drove their cabs very slowly through cities, snarling traffic badly. They also sprayed the insides of their taxis with air freshener that smelled like garlic butter.

Edible Dictionary

salamander, n.--A small broiler, usually mounted at eye level above the stoves in a restaurant kitchen, used to put a final glaze or crust on a dish. The original salamanders were large pucks of cast iron on the ends of poker-like handles. These were set into a fire until the became red-hot, then held over the gratin dish until the top browned or bubbled. The name comes from the myth that the amphibian of the same name could walk through fire unharmed. "Run this under the salamander" is a well-known command in a restaurant kitchen.

Food Inventors

Luther Crowell was born today in 1840. He invented the paper bag with a flat bottom, of the kind used universally in grocery stores until plastic bags took over. He also invented a machine that assembled and folded the sections of a newspaper, so the supermarkets could run ads to fill those paper bags.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Claude, after whom the artery running through the Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Wards is named. He is also St. Cloud, patron of another Mississippi River city, in Minnesota. Claude was the grandson of Clovis, the first French king. I'd suggest him as patron saint of poor boy sandwiches, since they were invented on the street bearing his name (at Martin's, corner of Touro). . . It's also the feast day of St. Gratus of Aosta (Italy), the saint traditionally called upon for help with fear of insects. Remember him next time you find a bug in your salad. St. Gratus is also one of the many patron saints of vinegrowers.

Food Namesakes

Anthony Quayle, actor in The Bourne Identity and other movies, was bourne today in 1913. . . Dr. Michael DeBakey, who pioneered the use of artificial hearts, was born today in 1908. . . U.S. Ambassador to Sweden and Canada, W. Walton Butterworth was born in New Orleans today in 1903.

Words To Eat By

"High-tech tomatoes. Mysterious milk. Supersquash. Are we supposed to eat this stuff? Or is it going to eat us?"--Anita Manning, reporter for USA Today.

Words To Drink By

"Here's to love, that begins with a fever and ends with a yawn." Welsh toast.