April 4

Cordon Bleu

Days Until. . .

French Quarter Festival--2 Easter --12 Jazz Festival--235

Roots Of Creole Cooking

Today in 1812, the Territory of Orleans was admitted to the Union and became the State of Louisiana. Happy birthday to us! Two years later on this date (or perhaps two days from now--the exact date is unclear), the event that gave the Napoleon House its name occurred. Napoleon Bonaparte abdicated as emperor of France, and was exiled to the island of Elba. Nicholas Girod, former mayor of New Orleans, offered Napoleon an apartment in his building the corner of St. Louis and Chartres. The apartment is now used for private parties by the Napoleon House, one of the city's most famous watering holes.

Food Inventions

Today in 1881, a centrifugal separator was patented by Edwin J. Houston and Elihu Thomson that could separate cream from milk. Or mud from water. A derivative of the concept is found in many homes: the juice extractor. Also on this date in 1828, in the Netherlands, Casparus Van Wooden patented a chocolate powder that could be stirred into milk. The forerunner of Quik?

Annals Of Food Research

On this date in 1932, after many years of research, W.A. Waugh and C.G. King at the University of Pittsburgh isolated Vitamin C for the first time. It's called ascorbic acid because it prevents the condition called scurvy. Sailors in the British Navy found they could prevent scurvy by eating limes. Coincidentally, in 1581 on this date, Queen Elizabeth had dinner on one of their ships: The Golden Hind, just back from an around-the-world trip with Sir Francis Drake at the helm. They made her eat a lime.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

You know what has more Vitamin C, ounce for ounce, than any common food? Cilantro. Keeps you breath fresh, too.

Food Calendar

Somebody (not Le Cordon Bleu, the famous French cooking school, that's for sure) started a rumor that today is National Cordon Bleu Day. "Cordon Bleu" ("blue ribbon") in the name of a dish name usually means that it's stuffed with ham and cheese, then baked or broiled. The idea really got out of hand in the 1960s and 1970s, and we became sick of it. Now you hardly ever see it--although lots of common dishes, particularly in Italian cooking, are stuffed with ham and cheese. (Or, one would hope, prosciutto and Fontina, as the dish in the recipe section of today's newsletter is.) The real Cordon Bleu cooking school has advanced far beyond such practices.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Berry, Kentucky 41003 is a community of about three hundred people on the South Fork of the Licking River--itself a delicious-sounding place. In fact, the Licking is full of interesting fish, many of them eminently edible. It's a tributary of the Ohio, which means that its water ultimately passes through New Orleans. Back to Berry: it's sixty-three miles south of Cincinnati, with a main line of the former L&N Railroad passing through. The entire area is covered with farms. No restaurants nearby, but there is a cluster of family and ethnic places ten miles away on the main highway in Cynthiana. The Snappy Tomato Pizza Company sounds good.

Edible Dictionary

huckleberry, n.--A close relative of the blueberry, huckleberries are typically smaller, more tart, and have bigger seeds than their more celebrated cousins. Several species grow throughout North America, which is where the entire family originated. Roughly speaking, the father north they grow, the bigger and sweeter they get, and the later they ripen. The best are found in Alaska in August. The huckleberries in Louisiana are very small and ripen in April. (I have dozens of huckleberry bushes in the woods around my house.) Almost all are picked in the wild, where they're also appreciated by animals from birds to bears. Gather enough of them and you can make a good pie. The name is a corruption of "hurtleberry," a word that began to be forgotten after Mark Twain published Huckleberry Finn.

The Saints

Did you know that there is a patron saint of the internet and of computer users? It's St. Isidore of Seville, a very learned bishop who is not just a saint but a Doctor of the Church. He also had some involvement with beekeeping, so put some honey on your biscuits or toast instead of jelly. Today is his feast day.

Deft Dining Rule #402:

A restaurant where the fish of the day is the same every day--especially if it's tilapia, salmon, or catfish--isn't putting much effort into buying its food. You probably will not be impressed by the fish entrees there.

Deft Dining Rule #403:

The exception to Rule #402 is Pacific salmon in season (spring and early summer). The best of all is Copper River salmon.

Food Namesakes

Actor Barry Pepper was born today in 1970. He was the sniper in Saving Private Ryan. . . Muddy Waters, the famous bluesman, was born today in 1915. . . Pro football player Chad Eaton was born today in 1972. . . Suzanna Salter, the first female mayor in the United States, was elected on this date in 1884 in Argonia, Kansas.

Words To Eat By

"Never commit yourself to a cheese with having first examined it."--T.S. Eliot.

Words To Drink By

"The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd rather not."--Mark Twain.