December 19

National Hard Candy Day

Believe It. Clockwork Orange. Edible Diamonds. Hard Candy. Candyland. Stollen. Fess. Bird Nest.

Days Until. . .

Christmas 6.New Year's Eve: 13.

Todays Flavor

Today is National Hard Candy Day. This is the time of year when my Aunt Una and millions of people like her set out bowls of candies in red and greens in celebration of the season. I liked the ones that had the preserves-like goo inside. Striped red or green peppermints--the kind many restaurants put out near the exit--also qualify as hard candies. How many may one have? They don't cost much, but if everyone too a handful the bowl would have to be emptied several times a night. On the other hand, when I ask whether I may have three or four, I always get a look from the hostess that says, "Three or four? Some people take fifteen or twenty! Of course! What do I care?"

Gourmet Gazetteer

Browning is a hamlet of 130 people on the west bank of the Illinois River. It's fifty-six miles northwest of Springfield, Illinois. Browning is a remnant of a once-bustling river town, with packet boats stopping there regularly. en route to and from the Mississippi River. It was founded in the 1820s, and at various times made a living from the railroad and commercial fishing. Neither business is there anymore. There is a restaurant, however: the River's Edge Boat Club.

Edible Dictionary

stollen [SCHTOH-len], n., German--A dense, somewhat dry, slightly sweetened bread baked during the Christmas holidays in Germany and other places with a German heritage. Stollen are usually made to resemble bread loaves, although the variety of shapes is broad. It bears some resemblance to fruitcakes in that it's made with dried fruits and citrus peels, but the flavor is really different. Stollen are traditionally covered with a snow-like dusting of powdered sugar. Because of its heavy texture and dryness, it's often served with coffee or tea for dunking.

Deft Dining Rule #99:

If you're going to bring a bottle of wine to a restaurant, you will get better cooperation from the management if you buy a bottle of its wine and drink that before you open your own.

Food On The Comics Page

On this day in 1918, Robert Ripley began his illustrated "Believe It Or Not" feature in the New York Globe newspaper. The feature still runs, and has created all sorts of spinoffs, from museums to a television show. I check it every now and then for food facts, like this one from about a week ago: Believe It Or Not! Ninety-three percent of Americans eat pizza at least once a month. Really? Uh. . . actually, I find that quite easy to believe.

Food In The Movies

The Stanley Kubrick movie A Clockwork Orange premiered today in 1971, although it was a few months before it showed up here. Violent, confusing and weird, it depicted a dark future. It doesn't hold up as well as Kubrick's other works. The memorable food aspect was the milk bar where the ultraviolent protagonist hung out. Drinking milk?. . . In 2007, a movie called Flakes opened today. It's about a couple of harmlessly whacko young people who open a cereal bar and have some luck with it. The place becomes hip, and customers not only eat cereal but discuss the relative merits of various kinds of cereal. Then the idea is ripped off by a restaurant chain, and further fun ensues.

Criminal Eating

Today in 2003, a woman swallowed a one-and-a-half-carat diamond ring in a jewelry store near Tampa, Florida. Someone saw her do it, and when her stomach was X-rayed, the ring was seen. She was put into custody until the ring reappeared. Which it did, three days later--on her birthday, as it turned out. It still had the price tag attached: $20,000.

Music To Eat Red Beans By

Today is the birthday, in 1918, of Professor Longhair. Henry Byrd (his real name) was one of the seminal figures in early New Orleans R&B. His music influenced almost everybody playing that style today. In funky backstreet joints of all kinds around town, it won't be long before a Fess song comes up. Just hearing his voice makes one hungry for red beans and fried chicken.

The Ecology Of Food

The overharvesting of bird's nests in Thailand for use in Chinese restaurants was reported today in 2000. It was identified as the cause for a crash in the population of swiftlets, the birds that make the nests out of saliva. If you ever see a bird's nest soup, here, the nests are made of pasta, not bird spit.

Food Namesakes

Cyril Collard, a French film director, started production of his life today in 1957. . . Mary Ashton Livermore, an early proponent of women's rights in America, was born today in 1821. . . Su Shi, “Su Dongpo,” a Chinese writer and philosopher, was born today in 1036.

Words To Eat By

"Fools make feasts, and wise men eat 'em."--Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard's Almanack, first published on this date in 1732."One sits the whole day at the desk and appetite is standing next to me. 'Away with you,' I say. But Comrade Appetite does not budge from the spot."--Leonid Brezhnev, Premier of the USSR in the 1970s, born today in 1906.

Words To Drink By

"Drinking is a way of ending the day."--Ernest Hemingway.