November 10

Seed Man. California Wine Patriarch. Satsuma. Mandarin. Pomelo. Zest. Semper Fi.

National Satsuma Day

Days Until. . .

Thanksgiving: 17.Christmas: 46.New Year's Eve: 53.

Today's Flavor

This is National Satsuma Day. Those juicy citrus fruits from Louisiana are at the peak of their season right now. Satsumas come originally from the old Satsuma Province, on the island of Kyushu in Japan. The tree that grows them appears to have been a mutation of a kind of orange tree. In Japan, they're called "mikans." They came to this country in 1878, and are better known as mandarins (another reference to the Far Eastern origin, although that's a Chinese word) or tangerines. The satsumas in Southeast Louisiana--brought by Jesuit missionaries fresh from Japan--are different from those found in most other parts of America, and are close to the original Japanese import. The skins are thin, but have large oil pockets that flavor your fingers as you peel them off. As we all discover as children, the skin is very easy to remove, and the sections usually come apart without breaking open. The flavor is distinctly different from that of an orange. I find that when I make juice with even a half a satsuma with four or five oranges, I can immediately notice the satsuma flavor.Satsuma trees are hardier than oranges. Except in the areas that were totally flooded with storm surge water after Katrina, most of the satsuma crop survived the storm and have produced good crops since then. In honor of another sweet handheld treat, today is also National Vanilla Cupcake Day.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Satsuma, Louisiana is twenty-four miles east of Baton Rouge, close enough that it's become a suburb of the state capital. Satsuma began as Stafford, a station on the Baton Rouge, Hammond and Eastern Railroad (still a main line, part of the Illinois Central). It was renamed Satsuma because the Post Office already had a Stafford, Louisiana when it opened shop here in 1911. And because there was a satsuma grove nearby. There may be satsuma trees still around there, but typical winter temperatures probably keep that from becoming a major farming endeavor. If you're hungry in Satsuma, you'll have to drive four miles east into Livingston, and find Mike's Grill.

Edible Dictionary

lemonfish, n.--Also known as cobia and ling, lemonfish is a large, white-fleshed Gulf fish. It can grow as large as 100 pounds, but in any size it's considered a prize catch. The fillets of even a moderate-size lemonfish can be as much as two or three feet long and four inches thick. The name is a reference to a citrusy taste that the fish is alleged to possess, although that has eluded my palate. The best way to cook lemonfish is to cut it into thick slabs, season it generously, and grill it. It's thick enough to encrust without overcooking, and firm enough to stay in one piece when cooking. Lemonfish sushi is also terrific, with ponzu, green onions, and a squirt of hot sauce.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Whenever you find yourself with blemish-free oranges and a few minutes on your hands, scrape the zest off the skins and freeze it in a plastic food storage bag. Remember it when a sauce needs a little something.

Annals Of Vegetable Gardening

Washington Atlee Burpee was born today in 1858. He created the world's largest seed company by developing many new varieties of vegetables and flowers that one could only grow by planting Burpee's Seeds. Is this a food name?

The Saints

This is the memorial day for a patron saint of gardeners. St. Tryphon was a gooseherder in Phrygia in the third century, and a martyr.

Annals Of Winemasters

Andre Tchelistcheff, the scientist who sent California winemaking on the path that led to its excellence and influence, died today in 1994 at the age of 93. He spent many years at Beaulieu Vineyards, then had a long career as a consultant for wineries all over California, especially in Napa. His innovations included everything from cold fermentation and strategies for fighting grapevine diseases.

Music To Eat At Sea By

Today in 1975, the iron ore ship Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior. Gordon Lightfoot had a hit with a song about the disaster. The most heart-breaking lyric in it was:When suppertime came the old cook came on deckSaying "Fellows, it's too rough to feed ya."Now that's a disaster.

Military Food And Drink

Today is the birthday of the United States Marine Corps, founded in 1775 at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia. (A tun is a barrel for beer.) Samuel Nicholas, commissioned by the Continental Congress to convene a battalion, recruited the first Marines in the tavern on this date. Mother's Restaurant, which for many years was owned by two generations of Marines, proudly displays a banner identifying itself as Tun Tavern New Orleans. Among the many other Marines who've cooked famously in local restaurants is Sgt. John Besh. He saw action before his chef days, in the first Gulf War. I wore a Marine uniform for a year in the JROTC at Jesuit High School, where I learned how to disassemble and clean an M1 rifle from actual Marines. Semper fi!

Food Namesakes

Sesame Street came to television on this date in 1969. . . Sir Tim Rice, who wrote the lyrics to Andrew Lloyd Webber's music for Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, and other musicals, was born today in 1944. . . George Washington Cook, Union soldier and early Colorado politician, was born today in 1851. . . English record producers Roy Thomas Baker, who produced for the Rolling Stones, The Who, and David Bowie, began his Big Record today in 1946. . . Sounds like a food name, but isn't: George Fenneman, the great announcer for You Bet Your Life and Dragnet on both radio and television, was born today in 1919.

Words To Eat By

"And I've seenToasts to TangerineRaised in every bar across the ArgentineYes, she's got them all on the runBut her heart belongs to just one.Her heart belongs to Tangerine."--Johnny Mercer, American songwriter and singer.

Words To Drink By

"To Gasteria, the tenth Muse, who presides over the enjoyments of Taste."--Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.