March 18

National Tomato Sauce Day

Entomatado. World Birthday. Poppin' Fresh. Tomato Sauce. Tomato, Arkansas. Ernest Gallo. Pousse Cafe.

Days Until. . .

Easter-- 22 Quarter Festival -- 26 Jazz Festival--41

Annals Of Everything

The world was created today in 3952 BCE, according to calculations from the Bible made by The Venerable Bede. Happy birthday, Earth!

Today's Flavor

Today is National Tomato Sauce Day. Tomato sauces are so numerous and distinctive that long books of recipes could be compiled for them. The tomato flavors are always front and center, yet most ingredients added to the sauce emerge to be tasted, as well. This gives rise to a wonderfully broad range of sauces.The Italian tomato sauce variations alone could keep us here all day. There's marinara, cacciatore, ragu, fra diavolo, amatriciana, arrabbiata, and sugo, to name only a few. Sometimes the variations are as slight as those that distinguish one pasta shape from another, giving rise to millions of dishes. Tomato sauces are also widespread and varied in the cuisines of the tomato's native home--Mexico and other parts of the New World. Here in New Orleans where I live, our default version is sauce Creole--onions, bell peppers, celery, black pepper, and tomatoes, all hanging on to their fresh flavors in the brief cooking.Tomato sauces also turn up in Indian cooking. Let's draw the line at barbecue sauce. It's usually made with a predominance of tomato. But it's not really red.One of the most interesting and important properties of a tomato sauce is that it loses its sharpness as it cooks, while the sugars in them emerge. A tomato sauce cooked for five or ten minutes with fresh herbs still has a fresh, garden-like taste and a chunky texture. The same ingredients cooked for hours become smooth and mellow, with a completely different flavor. Cooks who get a feel for this can play with it endlessly and deliciously. Tomato sauce has one other major nonconformity. While most chefs make a big deal about using fresh ingredients for everything, few object to the use of first-class canned tomatoes. While it could be said that the science of canning tomatoes is long perfected, the time a tomato spends in a can can be considered part of the cooking process. Adding fresh tomatoes to the mix adds further possibilities.

Deft Dining Rule #280:

Pasta with red sauce should never be eaten on the first meeting or date with someone promising.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

When tomato sauce cooks with bubble and splatterAside from the mess, something's the matterGive it a stir and lower the heatIt's an hour or two before you can eat.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Tomato Creek is in north central Minnesota, at the base of the little spur that sticks up into Canada at the Lake of the Woods. It flows from one marshy area to another, dead-ending in both. This means that it marks a small basin across the Continental Divide separating the Mississippi Watershed and the Canadian Watershed. It's a stream that goes nowhere. If you want to go somewhere for lunch, get out of the creek and hike eleven miles to Roosevelt, where is the Roosevelt Rustic Diner. It doesn't get much more rustic than this territory.

Edible Dictionary

marinara, n. or adj.--A sauce made of tomatoes, onions, olive oil, and herbs, cooked simply and quickly. This is as opposed to bolognese sauce or ragu, which include meat. Although "marinara" is sometimes applied to sauces that sit on the stove for many hours, the name itself--a reference to sailors, who require simplicity in their cooking--really implies a sauce that's on and off the stove in fifteen or twenty minutes. A New Orleans "red gravy," then, isn't exactly a marinara. But close enough. On the other hamd, it's not pure Italian, either. John Mariani, in his Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, says that the word was created not in Italy but among Italian-Americans in New York City.

Food In The Wild

In 1543 on this date, Hernando De Soto noted that the Mississippi River had flooded over its banks in Louisiana. He was the first European to report any kind of flood anywhere in the New World. Because of the soil the river dumped on its floodplains, we have good vegetables, especially tomatoes.

Annals Of Winemaking

Ernest Gallo was born today in 1909. He and his brother Julio created what would become the biggest family-owned winery in the world under their names, and now many others, too. Lore about the Gallo brothers is that when they decided to get into the business, Julio asked whether Ernest could sell all the wine he could make. Ernest answered, "Can you make all the wine I can sell?"

Cocktails On Broadway

Pousse Cafe, a play set in the 1920s, opened today in 1966 on Broadway. It would only have three performances before closing. A pousse-cafe ("coffee chaser") is a sweet after-dinner drink made by layering cordial liqueurs of contrasting colors in a small, slender glass designed for the purpose. They were once the rage, but the liqueur makers began making their potions with uniform proofs and specific gravities, and it became difficult to layer them. That's the excuse the bartenders make, anyway. We think they just don't want to be bothered.

Food In Advertising

Poppin' Fresh, the Pillsbury Doughboy, was introduced on this date in 1961. His first gig involved touting Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, the croissants in a can.

Food Namesakes

Susan Butcher won her second Iditarod dog sled race in Alaska today in 1987. . . Comedian and actor Dane Cook went for his first laugh today in 1972. . . Boy band singer Devin Lima looked cute for the first time today in 1977. . . Jacob Bunn, American industrialist and friend of Abraham Lincoln, came out of the oven today in 1814. . . British barrister and columnist James Pickles gave his first opinion today in 1925.

Words To Eat By

"Of plants tomatoes seemed the most human, eager and fragile and prone to rot."--John Updike, novelist, born today in 1932. The line is from his book The Witches of Eastwick.

Words To Drink By

"You know you're drunk when you think that the cab fare is the time."--Dane Cook, comedian, born today in 1972.