December 31

The Last Day. Geese. Drunkometer. Champagne. Brut. Anorexia. Let It Snow. Toasts.

Days Until. . .

Twelfth Night--8
Mardi Gras48

The Sixth Day of Christmas

We are warned of the gifting by good friends of six geese a-laying, a six-pack of Dixie, a hammered aluminum nutcracker, little silver bells, or (according to our own lyrics for the song) six char-broiled oysters. We like the oysters as the appetizer tonight, and are interested in those geese for a big feast tomorrow. But the eggs? Geese don't lay eggs this time of year, no matter what the song says. However, here's a place in Folsom where you can buy them when the big birds get on with it in springtime.

Today's Flavor

Tonight is International Champagne Night. Of course. Champagne is a wine that started out disadvantaged. It comes from the northernmost of the major wine-growing areas of France, where the soil is chalky and infertile. The grapes make acidic wines, distinctly inferior to those of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Alsace. But the winemakers happened upon a trick. Somewhere in somebody's cave, some bottles bearing wine of dubious purity underwent a second fermentation. That not only created the bubbles that are the hallmark of Champagne, but also softened up the acidity enough to make the effervescent wine delicious. The rest is history. Champagne is now probably the most profitable winemaking district in the world on a per-acre basis. By international agreement, the name "Champagne" refers only to the wines from that region. Perhaps the greatest miracle of Champagne is that it goes with almost every food, even hard-to-match stuff like Chinese and Mexican cookery.

Deft Dining Rule #98:

The most expensive bottle of Champagne you have in your possession must be uncorked tonight and poured into at most six crystal glasses. They will make the loveliest sound when they touch at midnight.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

Don't point that Champagne bottle at me until you've pulled the cork out!

Edible Dictionary

cuvée, [koo-VAY], French. n.--A finished blend, most often of wine. The art of creating a cuvée reaches its height in Champagne, where not only are several grape varieties from many vineyards used to make most bubbly, but also wines of several vintages. Pulling all these together so as to keep a steady house style from year to year is one of the most challenging tasks in the entire winemaking world.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Champagne, Louisiana is a crossroads in St. Martin Parish on LA 347, the road that makes the shortest westbound connection between the I-10 and Breaux Bridge. It's in the middle of rice and crawfish farms on high land built up when what is now Bayou Teche was the Mississippi River, thousands of years ago. Champagne is in the middle of the world's best collection of Cajun restaurants, dozens of which are within five miles in any direction. The closest major Cajun restaurant is the legendary Robin's (pronounced "roe-BANHZ"), three miles east in Henderson. The crawfish should be running by now.

Food Through History

Tonight in 1999, paranoia reigned as all the computers in the world turned over their dates to 2000. Chefs throughout America got ready to shut down ovens should they drop uncontrollably from 400 degrees to 004 degrees, and freezers if they should do the opposite. Nothing untoward happened. Rumors spread, however, that a speck of spinach appeared in the Rockefeller sauce at Antoine's, somebody at Commander's received 300 shrimp remoulade instead of the customary three, and a bottle of Salon Champagne 1978 showed up on the restaurant's computer-generated check as nine cents instead of $900. The absence of computer geeks in restaurants (they were all at their machines, ready to stem a disaster) had no noticeable effect on restaurants at all.

Drinking Through History

Today in 1938, the first device able to detect intoxication was implemented in Indianapolis. Called the drunkometer, its targets were drivers, as you might imagine. But think about it: it was not six years after the repeal of prohibition, and already DWI was becoming a problem. The thing was invented by Dr. Rolla N. Harger.

Food And Medicine

Today is the birthday, in 1816, of Sir William Withey Gull, a British doctor who first gave a name to the condition wherein a patient develops an aversion to eating. He called it anorexia nervosa. May it never affect anyone you like to dine with.

Food On Stage

A musical play called Bubbling Brown Sugar closed on Broadway today in 1977 after over 700 performances. If they ever produce it here in New Orleans, they ought to rename it Praline.

Music To Drink Egg Nog By

This is the birthday, in 1905, of the composer Jule Styne. Among the hundreds of entries in the Great American Songbook that he wrote are the Yuletide classics, "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow"and The Christmas Waltz.

Food Namesakes

Yankee pitcher Catfish Hunter signed a contract today in 1974 for $3.75 million. . . Actor and bohemian Taylor Mead was born today in 1924. He played the title role in Andy Warhol's Tarzan movie.

Words To Eat By

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring happy bells across the snow;
The year is going, let him go.
--Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Words To Drink By

"Burgundy makes you think of silly things, Bordeaux makes you talk of them, and Champagne makes you do them."--Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. "Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right."--Mark Twain.