November 20

Baked Ham Beaujolais Nouveau. Fifty Billion Sold. Whole Hams. Hamtown. Country Hams. Nutria.

Days Until. . .

Thanksgiving--7
Christmas--35
New Year's--42

Food Calendar

National Roast Duck Day. Roast duck is a dish that only ambitious diners order in restaurants. Chef give their duck dish added attention for that reason. It also alerts the kitchen that the table is likely to be more discriminating than most. So make sure somebody orders duck at your table tonight. It's also a great enhancement to the Thanksgiving table.

Seven Days Till Thanksgiving

This would be the perfect day to buy the ham, if you'll have on on the table for Thanksgiving. You don't need to do anything to it beforehand, but it's such an important part of our dinner that I'm reluctant to take the chance that I can't find a Chisesi ham in the stores. Just keep it in the refrigerator until Thanksgiving morning, and you'll have that potential problem avoided. I've already told you, but as each day passes, the chances of your getting a desirable restaurant reservation for Thanksgiving dwindles. Here's a list of the best restaurants open that day.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Plum, Pennsylvania is a borough covering a large patch of the outskirts of Pittsburgh, twenty-one miles east. It's at the end of a valley formed by Plum Creek. That takes water some seven miles into the Allegheny River, an indirect tributary of the Mississippi River. The population is about 30,000. Plum may be most famous for Oakmont Country Club, called one of the five best golf courses in America by Golf Magazine. Part of Plum appears to have been a farming community, but it has been transformed in recent years by strip mines, many of which are in the nearby hills. Drive two miles south through the Plum Creek Cemetery to the town of Center, and you'll find the nearest restaurant: John Anthony's.

Edible Dictionary

tournedos, [TOOH-neh-doh], French, n.--A steak cut from the narrow end of the tenderloin roast, next to the part from which the filets mignon come. Because the circumference is smaller, the tournedos is cut thicker--sometimes so thick that it's then cut again into two or even three thinner steaks ("butterflied"). Many restaurants take advantage of this by serving different sauces on each of the resulting demi-steaks. A good case could be made that the tournedos is even tenderer than filet mignon. The word seems to be derived from the French expression "behind the back," with several interpretations--that it's in back of the filet, that it's sneaked out the back of the meat market, or that it's so beautiful and good that it must be served on the sly, to keep everyone from wanting it. The word is spelled the same for singular and plural, although the erroneous "tournedo" (or, worse, "tornadoes") often appears on menus.

Annals Of Popular Food

Today in 1965, Kellogg's introduced Pop Tarts. They were unfrosted, thin, flat rectangles of something like pie dough filled with an even thinner layer of something like preserves. The original flavors were strawberry, blueberry, apple-currant, and cinnamon. They were a big hit, especially with kids, and most especially with kids who'd been forced to eat the likes of raisin bran for breakfast until that time. The frosting was added a couple of years later, sweetening the Tarts further and, of course, making them even more popular.

Today's Worst Flavor

Today in 2002, the State of Louisiana set a bounty on nutria, at four dollars per animal. The gigantic rodent, introduced to the state's swamps by Edward McIlhenny of Tabasco fame, found the place very much to its liking and continues to eat vegetation voraciously, such that marshes are denuded in spots. An earlier effort to promote the eating of nutria meat--in which quite a few local chefs were involved--failed badly. With good reason: in texture, appearance, and taste, nutria is unappetizing. What would you expect from a big orange-toothed rat? The things are still running amok.

Food Namesakes

Alistair Cooke, long-time host of Masterpiece Theatre, was born in Britain today in 1908. . . A movie called Nuts, starring Barbra Streisand, premiered today in 1987. . . Drew Ginn, Australian Olympic rower in 1996, was born today in 1974. . . Dutch World War II resistance fighter Ferdinand van der Ham was born today in 1916. How appropriate! . . Pro football quarterback Greg Cook was born today in 1946. In a class by himself was R.W. "Johnny" Apple, who not only has a food name but was a food writer, mostly for the New York Times. That interest was secondary to his main gig, which was as a political reporter and analyst for the Times. His writing about food, however, was clearly fired by real passion. He was as knowledgeable about where to eat anywhere (including New Orleans, where he visited often) as any of the Times's restaurant critics. Today is his birthday, in 1934. He died in 2006.

Words To Eat By

“More than any other in Western Europe, Britain remains a country where a traveler has to think twice before indulging in the ordinary food of ordinary people.”--Joseph Lelyveld, long-time editor of the New York Times.

Words To Drink By

"It is most absurdly said, in popular language, of any man, that he is disguised in liquor; for, on the contrary, most men are disguised by sobriety.--Thomas de Quincy, British writer of the 1850s.