November 21

National Stuffing Day

Dickie Brennan's. Early Gingerbread. Parsnip. Stuffing. Dr. John. Bread.

Days Until. . .

Thanksgiving: 3.Christmas: 34.New Year's Eve: 39.

Restaurant Birthdays

Today is the anniversary of the opening of Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse, born today in 1998. But you could say that it was conceived in the early 1970s, when Dick and Ella Brennan had the idea to open a chain of high-end steakhouses around the country. They even had a name for it: The Inner Circle. The concept was much like what Ruth's Chris, Smith and Wollensky, and Morton's later became. If they'd gone ahead with it, it would have been the first of its kind. Unfortunately, the Inner Circle was the proximate cause of the still-unhealed breach in the Brennan family. In that, the three brothers who own Brennan's on Royal Street went their own way, while their aunts and uncles moved to Commander's Palace and the other Brennan properties of the time. The Inner Circle was iced--withoput the income from Brennan's, it was impossible at the time. But when Dick Brennan's branch of the family went its own way in 1996 (in a friendly split), it revived the steakhouse idea. The steakhouse became an instant hit on Iberville Street. It is unique in having the only main dining room in New Orleans belows treet level. Which, unfortunately, caused a disastrous flood in the weather unpleasantness of 2005. But it reopened the following May, and went right back to its pre-storm success. Among the several private dining rooms at Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse, one of them is named the Inner Circle Room--a hint at the restaurant's origins.

Today's Flavor

Today has been declared by persons unknown to be National Gingerbread Day. Gingerbread? I think that should wait until after Thanksgiving, don't you? Then we could start building houses out of it. . . . Another bunch of Web sites say it's National Stuffing Day. I say we should make it National Unstuffing Day, because the kinds of stuffings we make this time of year are better left unstuffed. At least if a turkey is involved.

Edible Dictionary

parsnip, n.--A root vegetable cultivated and eaten in Europe and Western Asia since ancient times. It's related to and shaped like the carrot, with one obvious difference: the root is a very pale yellow, and starchier than a carrot. The parsnip was all but put out of a job when the potato arrived in Europe from South America in the 1500s. Until that time, the dishes we now make with potatoes were made with parsnips or turnips. The resurgence in interest in root vegetables in this country in recent years has made parsnips easier to find in stores, although they're not always around. Late fall and winter is when they are most often to be had. They grow best in northerly places; frost makes them taste better. Their name comes from a Latin root (no pun intended) meaning "forked," which the root can be if grown in poor, rocky soil.

Gourmet Gazetteer

The town of Turkey--population about 500--is at the base of the Texas Panhandle. Its greatest claim to fame is that it's where the great cowboy swing bandleader Bob Wills was born. It's the center of a vast farming area where cotton, watermelons, peanuts and sweet potatoes are grown. It is also surrounded by a very striking landscape. Turkey is just west of the edge of the high plateau of the Panhandle. The terrain has eroded into forms that are alternately beautiful and desolate. It's an eyeful either way. You can get a good meal in Turkey at Galvan's, right on Main Street.

Annals Of Lavish Travel

Samuel Cunard, the founder of the shipping line that bears his name, was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia today in 1787. That's also where the Cunard Lines began. Cunard became--and still is--the most hallowed name in shipboard passenger travel. The Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2, and Queen Victoria still do all the things that transatlantic ships did in the golden age, and then some. Particularly if you're traveling in the upper classes, you dine and travel very well. All three Cunard ships still make an annual voyage around the world.

Food In Surgery

The surgeon William Beaumont was born today in 1785. He added tremendously to our understanding of digestion by studying a patient afflicted with a permanent opening into his stomach from a gunshot wound. Beaumont looked in, sampled gastric fluids, and. . .well, I've heard enough, haven't you?

Music That Makes You Hungry

It's Dr. John's birthday--1940. He was Mack Rebennack, formerly known as the Night Tripper. How would you describe his music? To New Orleans people, its sounds very local. Everyone else must be somewhat puzzled by it, but he had enough hits and made enough well-attended appearances to point to a widespread appreciation. Just hearing Dr. John makes me hungry for red beans and rice. (I'm not kidding.)

Food Namesakes

The soft-rock group Bread hit #2 on the pop charts today with the sappy song Baby I'm-A Want You. . . Josiah Bartlett, a physician who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, was born today in 1729. The pears are not named for him. . . Nor were lemons named for basketball coach Abe Lemons, who was born today in 1922.

Words To Eat By

"Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity."--François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire (usually known only by his last name), French writer, born today in 1694.

Words To Drink By

"A good writer is not, per se, a good book critic. No more so than a good drunk is automatically a good bartender."--Jim Bishop, American newspaper columnist, born today in 1907.