November 16

Oyster Boy. Fast Food Day. Madeleines. Tea Creek. Oolong. Railsback And Royal Dano.

Days Until. . .

Thanksgiving: 8. Christmas: 40. New Year's Eve: 47.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Fried Street runs from the Mississippi River levee in the oldest part of Gretna to West Bak Expressway. It's five blocks from Huey P. Long Avenue, the main street of Gretna, and its concentration of restaurants around the courthouse. The Red Maple, Gattuso's, Thanh Thanh, and Pho Tau Bay are all within a few blocks of Fried Street, but if the name makes you think of chicken, the place to get it is Da Wabbit, six blocks toward Algiers. All of this is on the suburban West Bank of the New Orleans area.

New Orleans Food Guys

Today is the birthday of Sal Sunseri, who with his siblings operates P&J Oyster Company. He is fifty. (Sorry, Sal.) In the past decade, the Sunseris transformed a very old (since the late 1800s) oyster-shucking operation into a standard-setter for the business. The P&J brand has become enough of a hallmark of quality that many restaurants with oyster bars now make a point of saying that their oysters come from there. Sal has also been a leader in the revitalization of Rampart Street, and in the successful recent fight against Federal regulations that would have banned raw oysters in the summer months. After all that work, it's unfortunate in the extreme that his main lookout now is for the survival of his company in the wake of the oil spill. But I have confidence that P&J is long-term. Sal and his brother Al will see to that.

Food Through History

It's always mystified me that the early Pilgrim settlers of the British colonies in North America were always hungry. The oysters and lobsters alone should have taken care of them. In any case, the Pilgrims led by Miles Standish were on the verge of starvation on this date in 1620 when they uncovered a cache of corn. It had been hidden on what became known as Corn Hill by a tribe of Native Americans. The corn got the Pilgrims through the winter in Provincetown, allowing them to live to discover turkey the following year.

Today's Flavor

It's National Fast Food Day. This too shall pass. In a nutshell, here's what's wrong with fast food: in order for it to be served quickly, it must be prepared in advance. While it waits for you to order it, it becomes terrible. Also, it removes the element of anticipation from eating. You don't have time to look forward to the meal. (Why would you want to, if it's a standard burger?) The wait itself is one of the things that makes great food worth waiting for.

Great Food Moments In Literature

Today in 1913, the first volume of Marcel Proust's A la Recherche du Temps Perdu (somewhat mistranslated as Remembrance of Things Past) was published. The whole work was inspired by a flood of memories Proust experienced when he ate a madeleine cookie with a cup of hot tea. The first-person protagonist has a very disturbed mind, but the language and insights are incomparable.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Waffle Lake, Minnesota is a glacier-formed lake in the hilly, wooded, largely unpopulated finger of Minnesota north of Lake Superior. It's some eight miles from MN 61, the former US 61. You can follow 61 all the way back to New Orleans, if you need to. Or, in a pinch, have a salmon lunch at the Coho Cafe, or a tuna lunch at the Bluefin Restaurant, both on Highway 61 some ten miles from Waffle Lake. I could find no nearby Waffle Houses, but am glad of that.

Edible Dictionary

ravigote, [rah-vih-GHOT], French, adj.--The word means "revived" in French, which tells the story of its origin. Its acidity and spice could mask the off-flavors of slightly over-the-hill foodstuffs, making them palatable. It's not used that way anymore. Not intentionally, anyway. In New Orleans--where it's common--it's a mayonnaise-based sauce sharpened with lemon juice or vinegar, with green onions, capers, chopped red bell pepper (sometimes) and white pepper or cayenne. The target of this sauce is usually lump crabmeat, which it turns into one of the city's most-loved appetizers--also known as crabmeat maison. There's also a hot version of ravigote sauce, in which the mayonnaise is replaced (at least partially) by a veloute (a fish or chicken stock stirred into a blond roux). Galatoire's is the only New Orleans restaurant serving a warm ravigote; it's rather rich.

Annals Of Open Dining Rooms

This was not a nice day in New Orleans in 1960. Upon the integration of two public schools, an estimated two thousand people turned out to protest, some violently. Shortly afterwards, desegregation in New Orleans restaurants occurred, with few incidents. Most restaurants took it in stride, if a little nervously. Restaurateurs who were there to see their dining rooms integrated recall the event as an anticlimax. A few restaurants became private clubs, to keep segregation going a little longer. Even those relaxed when it became clear that accepting anyone as a customer was an entirely good thing.

Food In Show Biz

George S. Kaufman, who wrote the screenplays for The Cocoanuts (and other Marx Brothers movies) and The Man Who Came To Dinner was born today in 1889.

Food Namesakes

I'm intrigued by two near-food names today, both of actors. Steve Railsback joined our world in 1948 today. Royal Dano was born on this date in 1922. So, for dinner, how about grilled fresh brook railsback, well seasoned with garlic butter? After dessert I'll open up a port, cut some wedges of ripe Royal Dano cheese, and roast some pecans. . . Richard Coke Jr., an early Congressman from Virginia, was born today in 1790.

Words To Eat By

"Avis Au Public. Faire de la bonne cuisine demande un certain temps. Si on vous fait attendre, c'est pour mieux vous servir, et vous plaire."--A note appearing at the top of the third page of Antoine's menu for many decades. It means, "Advice to the public: good cooking requires a certain amount of time. If you will but wait, it will let us serve you better, and you will be pleased." This is the polar opposite of the fast food imperative. "In the light of what Proust wrote with so mild a stimulus, it is the world's loss that he did not have a heartier appetite. On a dozen Gardiner's Island oysters, a bowl of clam chowder, a peck of steamers, some bay scallops, three sauteed soft-shelled crabs, a few ears of fresh picked corn, a thin swordfish steak of generous area, a pair of lobsters, and a Long Island duck, he might have written a masterpiece."--A.J. Liebling, American journalist and gourmet.

Words To Drink By

"Take the juice of two quarts of whiskey. . . " --Eddie Condon, American jazz guitarist, beginning his hangover cure recipe.