February 25

Celery Root And Crabmeat. Caruso. Namesake Dishes. Insanity. Celery. Crisp. Celtuce. Celeriac. Potato Collection.

Days Until. . .

St. Patrick's Day 20
St. Joseph's Day 22
Easter 34

Gourmets Through History

Enrico Caruso was born today in 1873. just in time to become one of the first stars of recorded music. In Italian restaurants across America, dishes are named after the famous operatic tenor, but they differ from place to place. No one classic dish bears his name. Caruso was such a hearty eater that there really ought to be such a dish. Searches through cookbooks turn up a wide range of namesake Caruso dishes with sauces including everything from cream to prosciutto to spinach.

Deft Dining Rule #120:

If a restaurant names a dish after you and you haven't done anything of note, you can claim to be either a gastronome or a high roller.

Annals Of Bad Cooking

Today in 1859, the temporary insanity defense was first used to establish the innocence of a defendant. Little did the lawyer involved guess that the innovation would appear in a dining venue. Some years ago, I complained about a dish in a little French Quarter restaurant, now long gone. It paired flounder and pralines. When the waiter returned to the table after passing my comment along to the chef, he said, "We'll take it off the check. The chef pleads insanity." True story! I never ran into that chef again.

Today's Flavor

Today is National Celery Day. For most people, celery is strictly a background performer in cooking. Not even chefs who note every ingredient of every dish on their menus often mention celery. It's one third of the holy trinity of Creole cooking. But it doesn't step out into the foreground nearly as onions and bell peppers. It's hard to think of a dish in which celery is the main ingredient, but I will advance two. Braised celery, served as a vegetable side dish, is better than you might imagine. And celery cream soup is delicious. In its usual role as a part of the flavor team, however, celery is indispensable. Imagine a bloody mary, tuna salad, stocks, or vegetable soup without it. Its flavor is subtle but distinctive, containing a slight acidity and an aromatic flavor reminiscent of anise. In some uses, celery's flavor improves a dish dramatically. Triple the amount of celery in your recipe for red beans, and it becomes much more delicious than you might imagine. Celery has been used for food and cooking in Europe since ancient times. It developed from wild plants that still grown around the Mediterranean. We almost don't have to say that celery's good for you. Its natural diuretic properties can actually bring blood pressure down. Eating it fills you up while adding very few calories to your intake. I also see that it's National Chocolate Covered Peanuts Day. I believe we are mainly talking about Goobers here.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Celeryville, Ohio is in the north-central part of the state, on the south side of Willard, in a large area of farms, mostly growing corn. However, they historically did grow a good deal of celery in the area, hence the name. The popular restaurant is the 224 Varsity Club, with a menu ranging from steaks to pizza, and a sports bar.

Edible Dictionary

celeriac, n.--The widely-used French name for celery root. It's a heavy, bulbous, crunchy vegetable that is--sort of--what it says it is. It comes from a different variety of celery than the one we commonly eat, with smaller, hollow stalks that nevertheless have an unmistakable celery flavor. The root is about the size of a turnip, and has an irregular shape that makes it challenging to remove the brown, hard peel. Inside is a white, crisp, unstarchy vegetable with a different flavor from that of celery stalks--although there are similarities. It has a bit of a nutty quality. Celeriac is most often served raw as part of a salad. The popular sauce for it in France is remoulade.

Annals Of Food Research

Donald McLean, a Scottish botanist, was born today in 1922. He had a passion for potatoes, and through his lifetime he collected three hundred sixty-seven different kinds of spuds.

Food In Show Biz

Today is the birthday (1913) of actor Jim Backus. He is most famous as Thurston Howell III, the rich guy who was always portrayed with a martini in his hand on Gilligan's Island. His voice was so distinctive that he had a busy voice-over career, too. His most famous voice was that of the visually-impaired cartoon character Mr. Magoo. Zeppo Marx was born today in 1901. He was in the Marx Brother's early movies, but later he became the business manager for Groucho, Chico, and Harpo for their many food-named movies: Animal Crackers, Duck Soup, and the rest of them.

Food Namesakes

Actress Diane Baker was born today in 1938. . . The well-named comedian Carrot Top sprouted today in 1965. . . Big league first baseman Danny Cater hit the Big Basepath today in 1940.

Words To Eat By

"The thought of two thousand people crunching celery at the same time horrified me."--George Bernard Shaw, about a vegetarian dinner. He was a vegetarian himself.

Words To Drink By

"The soft extractive note of an aged cork being withdrawn has the true sound of a man opening his heart."--William Samuel Benwell.