February 8

Shrimp On Sugar Cane. Periodic Food. Sugar Land. Sugar Beets. Courtbouillon.

Days Until. . .

Mardi Gras--19 Valentine's Day--6

The Chemistry Of Food

Today is the birthday of Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleyev, who created the periodic table of elements, seen in every chemistry classroom. I've often thought that a periodic table of food would make in interesting kitchen poster. Let's see. . . Water would be Element 1. Chicken Stock is Element 3, Veal Stock Element 11, Beef Stock Element 19. Salt would be Element 17. Sauvignon Blanc is Element 2, Chardonnay is Element 10, Pinot Noir Element 18. . . Foie Gras is Element 79, Caviar Element 47, Oysters Element 29 (chemists will be chuckling at that one; see if you can guess why). Maybe somebody has done this already. Would somebody please set the periodic table for dinner? Thank you.

Today's Flavor

Today is Statewide Fish Courtbouillon Day. Courtbouillon (the word is pronounced "koo-boo-yon") is made by poaching fish in a small amount of water seasoned with the holy trinity of onions, bell peppers, and celery, along with fresh tomato, parsley, peppercorns, white wine, lemon, and a few other possible ingredients. The word "courtbouillon" translates from French as "short boiling," and that's exactly the process. The fish and the vegetables all give their flavor into what becomes a very sloshy sauce, which you get up with a spoon while you eat the fish with a fork. Made with good fresh fish (redfish is the classic species, but it's also good with other flaky white fish) and a deft hand, it's one of those wonderful rarities: a really delicious dish that's also very light in every sense of the word.

Annals Of Sweetness

Sugar beets are a greater source of sweetener than most people know. The process for making sugar from those roots was created by a German scientist named Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge, who was born today in 1795.

Edible Dictionary

freezer burn, n.--Dark, dry areas on frozen food, caused by exposure to the air. It's not an actual burn, but may as well be--burning is also an oxidation. Oxidation can happen quickly or slowly. Freezer burn is slow. It cannot be remedied. Not only is the texture unpleasant, but freezer-burned food almost always picks up tasted from other things in the freezer. To avoid freezer burn, wrap foods well and push all air out of the enclosing bag or container.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

When you're making simple syrup or even more concentrated sugar solutions, brush any grains of sugar that stick to the side of the pan into the water. If you don't, granulation may begin and you'll have to start over.

Deft Dining Rule #217:

Any restaurant brave enough to still serve loose sugar from bowls is worth your special attention.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Orange is a small farming community in northeast Pennsylvania. It's 1145 feet up in the hills overlooking the Susquehanna River valley, with Scranton to the east and Wilkes-Barre to the south, each about ten miles from Orange. The place to eat around there is the Checkerboard Inn, which boasts that it makes fine cocktails as well as appetizing food. It's five miles away in Trucksville. Perhaps those trucks bring in oranges from somewhere far away. The climate in orange is not conducive to growing orange trees.

Annals Of Campfire Cooking

Today is the one hundred second anniversary of the founding of the Boy Scouts of America. Nothing in my life was more rewarding than my participation in Scouting with my son for ten years. He's out of it now, but our lives are much richer as a result of that experience. And now we know how to cook trout meuniere and blackened lemonfish in the middle of nowhere!

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Meingold, who lived in the ninth century in Belgium. He was of noble blood from the Belgian city Liege. He is one of many patron saints of bakers.

Food Namesakes

Today is the birthday (1925) of the great comedic actor Jack Lemmon, who was in one of the great food scenes in the history of cinema. As Felix in The Odd Couple, he corrected Oscar (Walter Matthau) about the bowl of pasta on the kitchen table. "That's not spaghetti, it's linguine!" he said. Oscar picked it up and threw it against the wall, red sauce and all. "Now it's garbage!" Not only that, but two of his movies have food titles: The Days Of Wine And Roses and The Fortune Cookie. . . Another actor, Welshman Stanley Baker, was born today in 1927. . . Paul Wheatbread, who was a member of the Union Gap with Gary Puckett, was born today in 1946. . . John Evert Morel, a Dutch artist, was born today in 1777. . . Big-league pitcher Aaron Cook was born today in 1979.

Words To Eat By

"I saw a cavalry captain buy vegetable soup on horseback. He carried the whole mess home in his helmet."--Aristophanes, classic Greek dramatist.

Words To Drink By

"Marriage isn't a word. . . it's a sentence."--Elbert "King" Vidor, Hollywood movie director.