November 3

National Sandwich Day

Club Sandwich. Bread From The Freezer. Spanish New Orleans. Torta. Panama. Earl Of Sandwich.

Days Until

Days Until: Thanksgiving: 23.Christmas: 51.New Year's Eve: 58.

Roots Of Our Food Culture

Today in 1762, Spain acquired Louisiana from France. The Spanish had a long enough run to leave behind a distinct stamp on New Orleans culture. The architecture of the French Quarter, is really more Spanish than French. The Cabildo was a Spanish institution. Bayona, Susan Spicer's restaurant, is named for the Spanish name for Dauphine Street. Spanish cooking influenced Creole food, making it quite a bit different from French food, even though the French names survived. Jambalaya, for example, is a form of paella.

Today's Flavors

It has been posited by someone who clearly knows nothing about figs that this is National Fig Week. More logical is National Pepper Month, which could come at any time. My taste for black pepper seems to keep growing, such that there's almost no such thing as too much of it. The main problem with most chefs' versions of barbecue shrimp? Not enough black pepper by half. All that said, the main observance on this date is Club Sandwich Day. As most people know it, a club sandwich is a double-decker sandwich (three slices of toasted bread), interleaved with sliced turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, and mayonnaise. It's been popular for at least a hundred years, appearing in a Good Housekeeping cookbook in 1903. For something so simple, the club sandwich has generated a controversy. Was it was originally a double-decker? James Beard and that Good Housekeeping cookbook say no. Beard also insists that the original was made with chicken, not turkey, and that there's enough of a flavor difference there for that to be important. Early recipes also say that the bread should be buttered. The most often-cited origin story is that the club sandwich was invented at a casino resort in Saratoga, New York. If so, then it should always be accompanied by potato chips, which certainly were created in Saratoga. In recent years, many sandwich makers have enhanced the classic recipe or changed it entirely. Martin Wine Cellar's "executive club" sandwich adds grilled ham to the standard ingredients. We've also seen clubs made with many other meats and even such things as soft-shell crabs. One element that never changes: a club sandwich, no matter how creative, always includes bacon. It's a good sandwich, anyway. And it comes with built-in toothpicks

Cooking Calendar

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

The critical element of a well-made chili is a layer of clear, orange grease (there is no other word for it) floating atop the unstirred pot.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Frytown is forty-seven miles west of Washington,DC, in north central Virginia. It's in pleasant, hilly countryside in transition, with large wooded tracts and farm fields mixed with newer exurban homes of substantial size. Also here are century-old Victorian homes from the town's earlier days. It was named for Al Fry, who was a slave at the time of the Civil War, and a cook for the Confederate regiments. The nearest place where they'll fry up a meal for you is the Main Street Grill, a mile and a half from the heart of Frytown.

Edible Dictionary

torta, n., Mexican Spanish--A sandwich made with a whole small loaf of crusty bread, filled with a wide range of possible meats, cheeses, and vegetables. The most common are meats that have been cooked down enough to become very tender and to throw off a gravy, which also winds up inside the sandwich. Although the shape of the bread can range from nearly round to oblong, in the New Orleans area tortas are almost always referred to as "Mexican poor boys." The resemblance is strong. Tortas are frequently dressed with lettuce, tomatoes, chili peppers, avocados, or salsa. The possibilities are limited only by the imagination of the maker.

Deft Dining Rule #218:

Never order a bowl of chili con carne from a restaurant that doesn't have crackers in a basket on the table.

Eating Around The World

This is Independence Day in Panama, celebrating the breakaway of that country from Colombia. The split was largely the doing of the United States and Theodore Roosevelt, who wanted to have a cooperative government in place so the Panama Canal could be built and controlled by the U.S. The food of Panama is much like that of Colombia, whose food has more in common with the cooking of Central America and the Caribbean than with the rest of South America. Seafood is big, but so is beef. The ceviche served in Panama is unusual in being very peppery, and usually served with a side order of popcorn. (I'm not kidding.)

Annals Of Food Marketing

Frozen bread was marketed for the first time today in 1952. A baker in Chester, New York had the idea, inspired by Clarence Birdseye (the inventor of quick-frozen food). It works so well that you have eaten a great deal of frozen bread without knowing it. That baked-in-house bread you see in most supermarkets starts as frozen dough. If you freeze a loaf of New Orleans French bread, you can make it seem as if it had just been baked by rubbing the outside with wet hands, then running it through the oven at 350 degrees until it gets crusty. And let's not even bring up how much better brown 'n' serve rolls are than they have any right to be.

Food Namesakes

We begin with the most famous food namesake of them all: John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich. He was born in England today in 1718. After attending Eton and Cambridge, he served in the House of Lords and in the highest ranks of government. His life was full of travel and adventure. But he is best remembered as the person for whom the sandwich is named. Meat served between slices of bread (hardly a new idea) began to be referred to as a "sandwich" as early as the 1760s. The usual story is that he was so engaged at the gambling tables that he asked for something he could eat without leaving the game. But Montagu was a workaholic, not a playboy, and it's more plausible that what he didn't want interrupted by a full meal were his duties. The Sandwich Islands were also named for Montagu. They're now called the Hawaiian Islands.Ken Berry, an actor who appeared on quite a few television shows (notably F Troop and Mama's Family) was born today in 1930. . . Karel Salmon, a composer whose best known works are songs based on Greek themes and Jewish hymns, was born today in 1897. . . Writer John Esten Cooke, a novelist who wrote mostly about the Confederate South in a very formal style (The Wearing of the Gray was his best known), was born today in 1830. . . Italian Composer Vincenzo Bellini was born today in 1801. The cocktail of the same name is, however, named for artist Giovanni Bellini. . . Wilfred Trotter, a British physician who was an early neurosurgeon, was born today in 1872. (A "trotter" is what Brits call a pig's foot.)

Words To Eat By

"Chili represents your three stages of matter: solid, liquid, and eventually gas."--Dan Conner, a character on the Roseanne show. Coincidentally, this is Roseanne's birthday, in 1952.

Words To Drink By

"Tequila may be the favored beverage of outlaws but that doesn't mean it gives them preferential treatment. In fact, tequila probably has betrayed as many outlaws as has the central nervous system and dissatisfied wives."--Tom Robbins.