April 8

Empanada

Days Until. . .

French Quarter Festival 1
Jazz Festival 16

Currency And Food

The dollar sign ($) was invented today in 1778 by Oliver Pollock, the most generous monetary contributor to the American Revolutionary War. At the time, neither he nor his hometown of New Orleans were part of the new nation. He lived next door to what is now the Royal Orleans parking garage on Chartres Street; a marker there tells his history. His dollar sign is a stylized version of a U over an S. You could buy a meal in a restaurant without having to use a whole $ until about 1974.

Today's Flavor

Today is Pan-American Empanada Day. An empanada is a half-moon-shaped turnover, usually stuffed with some kind of meat. It's found in both Spanish and Latin American cuisines. "Empanada" literally means "enclosed in bread." The bread in this case is a flour tortilla, or (sometimes) pie dough. Ground beef, pork, and sausage are typical empanada fillings. Both Natchitoches-style meat pies and Hubig's pies qualify as empanadas. The best empanada in New Orleans is the empanadas de atun at RioMar; it's filled with tuna.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Hambone is in northeast California, thirty-four miles from the summit of Mount Shasta, which at 14,179 feet dominates Hambone's western horizon. Hambone Butte, for which the junction is named, is only at 4731 feet. There's are no structures at Hambone, which was originally named for a place on a now-abandoned railroad. However, there are human activities in the area. Christmas trees are grown around there. But to find a ham or anything else to eat, it's a twenty-four mile drive to McCloud, where you can dine as you move through the scenery on the Shasta Sunset Dinner Train. It uses cars that once ran on the Illinois Central's trains from Chicago to New Orleans in the early 1900s.

Food Inventions

Today in 1879 was the first day milk was sold in bottles. Echo Farms Dairy of New York was the marketer. Before then, you bought milk by the pail if you didn't have your own cows to milk. Bottled milk was the rule until about 1960, when a shift from home deliveries to supermarkets made the cardboard carton popular. Now, the bottle--made of plastic--is taking over again. When we started school in 1956, they served us milk in little bottles with a thick cardboard stopper. When you pulled open its tab, a hole was revealed for inserting your straw.

Edible Dictionary

kataifi, Lebanese, n.--Shredded phyllo pastry, usually baked and wrapped around desserts filled with nuts, fruit, honey, and the like. Sometimes kataifi is used to make savory appetizers with meats, vegetables, or cheeses. Enclosing these fillings, it resembles hay or shredded wheat, giving a highly distinctive appearance. It's crisp at the outside and soft in the center.

Deft Dining Rule #709:

The presence in a restaurant of any form of cornbread baked fresh in house is a strong indicator that the cooking will be excellent. This is true even when the cornbread itself is just okay.

Annals Of Imitation Foods

Today in In 1873, the first American patent for making margarine was granted to Alfred Paraf of New York. Now margarine, too, is exiting the scene, as we discover horrible things about its effects on your health.

Deft Dining Rule #710:

The presence of margarine on a restaurant's tables is a very strong indicator of very poor food. But if they cook with it, it's okay. (Especially if either the restaurant or the cook is over fifty years old.)

Food Namesakes

Catfish Hunter, who pitched more than 20 wins in five consecutive seasons for the A's and the Yankees, was born today in 1946. . . Actor Alfie Bass took the Big Stage today in 1921. He played supporting roles in many movies. . . Kofi Annan brewed up today in 1938, and later became Secretary-General of the United Nations. . . Elizabeth Bacon, the wife of General George Custer, made her first stand today in 1842.

Words To Eat By

"It scored right away with me by being the smooth, fine-grained sort, not the coarse, flaky, dry-on-the-outside rubbish full of chunks of gut and gristle to testify to its authenticity."--Kingsley Amis, describing a pate.

Words To Drink By

"My makeup wasn't smeared, I wasn't disheveled, I behaved politely, and I never finished off a bottle. So how could I be an alcoholic?"--Betty Ford, born today in 1908.