April 6

Calas

It is <strong>Citywide Calas Day</strong> here in New Orleans. Calas are Creole rice cakes, rolled into a ball with cinnamon and sugar and fried. A century ago, calas were widely sold from street corner carts. For years, the only restaurant that serves calas is the Coffee Pot on St. Peter Street; they still do, as a breakfast item. In 2008, the Calas Bistro in Kenner tried to revive and expand the scope of the dish. It didn't work out. Thank goodness for the Coffee Pot!

Days Until. . .

French Quarter Festival--Begins tonight with Gala dinner Easter --10 Jazz Festival--22

Annals Of Convenience Food

The TV Dinner was introduced by Swanson Foods today in 1954. The genius was one Gerry Thomas. He was trying to figure out a use for leftover turkey from the preceding year's Thanksgiving supply. He and came up with a pre-cooked, packaged dinner with cornbread dressing, peas and sweet potatoes in a three-compartment aluminum tray that you could just warm up in the oven. It sold for ninety-eight cents. Swanson thought it would be a hit if they sold 5,000 the first year. By the end of 1954, ten million of them had been were snapped up. We were excited by the idea of TV dinners when I was a kid, but we never liked the flavor. We always figured we were doing something wrong, otherwise it wouldn't taste so bad. The saddest fact what that this stuff we were so excited about could not possibly compare with our mother's home cooking.

Today's Flavor

It is Citywide Calas Day here in New Orleans. Calas are Creole rice cakes, rolled into a ball with cinnamon and sugar and fried. A century ago, calas were widely sold from street corner carts. For years, the only restaurant that serves calas is the Coffee Pot on St. Peter Street; they still do, as a breakfast item. In 2008, the Calas Bistro in Kenner tried to revive and expand the scope of the dish. It didn't work out. Thank goodness for the Coffee Pot!

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

If you're making calas or rice pudding, use brown sugar. Rice needs a little caramel flavor to keep from being insipid as a dessert. Cinnamon wouldn't hurt, either.

Deft Dining Rule #708:

If you're in a restaurant where they serve a dish you hardly ever see anymore, order it. You may be the last person ever to do so. Don't expect much from it.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Salt Fork--a town with a rare double food name--is in north central Oklahoma. The town is a dwindling farm community surrounded on three sides by the Negro River, a tributary of the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River. The changing course of the Negro has stripped the soil, so most of the arable land is away from it. The Salt Fork's waters run 193 miles, rising in Kansas and winding up ultimately in the Mississippi. Salt mines nearby give the river and the town its name. The nearest place to eat is twelve miles west in Pond Creek, at a place well named The BBQ Joint. It should also be noted that the closest town of any size is Enid--"dine" spelled backwards--thirty-three miles from Salt Fork.

Music To Drink Martinis By

This is the birthday, in 1960, of jazz guitarist, singer and composer John Pizzarelli. He's a terrific interpreter of standards, with a unique, velvety sound. And he has (more or less) a food name!

Edible Dictionary

sorrel, n.--An herbaceous plant with leaves resembling long, rounded arrowheads. It's a distant relative of spinach, and is used in many of the same ways. Its most familiar use is in making a bright green, creamy-looking soup. Sometimes its used in salads and stuffings. Its flavor is a little acidic and a little fruity. It's one of many leafy vegetables that contain oxalic acid, which in large amounts can be harmful. It's unlikely you will ever eat too much sorrel, however. It's more popular in Europe than here. Overdue, in fact, for some chefs to start playing with it. Most of their customers will be puzzled, a condition chefs like to create.

Junk Food Through History

Twinkies were introduced on this day in 1930. James Dewar of the Continental Baking Company wanted to get more use from the pans used to bake strawberry shortcakes, which sold well only during strawberry season. The new product was a runaway success. A half-million hens are needed to lay all the eggs used in Twinkies in a year. What a way to make a living!

Food Inventions

Today in 1938 Roy Plunkett, a DuPont researcher, cut open a tank of a refrigerant gas he was working on. For some reason, it had no pressure. He found that the gas had polymerized into a slippery white powder which, to make a long story short, became Teflon. Teflon-coated cookware is handy for a couple of things. It's perfect for an omelette pan. Or a muffin-tin-like pan for making popovers. Otherwise, I avoid the stuff, because I like the juices and browned bits to stick to a pan a little. And ultimately non-stick coatings flake off. Which stands to reason: if nothing will stick to it, how do they get it to stay on the pan? Answer: Not very well.

Food Namesakes

Roger Cook, an investigative television journalist in England, was born today in 1943. . . Brown Sugar was the first hit for Rolling Stones Records, which was formed on this date in 1971 for the group of the same name. . . Sugar Ray Leonard won a fight with Marvin Hagler today in 1987. . . Early NASCAR race driver Herb Thomas was born today in 1923.

Words To Eat By

"There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk. And that is my answer, when people ask me: Why do you write about hunger, and not wars or love?"--M.F.K. Fisher. "Cutting stalks at noontime. Perspiration drips to the earth. Know you that your bowl of rice each grain from hardship comes?"--Chang Chan-Pao.

Words To Drink By

"To buy very good wine nowadays requires only money. To serve it to your guests is a sign of fatigue."--William F. Buckley, Jr.