October 8

Pesto

Days Until. . .

Halloween 23

Today's Flavor

The International Agency For Food Holidays reports this is National Pesto Day. Pesto is a blend of fresh basil (the top flavor note), garlic, olive oil, grated Parmigiana cheese, and toasted pignoli (pine nuts). It's named for the pestle and mortar used to grind the ingredients into a near-paste. Some say that's the only way to make it right, but almost all pesto these days is made in a food processor. (If the food processor had been invented first, the same people would proclaim that it's wrong to use mortar and pestle.)

Pesto is most often used as a room-temperature sauce for pasta, but it turns up saucing all sorts of other foods. In recent times, clever chefs have had fun substituting other herbs for the basil and other nuts for the pignoli. (That's because basil isn't available year-round, and pine nuts are the most expensive part of pesto.) This is the time of year when many of us start making a lot of pesto, to use up the surplus basil we have growing outside before the first frost hits it.

The classic pesto blend is the culinary trademark of Genoa and the surrounding Ligouria area of Italy. Traces of its history go all the way back to Roman times. It has a unique, fresh deliciousness that bespeaks spring and summer. The most traditional chefs refuse to make it in the winter.

Edible Dictionary

Himmel und Erde, German, n.--A salad of cooked but firm apples and potatoes, tossed with crumbled bacon or sausage, and onions cooked in the bacon or sausage fat. The name means "heaven and earth." It's a traditional German dish, usually served slightly warm as an appetizer. A nice item to have on a holiday buffet, it's good with beer or mulled wine.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

In a restaurant dining room in the shank of the evening, if there are many empty tables available, don't let the host/ess assign you to a narrow table for two even if there are just the two of you. There is no need to wear out all the tables evenly.

Annals Of Sugar

Today in 1901, the trademark of Domino Sugar was registered with the U.S Patent Office. The American Sugar Company of New York City (the world capital of sugar refining) created blocks of sugar in the shape of dominos, and they were so distinctive and popular that the name wound up on all their products. The main American Domino sugar refinery is in Arabi, just east of the New Orleans city limits. It can produce between seven and eight million pounds of sugar per day.

Annals Of One Too Many Cocktails

The Great Chicago Fire started this night in 1871. The destruction was so widespread that few structures were left standing (the Watertower is best known among them). Almost 100,000 people were left homeless. The legend was that Mrs. Patrick O'Leary's cow kicked over a lantern and started it, but officially the story is that Pegleg O'Sullivan (the Irish seem to still catch the blame) knocked over that lamp when he entered the barn looking for milk for making whiskey milk punch. Was he having brunch?

Food On The Air

Bandleader Ozzie Nelson and his girl singer Harriet Hilliard were married today in 1935. On this same date in 1944, they premiered in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, a weekly radio sitcom. They moved to television in 1952, where they remained until 1966. Their show captured perfectly the innocence of the Fifties and early Sixties. Watch the show and note that a) Ozzie did not apparently have a job; 2) Harriet was always cooking, but the Nelsons hardly ever ate; and iii) Harriet always dressed as if she were about to go out to dinner, but they didn't do that, either. This was before most of America discovered the pleasures of the table (we Orleanians knew all about them, of course). They slept in separate twin beds, too. These were the good old days?

Gourmet Gazetteer

Coffeyville, Kansas 67337 is in the southeastern corner of the state, about two miles from the Oklahoma state line, and seventy-four miles north of Tulsa. Around this date in 1892, the Dalton Gang attempted the simultaneous robberies of two Coffeyville banks. The resulting shootout left four the the gang dead, along with many others. The town was originally named Cow Town for the obvious reason. When Colonel James Coffey moved there to open a trading post, the town was named for him. Despite that, he didn't stay long. Now the place has about 10,000 residents and Amazon's biggest shipping operation. The likeliest place for you to get a cup of coffee is at Daylight Donuts, right in the middle of town.

Deft Dining Rule #138

Those visually perfect sliced black olives you find on chain pizzas and in salad bars may as well be made of wax for all the flavor they have.

Food In Science

Harry Gilbert Day was born today in 1906. He spent most of his career determining what roles the chemical elements played in human nutrition. He established those minimum daily requirements you see on the sides of vitamin bottles. He's best known for developing stannous fluoride--Fluoristan, the cavity-retarding ingredient that made Crest into the best-selling toothpaste in the land.

Food Namesakes

Long-time college football coach Pepper Rodgers took the Big Field today in 1931. . . Actor, singer, and dancer Max Crumm spoke his first lines today in 1985. He won the Grease audition-competition to be in the revival of the play on Broadway in 2008.

Words To Eat By

"A well-made sauce will make even an elephant or a grandfather palatable."--Grimod de la Reyniere, early French food writer.

Words To Drink By

"Health is what my friends are always drinking to before they fall down."--Phyllis Diller.