March 9

Gabrielle. Personality. Crabmeat. Crab lake and Bayou. Backfin. Spaceman. Pastry War. Catherine of Bologna. Mares Eat Oats. Ketchup. Napoleon.

Days Until. . .

St. Patrick's Day--8 St. Joseph's Day--10 Easter--34

Today's Flavor

This is National Crabmeat Day. It's still pretty early in the year for the best crabmeat. However, adding crabmeat to dishes has become such a part of the current New Orleans cuisine that the seasons are hardly recognized anymore. The season for fresh, non-pasteurized, Louisiana crabmeat is the warm months, particularly in the midsummer. What's used this time of year is likely to be frozen, pasteurized, canned, or from overseas. (Or combinations of the above.) You would be astonished by the number of major restaurants charging major prices that use something other than fresh, unpasteurized crabmeat. The major source of crabmeat in our part of the world (and all the way up the Atlantic coast, too) is the blue crab, callinectes sapidus. It's packed in four major forms: claw, white, lump, and jumbo lump. The latter is the muscle that moves the large claws from inside the body. White and lump come from other parts of the body. The claw meat is least expensive, but actually has the most pronounced flavor. Only its dark color keeps the price down. Strange, isn't it?

Music To Eat Gumbo By

It's the birthday, in 1933, of Lloyd Price, the New Orleans singer who had a string of hits in the mid-1950s. The best of them was Personality. He also did the definitive version of Stagger Lee, whose lyrics describe a place much like the kind of joint where these songs would play on the juke box.

Edible Dictionary

backfin crabmeat, n.--White lump crabmeat, second in size to the jumbo lump. The backfin lumps are the muscles that move the legs and flippers behind the large claws on a blue crab. Sometimes called simply lump crabmeat. Despite its second-best aspect, the word "backfin" has long been used on menus as an indicator of superior quality.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Crab Lake and Crab Bayou are wetlands water features that empty into Matagorda Bay, about twenty miles from Palacios, Texas. All of that is on the Texas Gulf Coast, about halfway between Houston and Corpus Christi. This is precisely the kind of environment where rich crabbing will be found. Oysters, shrimp, and other seafood, too. If you fail to score any of that, run your boat on the bayou to the Intracoastal Waterway, then northeast five miles to Matagorda, where Spoonbills Restaurant will be ready to serve you.

Food In Space

This is the birthday, in 1934, of Yuri Gagarin, Russian cosmonaut and the first man to orbit the earth (or do anything else) in space. Because the Russians could not obtain Tang from the U.S., poor Gagarin had to make do with only fresh oranges for juice during his trip.

Food In Warfare

The Pastry War between France and Mexico ended today in 1839, after about five months of hostility. It started when a French pastry chef named Remontel complained to French King Louis-Phillippe that his shop in Mexico City had been looted by Mexican soldiers ten years earlier. The king took up the cause and demanded that Mexico pay 600,000 pesos. Mexico demurred, and France sent a fleet to blockade all Gulf ports in Mexico. It captured the city of Veracruz and most of the Mexican navy. Mexico declared war on France. The United States fought on the French side, with one ship. Great Britain intervened, Mexico promised to pay the 600,000 pesos, and the war ended. No weapons of mass destruction were found.

The Saints

This is the feast day of St. Catherine of Bologna, who died today in 1463. She is the patron saint of those beset with all kinds of temptation. Including those involving food and drink, I suppose.

Music To Graze By

"Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy."--Slurred a bit, that was the opening line of the Number One hit on this day in 1944. Its title was Mairzy Doats. A kiddle dee divy too, wouldn't you? No, I wouldn't. Ivy will kill you if you eat it.

Food And The Law

Today in 1981, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed that, for the purposes of creating balanced school lunches, ketchup could be considered a vegetable. This absurdity was widely hooted at by comedians and was quickly annulled, but the memory of the idea lives on. In terms of its healthiness, ketchup is not bad for you--but containing as much sugar as it does, it's not good, either.

Deft Dining Rule #299:

If ketchup is called for to make food taste good to you, may I advise some further experimentation on your part/other sauces?

Food Namesakes

Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte were married today in 1796. One wonders whether Napoleon pastries were served at the reception. Over the years, a number of pastry chefs have developed variations on the layered, custard-filled Napoleon that they call the Josephine. Chef Andrea Apuzzo makes one with pastry cream and raspberries--very light and good. . . Coming at the food namesake concept from the other side, we note that today is the birthday, in 1958, of singer Martin Fry, who performed with the group ABC. . . Bluesey rocker John Cale was born today in 1942. . . Pro footballer Sean Salisbury was born today in 1963.

Words To Eat By

"Those big-shot writers could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar."--Mickey Spillane, crime novel author, born today in 1918.

Words To Drink By

"What's your house chablis?"--James Buckley, politician, upon being asked by a counter person at McDonald's what he wanted to drink. Buckley was born today in 1923.