December 20

Sweetbreads At La Crepe Nanou. Mulled Wine. Louisiana Becomes U.S. Driving On Extra Calories. Light Muffins. Buy A Drink. Fish And Chips.

Days Until. . .

Christmas 5. New Year's Eve: 12.

Today's Flavor

Today is reported to be National Sangria Day. Sangria can be good, but usually isn't. It's a mixture of wine with fruit and fruit juices, and probably began as a way to make lesser wines more palatable. Especially when they're served cold, as sangria usual is. We see it in Spanish restaurants without exception; it is a very popular beverage in Spain. Seems more like a summer beverage to me, and less appropriate for this day than something like wassail or mulled wine.

Edible Dictionary

wassail, n.--A drink made of warmed and spiced beer, cider, or wine, sometimes containing honey, sugar, or fruit juices. It's mentioned in several Christmas carols. The word reveals the ancient origins of the beverage: "wassail" derives from a Norse toast meaning "to your health." We get it through Old English. The original form of wassail probably involved beer. Its modern descendants are those spiced beers mall breweries put out this time of year. The version of wassail most commonly made these days is made with sweetened wine and spices. Something much like it was known in Roman times during the festival of Saturnalia--the celebration the Church co-opted and turned into Christmas.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Goose Egg, Wyoming is about fifteen miles southest of Casper, on State Highway 220 at the junction of Goose Egg Road. It lies in the rocky valley of the North Platte River, less than a mile to the north. The place to eat there is the Goose Egg Inn, which claims to serve home-style food, but looks rather classy. Whether six geese a-laying those eggs can be found there around the Christmas season, we're not sure.

Deft Dining Rule #208:

From now until Christmas Day, a man must offer to buy a drink for every friend he sees in an eating or drinking establishment.

Roots Of Our Culinary Culture

Today in 1803, in a ceremony here in New Orleans, the United States took possession of the Louisiana Purchase territory. It doubled the size of the country and brought New Orleans (but not the North Shore, which remained part of Florida) into the Union. It made Pass Manchac an international boundary. The customs officials ate lunch at Middendorf's, right?

Food Equations

According to Harper's magazine, a Hummer H2 could be driven around the world 244 times on the excess calories consumed in a year by the average American. I'd go for the food instead of the drive.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

To make lighter muffins, use buttermilk instead of regular milk. The extra acidity will create more gas bubbles in contact with the baking soda. Another trick to accomplish the same end: separate the eggs, beat the whites, and fold it into the batter. Neither of these work for heavy, chunky muffins, though, as I learned when my former girlfriend threw one at me.

Restaurants Around The World

Today in 1928, Harry Ramsden opened his first fish-and-chips shop outside of Leeds, England. It has expanded to become a large chain of restaurants specializing not only in fish and chips (using many different species of fish), but also many other popular British dishes like meat pies, gammon steaks with mashed potatoes, and the like. Its rough American equivalent would be Applebee's.

Food Namesakes

Many bakers today. The jazz singer Anita Baker was born today in 1957. . . and actress Blanche Baker hit the Big Stage today in 1956, which was also a big day for her more famous mother, Carroll Baker . . .Rock singer David Cook, who won the seventh season of American Idol, hit his first note today ion 1982. . . Charley Grapewin, who played Uncle Henry in The Wizard of Oz, was born today in 1869. . . American sculptor Beverly Pepper began to carve out a life today in 1924. . . Pieter de Hooch, a painter of Dutch scenes in the 1600s, seemed very lifelike to his mother today in 1629. We lift our glass to Hooch.

Words To Eat By

"My manner of living is plain and I do not mean to be put out of it. A glass of wine and a bit of mutton are always ready."--George Washington.

Words To Drink By

"I'm not so think as you drunk I am."--Sir John Collings Squire, British writer of the first half of the 1900s.