February 26

Curfew. Pistachios. Kellogg. Cereal. Triggerfish. Fats Domino. Beating The Cook.

Today is allegedly <strong>National Pistachio Day.</strong> The best use of pistachios in New Orleans is the dipping of the ends of cannoli in them at Angelo Brocato's. Which, like most makers of ice cream, makes bright green pistachio flavor. (It's the green part of spumone, too.) That flavor is so delicious that I wonder why it's not more often used. As in pistachio sno-balls. Pistachio bread pudding. (I think I'll try that myself.) Or in savory dishes. Indeed, I couldn't think of a non-sweet use of pistachios, other than eating them right out of the shells. (Remember when there used to be gum machines filled with red-shelled pistachios? I can't remember the last time I did, but it has to be twenty years.)

Days Until. . .

Mardi Gras--1
St. Patrick's Day--19
St. Joseph's Day--21
Easter--46

The Day Before The Big Day

In New Orleans today is Lundi Gras--Fat Monday. Its celebrity relies entirely on that of the next day. Sort of like Christmas Eve. A suburb of a holiday. While a few pre-holidays have become more famous than the holiday itself (Halloween, New Year's Eve, for example), Lundi Gras will be forever sandwiched between the Sunday before Mardi Gras--when the Carnival Season peaks--and Mardi Gras itself tomorrow. Few people work in New Orleans on Lundi Gras, but I do--writing this.

Today's Flavor

Today is allegedly National Pistachio Day. The best use of pistachios in New Orleans is the dipping of the ends of cannoli in them at Angelo Brocato's. Which, like most makers of ice cream, makes bright green pistachio flavor. (It's the green part of spumone, too.) That flavor is so delicious that I wonder why it's not more often used. As in pistachio sno-balls. Pistachio bread pudding. (I think I'll try that myself.) Or in savory dishes. Indeed, I couldn't think of a non-sweet use of pistachios, other than eating them right out of the shells. (Remember when there used to be gum machines filled with red-shelled pistachios? I can't remember the last time I did, but it has to be twenty years.) The more I thought about this the more intrigued I was. So started looking through a few cookbooks. Finding nothing there, I did a web search and came up with a bunch of grower organizations that seemed to be quarreling with one another about aflatoxins and the difference between machine-shelled and hand-shelled nuts. Nuts! Pistachios originally came from Iran, which produces more pistachios than any other country. The United States (you could say California) is a close second. They're very good for you. Eating them in the shell is so slow that you stop before you can eat the equivalent amount of peanuts.

Annals Of Closing Time

Today in 1945, as World War II was in full tilt, a midnight curfew went into effect for all bars and nightclubs everywhere in America. Wow. That must have been rough here in New Orleans. I'll bet that gave the restaurant business a boost.

The Physiology Of Eating

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg was born today in 1852. He ran a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, and promulgated many offbeat theories of health. One of those was vegetarianism. Another was "fletcherization," in which one chewed each biteful of food a hundred times before swallowing. He thought people should eat a diet that was primarily grain, and his brother William K. Kellogg created the famous cereal company to make that easier. About half of Dr. Kellogg's radical ideas actually make sense. But plenty of them were as nutty as a pistachio.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Hot Coffee, Mississippi is literally a wide spot in MS 532, some 20 miles west of Laurel. The place got its name from an old grocery store where farmers on their way to market stopped for hot coffee and cakes. The name has become a matter of fun for the people in those rolling farmlands. A sign that says "Entering Hot Coffee" is followed a few yards later by one that says "Entering Downtown Hot Coffee." After a few yards more, you're advised that you're "Leaving Downtown Hot Coffee" and then "Leaving Hot Coffee." All that in about a quarter mile.

Edible Dictionary

cowan, [coe-WANH], Cajun French, n.--The common name used in the Louisiana bayou country for the alligator snapping turtle. This is the prime species for all Cajun and Creole turtle dishes. It's one of the largest freshwater turtles in the world, living in streams and rivers throughout the Southeastern United States. With its hooked beak and strong jaws, it can devour almost anything its size, and has a predilection for fish. It lures them with a pink, worm-like appendage on its tongue, which it extends while lying on the bayou bottom with its mouth open, ready to bite down.

Food Namesakes

Antoine "Fats" Domino, a major figure in early rock 'n' roll, was born today in 1928. He has both a food nickname and two restaurant names. And he had a hit song with a food name: Blueberry Hill. But he's known for his music more than his eating. He's not very fat anymore--hasn't been for a long time. A true-blue Orleanian, he still lived in the Lower Ninth Ward when Katrina hit. He lost everything there, but he rebuilt. Good old Fats! . . . Theodore Sturgeon, an American author of science fiction, was born today in 1918. . . Charles D. Baker, the mayor of Las Vegas during that city's Rat Pack boom years of the 1950s, was born today in 1901. . . Big-league pitcher Preacher Roe took The Big Mound today in 1915. . . Currie Graham--who has a rare double food name--was born today in 1967. He played the station commander in NYPD Blue.

Words To Eat By

"You think that I am cruel and gluttonous when I beat my cook for sending in a bad dinner. But if that is too trivial a cause, what other can there be for beating a cook?"--Martial, ancient Roman author.

Words To Drink By

"Well, as he brews, so shall he drink."--Ben Jonson, Every Man in His Humour.