March 16

Artichoke Hearts. Bacchanalia. Davy Crockett. Absinthe Out. Artichoke Hearts. Garlic Island. Coush-Coush.

Days Until. . .

St. Patrick's Day--1 St. Joseph's Day--3 Easter--27*

Food Calendar

National Artichoke Hearts Day. Artichoke hearts are the innermost leaves of small, undeveloped artichokes. They're different from artichoke bottoms, the starchy, dish-shaped parts underneath the leaves. The overwhelming majority of artichoke hearts found in restaurants come from cans or jars. Even Warren Leruth, who invented oyster-artichoke soup, used canned artichoke hearts. Which, frankly, are not all that bad a product, if not as good as fresh. California grows virtually all artichokes consumed in this country. There even exists the California Artichoke Advisory Board. (What kind of advice does an artichoke need, really?)

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

When the spines on artichoke petals don't jab into your fingers while you stuff the thing, it's the best time of year for artichokes.

Overindulgence Through History

This date marked the beginning the Bacchanalia in ancient Rome. It honors Bacchus, the god of wine, and seems to have been around since the Etruscan days. It was such a bawdy event that even the Romans--never a puritanical people--banned it after a few years. It gained such a reputation by then, however, that the word "bacchanalia" has come to mean a festival of excessive eating, drinking, and carrying on (to put it mildly).

Music To Eat Bar By

On this date in 1955, The Ballad of Davy Crockett hit Number One on the pop charts. I was four years old and thought nothing could be cooler than Davy Crockett. I not only had a coonskin cap (who didn't?), but for a few days I had my hair cut in the shape of a coonskin cap. Many years later, Fess Parker--who played Davy Crockett on television--turned up to promote his wines on my radio show. I played the ballad as we went from segment to segment, but then wondered whether Fess were sick of hearing the song. He smiled and said, "Actually, Tom, that's my favorite song!" Very nice man. He passed away in 2010. I recommend his winery's Riesling, Viognier, and Pinot Noir. Wish they'd do Petite Sirah again.

Annals Of Absinthe

This is the day in 1915 that absinthe was outlawed in France. Absinthe was one of of many liqueurs with an anise flavor, and so popular that after the ban substitute products that lacked the allegedly harmful ingredient wormwood came out. In France, the new absinthe was Pernod; in New Orleans, it was Herbsaint. Absinthe is making a comeback in recent times, and its fans get very enthusiastic about it. One of the leading makers of the new absinthe is La Fee Verte ("the green fairy"), whose site has a lot of information on the potion.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Eatonville is a small farming hamlet in northwestern Pennsylvania, a twenty-seven-mile drive through the picturesque rolling hills from Scranton. It's nestled in a valley cut by Bowman Creek, just above its confluence with the Susquehanna River. Mountains rise 700 feet above the valley floor on both sides. Eatonville isn't isolated, though: there's an airport two miles north. You won't need it to get some eatin', though; Marsha's Sugar Hollow Diner is less than a mile away.

Edible Dictionary

liver cheese, n.--A deli meat that inspires either nostalgia or disgust, liver cheese is for most Americans their first contact with the flavors of French-style liver pates. In supermarkets it appears as a square loaf wrapped in pork fat about an eighth of an inch thick. There is some controversy as to whether the fat should be removed before eating. In interior is made primarily of pork livers, with ground pork and flavorings. It descends from two parents: German leberkase and liverwurst. The former is a complete misnomer, containing neither liver nor cheese, made of finely ground beef and pork, and with a flavor and texture much like that of bologna. Liverwurst--which in its best form is also known as braunschweiger--is a large, round, sliceable but also spreadable liver sausage. The popularity of liver cheese is in a long decline, but a few sandwich shops still can be found that will make a liver cheese poor boy.

Deft Dining Rule #297:

From the moment you notice that your table isn't being served very well, allow five more minutes before getting up in search of a manager.

Food Namesakes

Fats Waller was in the studio waxing the Jitterbug Waltz today in 1942. . . Judge Roy Bean, the Law West Of The Pecos, died today in his headquarters town, Langtry, Texas, in 1903. . . Rapper Flavor Flav was born today in 1959.

Words To Eat By

"I said to my wife, 'Where do you want to go for our anniversary?' She said, 'I want to go somewhere I've never been before.' I said, 'Try the kitchen.'"--Henny Youngman, born today in 1906.

Words To Drink By

"I was walking downstairs carrying a drink in one hand and a book in the other. Don't try that after 90."--Studs Terkel, American writer and radio host, born today in 1912, explaining how he broke his hip.