November 18

Leek And Potato Soup Day

Leek And Potato Soup. Spuds. Leeks. Shooting At Apples. St. Peter. Three Musketeers. Thanksgiving Timing.

Days Until. . .

Thanksgiving--9
Christmas--37
New Year's--40

Restaurant Anniversaries

Austin's, the upscale Suburban Creole bistro that Ed McIntyre spun off from Mr. Ed's, opened today in 2002. It has become one of the best and most successful restaurants in Metairie. Explanation: it's one of surprisingly few white-tablecloth restaurants in that populous suburb.

Today's Flavor

This is one of two days on the calendar that celebrates Leek And Potato Soup Day. The other one is June 23, National Vichyssoise Day. We have both a cold and a hot version of leek and potato soup because the two ingredients have a nice flavor affinity. Leeks straddle the flavor divide between onions and garlic, and have a certain sweetness that's hard to describe. Today's leek and potato celebration, at the beginning of the chilly season, suggests that you make a steaming pot of the potage, using the two ingredients of the name, plus some ham and vegetable stock. And a few drops of Tabasco to enliven the starch.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Shoesole Lake is in the Ocala National Forest, sixty-three miles north of Orlando, Florida. It's actually two round lakes, that are close enough to flow into one another most of the time. That gives it the appearance of a gigantic shoeprint. Many other similar round lakes, probably formed by sinkholes, are in the area. Docks on the shore of both the sole and the heel parts make it clear that this is a good place for fishing. If you catch nothing, the nearest restaurant is The Shores, fifteen miles away in Silver Springs Shores. No telling where is the nearest bakery to buy shoesoles.

Edible Dictionary

chicken Divan, n.--A casserole made with chicken and broccoli, baked with a veloute made with chicken stock and sherry, crusted over with cheese. It was created in the 1930s by the Divan Parisien restaurant in New York City. It's said that the dish made broccoli popular in the United States, but that is at least questionable. Although it was considered elegant in its day, chicken Divan is almost extinct now, as casseroles of any kind have been relegated to the back burners of home cooking.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Before you put leeks into the pot, slice them from top to bottom, pull the layers apart, and rinse them under running water. Leeks have a way of picking up silt that will be gritty when you eat it.

Food Through History

The apple figures into many myths. One such story is set on this date in 1307, when William Tell is alleged to have shot an apple off his son's head with an arrow. The same story turns up in many cultures, so it's probably apocryphal. Say! Where did William Tell take his garbage? To the dump, to the dump, to the dump dump dump. (Say it out loud.)

Religion In Eating

On this date in 1966, the bishops of the Catholic Church in America announced that, starting December 2 of that year, Catholics were no longer required to abstain from meat on Fridays outside of Lent. That released school kids from the scourge of fish sticks. Nevertheless, many of us still keep the habit of eating seafood on Friday. Which was never what you could call a painful act in New Orleans.

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Peter, Apostle and first pope. The astonishing basilica named for him in the Vatican was dedicated on this day in 1626, replacing the one built on the same spot 1300 years earlier--also dedicated to St. Peter on this date, in 326. St. Peter is the patron saint of many of the people who bring us food: butchers, bakers, harvesters, and--of course, since he was one himself--fishermen.

Deft Dining Rule #206:

If you're dining out on Thanksgiving Day, make the reservation for as early as you can round up everybody. The food will be better, especially if it's a buffet. Eleven-thirty, no later than noon. The busiest time is one; things don't full recover until about three.

Music To Eat By

On this date in 1984, the big-production musical Three Musketeers closed on Broadway after only nine performances. What did they expect from a play about a candy bar? . . . Today is the birthday (1909) of the great composer and singer of standards, Johnny Mercer. Here's a food-related quotation from him, about a hack composer: "I could eat alphabet soup and s--t better lyrics." . . . And this was the day in 1956 when Fats Domino performed Blueberry Hill on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Food Namesakes

Don Cherry, a jazz trumpeter, was born today in 1936. . . Civil War General (Union Volunteers) Americus Vespucius Rice, was born on this day in 1835.

Words To Eat By

"We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at."--Numbers 11, verses 5-6.

Words To Drink By

"A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems."--Paul Erdos.