February 23

National Banana Bread Day

One Little Restaurant. Ritz. Vitamin. Rotary. Banana Bread. Farro. Frog. Colossal Squid. Tootsie Rolls

Days Until. . .

St. Patrick's Day23St. Joseph's Day25 Easter37

Famous Names In High Living

Cesar Ritz was born today in 1850. Every use of the word Ritz implying luxury and excellence derives from his career. After managing hotels in Monte Carlo and Switzerland, how founded his own ritzy place in Paris. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel here is a direct descendant. I wonder how he'd feel about Ritz crackers.

World Food Records

Today in 2007, a group of New Zealand fishermen landed the largest colossal squid ever caught. It was just under forty feet long, and weighed almost a thousand pounds. These fantastic creatures have been known for a long time, but almost never encountered live. They can fight a sperm whale to the finish, the winner not a foregone conclusion. Not enough breading and oil could be found to fry this calamari, so it was grilled and served with aioli instead.

Physiology Of Eating

The man who invented the word vitamin was born today in 1884. Casimir Funk was a biochemist who worked on figuring out which parts of our food did what in the body. Good thing he didn't name these essential nutrients after himself. Can you imagine a daily multi-funk regimen?

Annals Of Lunch

The Rotary Club was founded today in 1905, in Chicago, by Paul Percy Harris and three friends. Rotarians are nice people who accomplish much in their communities. After speaking at their breakfast and lunch meetings on many occasions, I can say that eating excellent food is not one of their goals. I usually respond to their invitations by saying that I'd be happy to speak, as long as I don't have to eat.

Food Calendar

National Banana Bread Day. As nugatory as that may sound, it rings a bell because if you buy bananas, it's almost a certainty that you buy too many. When bananas become overripe, they're in the perfect state for making banana bread. It's great for breakfast, and makes a pretty good late-night snack.

Annals Of Candy

Leo Hirshfield, an Austrian immigrant who owned a candy shop in New York City, made up the basic formula still used today for Tootsie Rolls. The year was 1896. He named the candy after his daughter. It was the first hand-wrapped penny candy, and was obviously a big hit, even though it tastes chocolaty, not like chocolate. Sixty-four million Tootsie Rolls are made every day. (Does that sound right to you?) Tootsie Roll Industries (the front and back parts of the corporate name don't sound right together, either) was founded with only the namesake product. Now it also makes Charms Blow Pops, Mason Dots, Andes Mints, Sugar Daddy, Charleston Chew, Dubble Bubble gum, Razzles, Caramel Apple Pop, Junior Mints, Cella's Chocolate-Covered Cherries, and Nik-L-Nip.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Frog is a relict town on the old US 80 and the Texas and Pacific Railroad, forty-three miles east of downtown Dallas, Texas. When it was in its prime, it was a settlement of thirty or so African-American families who worked for the railroad. Most of them were of two extended families. This was enough to support two churches and a school. One of the churches is still active. No restaurants are in Frog, but there's an off-chance frogs might be on the menu at Fisherman's Delight, six miles south in Kaufman.

Edible Dictionary

farro, n.--An early form of cultivated wheat grown in the Mediterranean since prehistoric times. It's also known as emmer or spelt, but some authorities claim that it's subtly different from both. It's cooked and eaten as whole grain, especially in Italy. A soup of farro is still popular there, thought of as very homely. In this country, farro is largely the province of health food stores and their customers, but some chefs have begun cooking it to add variety to the grain side of their menus.

Deft Dining Rule #223 & #224:

When sauces or condiments come to the table in little dishes, don't think twice about trying them with anything else on the table. Few mistakes can be made. Always try a few drops of sauces or condiments brought in little dishes to the table before eating a lot of them. Some are very, very hot.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

The more different kinds of pepper in a dish, the more interesting and powerful the heat.

Food Namesakes

Gilbert Moxley Sorrel, brigadier general in the Confederate army, was born today in 1838. . . Pro golfer Cindy Figg-Currier teed off her life today in 1960. Later she was able to add a second food word to her name. . . Football linebacker Jerod Mayo got the Big Snap today in 1986.

Words To Eat By

"Hunger makes you restless. You dream about food--not just any food, but perfect food, the best food, magical meals, famous and awe-inspiring, the one piece of meat, the exact taste of buttery corn, tomatoes so ripe they split and sweeten the air, beans so crisp they snap between the teeth, gravy like mother's milk singing to your bloodstream."--Dorothy Allison, contemporary American writer.

Words To Drink By

"A rattlesnake that doesn't bite teaches you nothing."--Jessamyn West, American writer. She died today in 1984.