Days Until. . .
Summer ends 8
This is International Shish Kebab Day. Stringing pieces of food on a stick and roasting it over an open fire is such simple but delicious method of cooking that it's been practiced since prehistory. The word has been traced back to the oldest Middle Eastern languages. The method not only has tremendous flavor and aroma appeal, but uses meat very efficiently. A lot of meat comes in pieces substantially smaller than a roast or a steak. Even when they don't, it's easier and faster to cook small pieces of meat than large ones.
But small pieces of meat have a way of falling into the fire. The shish--the skewer--solves that problem elegantly. The skewer holding kebab meat together takes many forms, from short wire rods to large vertical spindles that are more like rotisseries. All are considered kebabs; the shish is an option. The homeland of kebabs stretches from India to Morocco, and from there they've spread almost everywhere else in the world.
Local Culinary Personalities
Today is the birthday of Mike "Mr. Mudbug" Maenza, in 1959. His family was in the produce business for a long time. He started his own company to do crawfish boils for big parties. It grew into a major producer of prepared sauces, soups, and other dishes for restaurants all over the country. If I gave you a list of the restaurants that buy finished dishes from Mr. Mudbug, you'd be astonished. It's all good stuff, though.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez
If you want to grill shrimp on skewers, use two of them per portion. That way, when you turn the shrimp, they can't rotate. So no shrimp wind up getting cooked twice on the same side.
Chuckville is sixty miles southeast of Abilene, Texas. The Hill Country has given way to the plains by the time you arrive here on TX 36 from the east. It's watered by scenic Copperas Creek. Fields of corn, cotton, and milo are all around. So are pastures full of grazing cattle. So you could probably get some beef chuck in Chuckville if there were any restaurants to serve it to you. Unfortunately, the nearest one is four miles west in Rising Star. It's called Main Street BBQ.
en brochette, French, adj.--On a skewer, French style. Dishes en brochette are known as pinchos in Spain, shish kebabs in the Middle East, souvlaki in Greece, and satays in the Far East. They can be grilled, fried, or set up on a rotisserie. The advantage of the method is that it employs pieces of food too small to be cooked conveniently if they're loose. The most common brochette in New Orleans involves oysters, which are usually fried and napped with brown butter for an appetizer.
Today in 1927 Isadora Duncan, dancer and free spirit, died when her long, flowing scarf became entangled in the wheels of the convertible sports car she was driving in Nice, France. A very good restaurant here in New Orleans once bore her name. Isadora was where the Allegro Bistro is now, on the ground floor of the Energy Center at Poydras and Loyola. A painting depicting the moment before her demise hung on its wall.
Food In Science
Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was born today in 1849. The Russian scientist is most famous for his experiments with dogs. He found that any kind of stimulus a dog associated with food would make the dogs salivate. This worked not only for the sight and smell of food, but any activity that routinely preceded the dogs' being fed. This became known as a "conditioned reflex," and it works on people as well as dogs. For example, just the thought of the Supreme Court building in the French Quarter makes me hungry for turtle soup at Brennan's, across the street.
Today is the feast day of St. Notburga, who lived in the thirteenth century in Tyrol (now Austria). She is a patron saint of waiters and waitresses. She worked as a maid for a wealthy family that threw its leftovers to the pigs. Notburga would surreptitiously collect the food and give it to poor, hungry people instead. In one of the stories about her, she was caught doing this by her employers, who demanded to know what she had in her apron. When she opened it, the food had turned to wood shavings and vinegar.
Today's Worst Flavor
Today in 2006, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it had found fresh bagged spinach contaminated with e. coli bacteria. For weeks afterward, no spinach salads were served anywhere, and fresh spinach became hard to come by.
Constance Baker Motley, the first African-American woman to be elected a New York state senator or appointed to a Federal judgeship, was born today in 1921. . . Erieatha "Cookie" Kelly married Magic Johnson today in 1991. . . Deryck Victor Cooke, a British composer, was born today in 1919. . . British pop singer Amy Winehouse uncorked today in 1983.
Words To Eat By
"The most usual, common, and cheap sort of food all China abounds in, and which all in that Empire eat, from the Emperor to the meanest Chinese; the Emperor and great Men as a Dainty, the common sort as necessary sustenance. It is called Teu Fu, that is paste of kidney beans. I did not see how they made it. They drew the milk out of the kidney beans, and turning it, make great cakes of it like cheeses, as big as a large sieve, and five or six fingers thick. All the mass is as white as the very snow, to look to nothing can be finer. Alone, it is insipid, but very good dressed as I say and excellent fried in Butter."--Friar Domingo Navarrete.
Words To Drink By
"We frequently hear of people dying from too much drinking. That this happens is a matter of record. But the blame almost always is placed on whiskey. Why this should be I never could understand. You can die from drinking too much of anything--coffee, water, milk, soft drinks and all such stuff as that. And so long as the presence of death lurks with anyone who goes through the simple act of swallowing, I will make mine whiskey." --W. C. Fields.