October 6

Seafood Chowder

Days Until. . .

Halloween 25

Today's Flavor

Today is National Seafood Chowder Day. In the Northeast, this means clam chowder, so widely available in restaurants that, with a New England sound, it's known as "cuppachowdah." Here in New Orleans, we don't have good clams (despite the millions of them in Lake Pontchartrain). So when we make chowder, it's usually with leftover fish and shrimp and crabmeat. I like it and think it's an underutilized idea, because it's good and contrasts with gumbo, bouillabaisse, and bisques. A chowder contains, in addition to seafood, three essential ingredients: potatoes, bacon (or something like bacon--pork cracklings, for example), and fish stock (or something like fish stock). I make mine with oyster water, which I beg from my friends in the oyster business. The rest is easy. The recipe is in today's newsletter. When I find myself in New England, I eat clam chowder at almost every meal. They make it very thick. One cookbook says it should be almost as solid as mashed potatoes. I don't go along with that. Nor do I like the very mild seasoning you find in New England chowder--but that's a New Orleans palate talking.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Baker is six miles on the Idaho side of the Montana state line. That's also the Continental Divide, putting Baker barely inside the western side of North America. It's 152 miles southwest of Butte, Montana. Baker is a cluster of farm headquarters in a high (4376 feet) plain laid out by the Lemhi River between mountain ranges. Enormous irrigated fields of potatoes and other crops surround the town. The nearest restaurants are nine miles north in Salmon, where you''ll find a place with the intriguing name The Burnt Bun. In a way, Baker has two food references in its name. One is to the person who bakes biscuits, cakes, bread, and all the many other edibles that come from the oven. The other meaning is a large, starchy potato specifically raised for baking.

Deft Dining Rule #860

No matter what anybody tells you, New England clam chowder is incomparably better than the tomato-based Manhattan clam chowder.

Edible Dictionary

sultana, n.--A white, seedless grape grown for eating rather than winemaking. It was originally developed in the Middle East, hence the name (the grape of the sultan). When it came to this country, the fresh grapes took on the name Thompson seedless (for the man who introduced them). The word sultana in the United States has come to mean the golden raisins made from these grapes. Sultanas have a subtler flavor than black raisins, and so they're preferred in some dishes. They're especially well-suited to include in bread pudding, particularly where some eaters might not like standard raisins.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

The two methods for lessening the work of shucking clams are exactly the opposite of one another. Either put them into the freezer for a half-hour, or drop them in boiling water for ten seconds. With way, they give up a lot quicker.

Annals Of Food Marketing

Cream of Wheat was introduced today in 1893. It was a desperate effort to save a near-bankrupt flour mill in Grand Forks, North Dakota, during the financial panic of that year. Thomas Amidon, the head miller, used the "middlings"--the prime part of wheat grains, also called farina--to make a hot cereal that could be packaged dry and sold in stores. The owners of the mill sent a sample of it to their broker in New York. The broker famously responded, "Never mind shipping us any more of your flour, but send a car of your 'Cream of Wheat.'" The original logo with its cartoonish black cook was used because the printer of the label found it in a pile of old printer's plates in his plant. Cream of Wheat is a bigger deal elsewhere than in New Orleans, where we're more likely to fill that space on the menu with grits.

Music To Eat Crawfish Pie By

Today in 1952, Hank Williams had the top country hit with Jambalaya, which forever united that dish with crawfish pie and filé gumbo. Not a bad combination, really, and one found on more than a few Cajun menus.

Lounges Through History

Today in 1889, the original Parisian song-and-dance bar opened. At Moulin Rouge ("red windmill"--the building really was one) one could not only have a glass of wine or an absinthe, but also see a live show. It spawned an entirely new genre of hangout in Paris. Its fame continues not only because it's still in business, but because of the many posters advertising its shows. The most famous were drawn by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, a seminal figure in Art Nouveau graphic design. There's hardly a French bistro anywhere that doesn't have a Toulouse-Lautrec poster for the Moulin Rouge somewhere on its walls.

Food Namesakes

Actress Anna Quayle hit the Big Stage today in 1936. . . Singer and songwriter Matthew Sweet was born today in 1964. . . Mets pitcher David Cone struck out nineteen batters today in 1991, tying the National League record. . . Olympic marksman Lloyd Spooner was born today in 1884. . . Long-time South Dakota Congressman E.Y. Berry was born today in 1902. . . New Hampshire Congressman Perkins Bass, whose son Charles also held that post, was born today in 1912. . . Movie and television actor Jerome Cowan was a big hit with his mom today in 1897. ("Cowan " is a French-Cajun word for an alligator snapping turtle, the kind used to make soup.)

Words To Eat By

"Clam chowder is one of those subjects, like politics or religion, that can never be discussed lightly. Bring it up even incidentally, and all the innumerable factions of the clam bake regions raise their heads and begin to yammer."--Louis P. De Gouy, French chef and cookbook author of the early 1900s.

Words To Drink By

"A man that lives on pork, fine-flour bread, rich pies and cakes, and condiments, drinks tea and coffee, and uses tobacco, might as well try to fly as to be chaste in thought."--Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, early health nut, brother of the cereal magnate But who wants to be chaste in thought?