March 27

National Paella Day

Paella. Orange, VA. Giant Nacho. Cherry Trees. Corkscrew.

Days Until. . .

Easter --8

Food Calendar

It is National Paella Day in America. Paella is catching on. While we have always been able to find a restaurant around New Orleans that serves paella, until very recently we never needed more than the fingers of one hand to count them. Nor were the ones we found especially good--again, until recent years, with the broadening of all ethnic dining in New Orleans. Always, any chef that made this most famous of Spanish rice dishes could be counted on to be very proud of it. Enough so that paella is usually the most expensive item on menus that offer it.Paella comes in many forms, with a long list of possible ingredients. But it simmers down to this: rice, olive oil, and stock (usually chicken) are cooked in a big pan with poultry, sausages, or seafood, plus peas, beans, and savory vegetables. It's flavored with saffron if it's a good version. In the cheaper editions, annatto gives the color of saffron, but not the unmistakable flavor and aroma. The dish originally came from Valencia, but now you can eat it in most parts of the world. There is some question as to whether jambalaya is a direct descendent of paella, but it's certainly related, by way of the connection between the Spanish West Indies and Louisiana.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Orange, population 4123, is seventy-four miles northwest of Richmond, Virginia. It's the county seat of Orange County, and has been since 1749. It's full of historic homes, surrounded by orchards and vineyards, and is near a number of Civil War battlefields. The Norfolk Southern Railroad runs through town, carrying on its iron the Amtrak Crescent, the passenger train from New York to New Orleans. The classiest place to dine in the area is the Inn At Meander Plantation, seven miles north of town.

Edible Dictionary

tostada, Spanish, n.--In Spanish, tostada means "toasted thing." In Spain, what they mean by the word is literally a piece of toast. But the word took on a special meaning in Mexico, where the items toasted were tortillas, and the method of toasting was frying. At first, this was a method of reviving unfresh tortillas. Then people decided they liked them that way, and began making them on purpose, and using them to scoop up the foods at hand: beans, rice, cheese, meat. This evolved into what you or I would call a nacho. But then the Tex-Mex restaurants got hold of it, and began frying the corn tortillas used for border-style tacos. Instead of folding them over, though, these were left flat, and used as a base for all the other stuff. Most tostadas are heavy with vegetables and light with meat and cheese, and make good appetizers. If you think of them as gigantic nachos, you've about got it.

Food In Diplomacy

The flowering cherry trees for which Washington, D.C. is so famous were first planted on this date in 1912. They were a gift from the people of Japan. Of the more than 3,000 tree planted then, over a hundred are still alive. Many more have been planted since, of course, and the city is full of them now. We hear that the flowers are much more beautiful than the taste of the actual cherries. But that's true of a lot of things.

Food Inventions

Today in 1860, a New Yorker named M.L. Byrn patented a design of a corkscrew. It was T-shaped, based on gadgets that had long been used to extract bullets stuck in the muzzles of guns. Corkscrews had been around before Byrn's invention, but his design became the standard in America for decades. The business end was not a worm, as we use now, but looked more like a screw. If you have a corkscrew made that way--and you just might--don't use it for opening bottles of wine. It may drill a hole through the cork without pulling it out.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

If a corkscrew turns a wine cork into crumbs, no matter how much you paid for it or how long it's worked properly or how beautiful it is, throw it away.

Food Namesakes

NFL running back Tom Beer came to life today in 1969. . . Ohio Congressman Douglas Applegate was born today in 1928. . . Nathaniel Currier, who with his partner James Ives created lithographs generally regarded as the first artistic bits of Americana, was born today in 1813. . . Stacy Ferguson, a singer with the group The Black Eyed Peas, was born today in 1975.

Words To Eat By

"Rice is born in water and must die in wine."--Unknown.

Words To Drink By

"Drink down all unkindness. "--William Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor.