October 3

Canned Tomatoes

Days Until. . .

Halloween 28

Annals Of American Cuisine

Today is the birthday, in 1964, of Buffalo hot chicken wings. Or--as they call them in Buffalo, New York--simply "wings." Although there are other claimants to their birth, the most widely-accepted story is that they were made up from various leftovers by Teressa Bellissimo. She and husband Frank owned the Anchor Bar. Their son showed up unexpectedly from college, late at night, hungry, with friends. Teressa fried some uncoated chicken wings she had for making stock, and tossed them with some Frank's RedHot sauce (the Northeast's answer to Tabasco), added some celery and carrot sticks and blue cheese dressing, and a legend was born. In this latter day, chicken wing franchises are mushrooming all over the country. Wings are pretty good once in a while, but you can really get tired of them, even with the vast array of sauces that have been brought to bear on them.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Mushroom Mountain is in the northwest corner of Montana, about miles from the Canadian border. It's a 170-mile drive from Spokane, Washington. Mushroom Mountain rises 5626 feet above sea level. It's in the Kootenai National Forest, which is and excellent mushroom hunting area, particularly for those who love morels. It's wild, isolated country, where you'd better have food and water with you. If not, you'll have to drive ninety-seven circuitous miles into Canada to have lunch at the Smokeshack, the only restaurant anywhere nearby.

Today's Flavor

It's National Canned Tomato Day. Tomatoes are the only canned food serious chefs admit to using. That owes to the legendary excellence of canned San Marzano tomatoes. Grown in the volcanic soils in the Campania region of Italy, these are the tomatoes that made the red sauces of Italy famous. Those plum ("Roma") tomatoes dominate the cuisine of Naples and, really, all of southern Italy. Including New Orleans, which in its Italian cooking is a Sicilian colony.

San Marzano tomatoes have declined in recent decades, though. Plant diseases and a decline in the Italian farming population has made American tomatoes preferable. Which makes sense: tomatoes are New World fruits to begin with. Several brands of the plum-shaped Roma tomatoes will be found on the shelves of any decent supermarket.

I use these tomatoes for pasta and pizza sauces, salsa, and even guacamole. I only buy the whole tomatoes, even though the first thing I do with them is to crush them (by hand or in a food processor). Why bother, when you can buy the tomatoes already crushed in a can? Here's why. Whole tomatoes must be nearly flawless. Inferior tomatoes can be trimmed of bad spots, crushed or pureed, and nobody knows the difference--except in flavor. Another example that the less a food is processed, the better it is.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

When you're making a tomato sauce--especially the ones cooked only a few minutes--use both canned and fresh tomatoes. Especially if the fresh ones are small. Cherry tomatoes add fresh-tasting acidity to the eventual sauce.

Edible Dictionary

au jus, [oh DZHOO], adj., French--Literally, "with juice," referring to the natural juices that come out of a piece of meat when cooked. Idiomatically, in this country it means "with gravy." The expression is most often used to describe the serving style for roast beef or prime rib. It's sometimes misspelled "a jus." The best prime rib places really do use the juices from their roasts for their jus. But most restaurants make up the jus by reducing a beef stock and adding a few things, like seasoning vegetables and mushrooms. Some also add flour, which moves the thing even farther away from a strict jus. Counterbalancing the plunge into confusion is the diminishing vague for eating prime rib, the most common base of dishes au jus. By the way. . . gesundheit!

Deft Dining Rule #431

Despite their popularity, fried green tomatoes taste nowhere near as good with crabmeat or shrimp on top as a thick slice of ripe red tomato.

Eating Around The World

According to legend, the people who became Korea founded their state today in 2233 BCE. They called themselves the Gojoseon then. The archeological evidence of this is scant. But the Koreans did have a well-developed society a very long time ago. Their culture later gave rise to that of Japan, as well as their own. The Korean cuisine includes many dishes that seem to hearken back to people who were always on the move. Marinated and grilled meats are prominent in Korean cookery, as are preserved, spiced vegetables (kimchee being the leading example of that).

Food Inventions

Today in 1996, George Goble of Purdue University received the IgNoble Prize for setting the world's record for lighting a barbecue pit. It took him three seconds, but he was cheating: he used liquid oxygen on the coals, which meant he didn't even need a match.

Food Namesakes

Shane Butterworth, who played Timmy in the movie The Bad News Bears, was born today in 1969. . . The group Wild Cherry had a Number One hit today in 1976 with Play That Funky Music White Boy.

Words To Eat By

"A boy doesn't have to go to war to be a hero; he can say he doesn't like pie when he sees there isn't enough to go around."--Edgar Watson Howe, American writer, who died today in 1937.

Words To Drink By

"Good wine is a good familiar creature if it be well used."--William Shakespeare, Othello.