February 19

Cornish Game Hen Day

Diamond Jim Eats Some More. Cracker Jacks And Cherry Coke. Cod War. Cornish Hen. Roosterville. Tsingtao Beer. Picnic. Strawberry Shortcake.

Days Until. . .

St. Patrick's Day 26
St. Joseph's Day 28
Easter 44

Food Calendar

Today is National Rock Cornish Game Hen Day. Cornish hens are little chickens, and in terms of flavor and cooking that about sums it up. They're a cross of two chicken breeds, developed specifically for marketing purposes in the 1960s. They were given a gourmet cachet, and so appeared on the menus of many fancy restaurants. They're smaller than regular chickens because they develop a large breast at a young age, and are harvested after only a few months.We like Cornish hens, because you can serve a whole one per person without tremendous waste. Like chickens, they are especially good when roasted on a rotisserie. Brining them makes a big improvement in moistness of the meat--as it does with chickens and turkeys. Because they're so small, you can stuff them with various things and roast them without much possibility of a food-safety problem. The best Cornish hen we ever had was the one they used to have at Arnaud's, stuffed with a rough pork pate and served with a wine and tomato sauce.The most unusual good Cornish hen preparation is what Joe Sobol used to do at Frankie's Cafe. He's coat them with a seasoned flour and deep fry them, whole. It was fried chicken on the hoof, more or less, and that actually worked.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Roosterville is seventeen miles northeast of downtown Kansas City, Missouri. That's far enough that Roosterville is still emphatically a farm town, but new suburban neighborhoods are creeping up to within a mile away on the west and south. Roosterville is still a place that raises a few chickens. But it's more famous for Roosterville Airport, a north-south runway used by private planes. The approaching suburbs are heralded more by the restaurants near Roosterville than anything else. Almost all of them are chains. I'd be looking for barbecue (Kansas City is famous for that), so I'd drive the four miles into Liberty for some spare ribs at the Trail's Inn. Can't find any coq au vin.

Edible Dictionary

coq au vin, [kok oh VANH]--French, n.--A chicken cooked slowly in a braising liquid of wine and natural juices, with pork belly, onions, mushrooms, and aromatic herbs. Classically, the chicken used was indeed a coq--a rooster--whose toughness needs the long, wet cooking but also lends a bigger flavor than would come from a frying chicken. However, in recent times the smaller, younger chickens are more often used, particularly in restaurants. Once a very bad dish served in inexpensive American restaurants trying to look fancy, coq au vin is now found in this country almost exclusively in French bistros, which generally do a good job with it. It's an old, common, and ancient dish in the French countryside.

Food In Science

Gottlieb Sigismund Kirchhof was born today in 1764. He was interested in the fermentation process that brews beer, and in his research he discovered how to make glucose--the simplest of all natural sugars. He also developed a method for refining vegetable oil that made that product easy to manufacture in large quantities.

Great Moments In Gluttony

Diamond Jim Brady attended a dinner party in New York City today in 1910, and consumed four pounds of roast beef, seven dozen oysters, and almost three gallons of orange juice. He and his girlfriend Lillian Russell--thought of by American men of the time as the ideal of womanly beauty--often had meals like that, and she kept right up with him.

Annals Of Junk Food And Drink

Today in 1912, the first prize toy was inserted in boxes of Cracker Jack. The candy-coated popcorn with nuts was already nineteen years on the market, but the free prize really boosted sales. We were surprised to learn that these days you no longer get a toy in your box of Cracker Jack (I guess we haven't had any in awhile). Instead, the prize is a card with games and fun facts and jokes. Bet it was some dumb liability problem.Cherry Coke in bottles and cans was introduced in 1985. It success hinged on the fact that it was, in fact, not new at all. People now over sixty probably ordered a cherry Coke in a drugstore soda fountain, where it was made by squirting cherry syrup into the glass before filling it the rest of the way with Coca-Cola. Here's a little known fact: Cherry Coke is made with New Coke.

Food In Peace And War

The Cod War broke out today in 1976 between Iceland and Great Britain. No shooting took place, but the two countries were at each other's diplomatic throats over right to the dwindling populations of the fish. Who cares about cod? Nobody whose food choices are made according to taste, of course. But the economic importance of codfish was so great that a whole book has been written about it. A good one, too, by Mark Kurlansky. It's called Cod. It explains why you can't find codfish to make codfish cakes anymore: the cod are gone.

Annals Of Beer

The Tsingtao Brewery was founded today in 1903 by a company of Germans and British, who wanted to have recognizable beer for Europeans living in China. The original brewery (there are many now) was in Qingdao (the modern spelling of the place name) in Shandong province. There the Germans found superb spring water coming from the nearby mountains. The beer is a classic pilsner in style. You find Tsingtao in almost every Chinese restaurant in America, but you may have given up on it for awhile in the late 1990s, when pollution in China gave their barley an unpleasant flavor aspect. Now most of the grain comes from France, Canada, and Australia.

Food On Broadway

The William Inge play Picnic opened today in 1953 in New York City. If you ever saw the play or the movie, you know the people in it don't much eat--although they do drink. You get the idea they don't really enjoy picnics much.

Food Records

Today in 1999, the biggest strawberry shortcake ever baked was assembled in Plant City, Florida, where they grow a lot of strawberries in the winter (as we do here). It weighed more than three tons. I wonder whether they used real whipped cream.

Food And Drink Namesakes

Actress Margaux Hemingway was born today in 1955. She was named for the great Bordeaux red wine chateau, which her parents claim to have been drinking the night she was conceived. Her grandfather, Ernest Hemingway, was the author of A Moveable Feast, among many other classic works of literature. . . . John Fishman, drummer with the rock band Phish, was born today in 1965. . . Danielle Berry, creator of early computer games, was born as Daniel today in 1949.

Chefs On Parade

Words To Eat By

"I don't like to say that my kitchen is a religious place, but I would say that if I were a voodoo priestess, I would conduct my rituals there."--Pearl Bailey.

Words To Drink By

"They drink with impunity, or anybody who invites them."--Artemus Ward.