October 22

Alligator. Avocados. Hunter's Moon. Habits. Coating The Cutlet. Oldest Vertebrate. Vitamin C. Pepperidge Man.

Days Until. . .

Halloween 9

Today's Flavor

This is National Alligator-Eating Day. Alligator is perceived by most Americans as a novelty, but we're so accustomed to running into it now in New Orleans that we consider it a normal part of the diet. This is the native habitat for the big, primitive reptiles, and enough of them are out there that they can be a nuisance. They eat dogs. Can bite your arm off. They can be farm-raised with relative ease. No endangerment. Alligators, despite their ferocious profile, give a very mild-tasting, nearly-white meat. The flavor and texture is somewhere in the vicinity of those of chicken, veal and mahi-mahi. The best part is the tenderloin and other parts of the tail. The belly meat is also good. It can be sliced and cooked in much the same way that veal medallions or a fish fillet might. You can pannee alligator yo good effect. Other parts of the alligator can be used to make a soup along the lines of turtle soup. Alligator sausage--made locally by combining alligator and pork on a fifty-fifty blend--may be the most common form of alligator in stores and restaurants. Look for alligator dishes on daily special lists and at festivals. If you've never had it, you'll find it better than you think.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Pea Soup Lake is in a boggy wilderness on the Northern Peninsula of Michigan, about twenty miles south of the shore of Lake Superior. Lot of lakes around there, most of them glacial in origin. It gets its name from the algae coating the lake sometimes gets in some summers. Probably a better bet as far as eating pea soup is concerned is to drive ten miles east on US 40 (after slogging in your waders two miles north of Pea Soup Lake) and have lunch at the Hometown Cafe in Michigamme, on the lake of the same name.

Edible Dictionary

bouilli, [boo-YEE]. French, n.--The meat boiled to make a stock. It almost always refers to beef. The cuts used for this purpose is usually the least desirable in the cow--trimming, sections near troublesome bones, and the like. However, such pieces give the best flavor to a broth. And after being cooked for the many hours typical in making stock, they become edible. Most bouilli winds up being chopped or cubed into small pieces and served cold, as in a salad. Another common method is to fry the small bits in butter. In New Orleans, the most familiar bouilli is brisket, used to make broth, and then often served with it in big chunks.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

To coat a cutlet of veal, chicken, or alligator prior to making a panneed version, dust it (don't dredge it) first with seasoned flour. Then dip it in beaten egg with a little milk, using a pair of tongs. Shake off the excess, then (still with tongs) pull it through a shallow pan with the seasoned bread crumbs. Use one hand only to push the meat down into the crumbs. Then use the tongs again to set the meat on a cake-cooking rack for a few minutes. The short drying will make all the coatings stick as you fry.

Annals Of Fish

Today in 2003, the oldest vertebrate fossil ever discovered was found in the Fliders Ranges of Australia. It's 560 million years old, and had characteristics of a fish. It did not come with a recipe. However, any human around at the time would have welcomed this addition to their diets of worms, shellfish, and bugs. If, indeed, there had been humans then.

Annals Of Food Coloring

Red dye No. 2, widely used in everything from maraschino cherries to Barq's Creme Soda, was banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration today in 1976. The problem was an incidence of cancer in dogs who ate absurd quantities of the stuff. The ban resulted in the disappearance, for over a decade, of red M&M's. When they reappeared, it was with a different food coloring. And Barq's red drink just wasn't the same when it was white.

Deft Dining Rule #8

Anything you eat by force of habit ceases to be a pleasure before long.

Food In Science

Charles Glen King, the discoverer of Vitamin C, was born today in 1896. It was known that something in citrus fruits prevented the disease scurvy; King managed to isolate it. He called it ascorbic acid, because of the anti-scurvy qualities. Since then, all sorts of other abilities have been claimed for Vitamin C, most of which are questionable. I still take 2000 milligrams every time I feel a cold coming on. Why not?. . . This is also the birthday, in 1843, of Stephen Moulton Babcock. He devised a method for determining how much butterfat (they call it milkfat now) was in a given sample of milk. More than there is now, no doubt.

Food Namesakes

Parker Fennelly was born today in 1891. He was a radio actor who played old-timey rural New Englanders, notably on the Fred Allen Show. But he was most famous as the voice of hundreds of Pepperidge Farm bread commercials. Remember the old guy who said, "'Cause Pepperidge Fahm remembers"? That was Parker. I saw him perform int he 1960s, in in the New Orleans Repertory Theatre's production of Our Town.

Words To Eat By

"I don't think a really good pie can be made without a dozen or so children peeking over your shoulder as you stoop to look in at it every little while."--John Gould, American humorist and writer, born today in 1907.

Words To Drink By

"Coffee isn't my cup of tea."--Samuel Goldwyn.