Ping Pong (Nectar Soda)
Beverages

Ping Pong (Nectar Soda)

The origin of the name “ping pong” is unknown, but in the riverlands between New Orleans and Baton Rouge many people know what it is: a pink, frozen drink that has the flavor of nectar. Nectar, in turn, is universally recognized among Orleanians as a distinctive flavor, a blend of almond and vanilla. Nectar was one of the most popular flavors for ice cream sodas in the days when drugstores still made such things. Now nectar as an essential flavor in the vast arrays of syrups poured over finely-shaved ice for sno-balls. Read More. . .

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Food Words. Fish On Shell.
May

Food Words. Fish On Shell.

The Future Of Restaurant Criticism. This article originally was prepared to appear in the NOMenu Daily a few days ago, when a computer glitch made the whole article disappear. It was almost as if it were trying to tell me something. A lot of people wrote me, asking me what the deal was. Simply, it speaks for itself. But it’s not announcing my exit from the profession. I don’t expect to check out of this enterprise anytime soon. Sorry if you find it puzzling.–Tom Fitzmorris. It’s easy to get a…

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May 7 In Eating

AlmanacSquare New Orleans was founded today in 1718. Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, chose a high spot in a sharp bend of the Mississippi River to begin a French colonial town. It’s where the French Quarter is now. He named the place for Duke of Orleans, Phillippe II, a flamboyant guy. The feminine form of the city’s French name–La Nouvelle Orleans–is a joke about his personality. Nobody questioned whether this were a good place to put a city, because it wasn’t a city yet. Without a doubt, the spot was a terrific port. That remains true to this day. So away we went! Read entire article.

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May 1 In Eating
* NOMenu.com

May 1 In Eating

AlmanacSquare May is alleged to be all of the following: National Asparagus Month, National Barbecue Month, National Egg Month, National Hamburger Month, National Salad Month, National Salsa Month, and National Strawberry Month. And some silly ones: National Chocolate Custard Month and National Gazpacho Aficionado Month. The first week of May is supposed to be National Raisin Week. Read entire article.

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Zea-Oysters; Beans-Catfish

Diary. Sunday, April 22, 2018. Here’s Zea’s weekly routine. Sundays at Zea means the restaurant’s excellent (for a chain) specials, dishes that have been lauded for me many times over the years. Too often, really, but that’s restates how good are these seasonal specials over the years. The first of these started out as a Lenten special. But it’s no more common during that time of the year than it is right now. Asian oysters, it’s called. Seems simple enough: fried oysters with an unusually coarse coating. They come out…

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Diary: FR 4/20/2028: Arnaud’s And Other Crowded Places.

Friday, April 20, 2018. The French Quarter Is Full. Every Friday, my thoughts turn to grand dinners, preferably at one of the grande dame restaurants in the French Quarter. Today I am thinking about indulging this hunger at Arnaud’s. As soon as the radio show ended for the week, I turned my steps toward the handsome restaurant and its bright walls of glittering beveled glass. There I learn that every seat in the entire restaurant is taken. I look around for a waiter or manager or some other familiar face,…

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April 24 In Eating
April

April 24 In Eating

AlmanacSquare This is National Prosciutto Day. Prosciutto is dry-cured ham. Dry-curing takes much longer, and creates a much more intense flavor, than the brine curing more commonly applied to hams. To make prosciutto, salt is applied to the outside of skinned pig legs, usually with the bones still inside, and hung up to dry for as much as a year. ¶ In the old days, that was done outdoors. Now prosciutto makers have big warehouses whose walls allow free movement of air from outside through the hanging hams. The word derives from a Latin word that means “all dried out,” which it is after all that time. ¶ The best prosciutto comes from Parma and San Daniele in Italy, but much prosciutto is made in this country. Its flavor is very intense; it should be sliced as thin as possible, and used sparingly. ¶ Classic uses of prosciutto include wrapping melon slices with it, stuffing it into veal and poultry concoctions, and standing alone as antipasto. Read entire article.

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April 23 In Eating

AlmanacSquare This is National Picnic Week. It’s a wonderful day for a picnic in South Louisiana, the only place in the world where a picnic might well include boiled crawfish. Perhaps even boiled there in the park, now that everybody seems to have one of those gas-fired rigs. The word “picnic” comes from the French expression “pique nique,” which roughly translates as “picking at little things.” That’s what you do, of course. The funny thing about picnics is that you wind up eating more than you would at a formal dinner, especially if ribs or burgers are in the offing. That potato salad will come and get you, too.
Read entire article. National Picnic Week. It’s a wonderful day for a picnic in South Louisiana, the only place in the world where a picnic might well include boiled crawfish. Perhaps even boiled there in the park, now that everybody seems to have one of those gas-fired rigs. The word “picnic” comes from the French expression “pique nique,” which roughly translates as “picking at little things.” That’s what you do, of course. The funny thing about picnics is that you wind up eating more than you would at a formal dinner, especially if ribs or burgers are in the offing. That potato salad will come and get you, too. Read More. . .

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Diary, 4|11, 12|2018: Brilliance At Borgne, And From The LPO

Wednesday, April 11, 2018. Dark And Unfamiliar. The, Brilliance In Food And Music! The drive home last night from the Best Chefs event was nostalgic and creepy at the same time. During the six years when most of my life was staged in or around the University of New Orleans, I knew all the buildings, restaurants (very few) and private neighborhoods. I have had very little occasion to return to those parts since I landed my first big job, well away from UNO. The whole area has become foreign territory…

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Diary: 4/8-9-&10/2018 A Weekend Of Substitution. Best Chefs.

Sunday, April 8-9, 2018. Demoted Singer. Chicken Pannee With Two Sauces. The Wagners–who usually lead the singing at St. Jane’s ten o’clock Mass, but were supposed to be absent today–left me to be the cantor. But they showed up, so I was just the usual singer in the loft. It’s just as well, since we have not run a rehearsal. But then I hear that the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra performs its performances with only two rehearsals. In the afternoon, Mary Leigh came in from Meridian. She didn’t take the train…

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April 12 In Eating.
April

April 12 In Eating.

April 12, 2017 Days Until. . . French Quarter Festival–April 12-15 Jazz Festival–April 27-May 6> Today’s Flavor Today is National Licorice Day. Most licorice on the candy rack contains no actual licorice. The natural licorice flavor–similar to those of fennel or anise–comes from the root of a European plant. It contains, in addition to the distinctive taste, a compound called glycyrrhizin–the sweetest natural substance on earth. It’s being used in a new kind of artificial sweetener that hasn’t quite been perfected yet. Licorice is more widely used in drugs and…

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Meat Pies
April 2018

Meat Pies

Spicy meat pies, as big as your hand and shaped like a half-moon,are a major specialty in the central Louisiana town of Natchitoches (pronounced “NAK-uh-tish”). That French colonial city boasts being even older than New Orleans. We get our share of meat pies at the Jazz Festival and the like, but the temptation to make them at home is strong. I must warn you that this is not easy. The filling is straightforward, but the dough is a little work (as is all pie dough). And then you have to deep-fry, never any fun. (They can also be baked, but they’re not quite the same that way.) Still, these things are so good that Learn to cook these things. . .

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Diary 4/6/2018-Train To Meridian.

Friday, April 6, 2018. A Mini-Vacation. A few weeks ago I mentioned to Mary Ann that I needed a short vacation. She became an advocate for that idea, while not including herself in the break. Instead, her idea was for me to be a sort of demi-traveler whose itinerary would appeal to almost nobody but me. The route we came up with was about 200 miles each way, from New Orleans Union Station to Meridian, Mississippi. In Meridian, I would meet up with our daughter and have lunch. Then she…

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April 10 In Eating
April

April 10 In Eating

AlmanacSquare National Soft-Shell Crab Day. Soft-shell crabs are just beginning to appear right now. The early part of the season is best, with the biggest specimens we may see all year. Soft-shell crabs are almost absurdly delectable. Every creature that eats crabs relishes these. It’s a wonder any crabs make it past that vulnerable stage. Soft-shell crabs are blue crabs that have just molted their too-small shells. Almost all the ones that come our way are farm-raised. (The wild ones hide very effectively, and finding one is dumb luck.) Soft-shell crab producers can tell when a crab is about to molt. Read entire article.

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Diary 4-4-2018-About Meridian

Thursday, April 5, 2018. A Mini-Vacation. A few weeks ago I mentioned to Mary Ann that I needed a short vacation. She immediately became an advocate for that idea, while not including herself in the break. Instead, her ideas were travelettes that would appeal to almost nobody but me. “You should take the train to Meridian for a day or two and have dinner with Mary Leigh while you’re there,” MA said. Mary Leigh is our daughter. Meridian is where ML she is engaged for her employer with a large…

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Seared Scallops with Artichokes

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RecipeSquare-150x150 This is a signature dish at the Pelican Club, where Chef Richard Hughes calls it by the misleading name “scallop-stuffed artichoke.” It’s sophisticated in both flavor and appearance. It’s best made with dry-pack (also known as “day-boat”) scallops, which have not been processed for long shelf life. (The ones in the supermarket probably are not this kind.) Careful: don’t overcook the scallops! Use high heat and get them out of the pan while they’re still bulging.

Click here for recipe details.

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Quiche Lorraine

RecipeSquare-150x150 Quiche–a very popular dish in the Lorraine region in Northeastern France–somehow acquired the reputation as something that real men don’t eat. After that untruth got out, quiche was relegated to salad restaurants and pastry shops. It’s making a mild comeback, now that eggs have been revealed as not the death-dealing element in your diet that the nutritionists had been telling us they were. The filling of this quiche is the classic (although in France they’d probably use bacon instead of ham). But the crust is decidedly offbeat. Read entire article.

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Hogs For The Cause 2018.

Escargots Bourguignonne This is the classic snail appetizer with garlic butter. There are more adventuresome sauces out there, and some of them are really delicious, but nothing beats having the snails sizzling in this fragrant butter, except perhaps having a loaf of hot French bread to dip into the sauce. During my broadcast from Gallier Hall every Mardi Gras, Archbishop Amann visits with us for a few minutes. I always ask about the rules for Lenten eating, especially as it regards unusual foodstuffs as alligator, turtles soup, and snails. The…

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March 26 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Spinach Day. Spinach was first grown in what is now Iran about 1500 years ago. It spread to all parts of the world, almost immediately replacing other green leaves wherever it went. ¶ Spinach is among the most healthful and delicious of all those we eat. It’s rare among them in that it’s eaten raw as often as cooked. Its flavor is distinctive but not strong. The younger the spinach, the more tender the leaves and better the flavor. ¶ And then there’s the Popeye connection. From it we learn that eating spinach turns funny-looking pipsqueaks into powerful heroes. That’s because of its reputed but overstated iron content. ¶ Popeye continues to inspire the eating of spinach, enough so that today in 1937, farmers in Crystal City, Texas–the spinach-growing capital of America–put a statue of Popeye in its town square. Read entire article.

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March 20 In Eating
* NOMenu.com

March 20 In Eating

AlmanacSquare It’s Ravioli Day. A raviolo (singular–but who ever eats just one?) is made by inserting dollops of some flavorful stuffing between two sheets of pasta, pressing the sheets together until they adhere, and then cooking them. ¶ They come in all sizes and are made with all stuffings. The truth about ravioli was revealed to me when I was a child: the kind you don’t want are beef ravioli, which are almost inevitably nasty.¶ The standard ravioli these days are stuffed with cheese, usually a mixture of ricotta and Parmigiano. Spinach and mushrooms are other common stuffings, usually with a bit of cheese added to the mix. Some clever chefs, in their efforts to deconstruct food, have taken to casting cooked pasta sheets randomly in a bowl with the stuffing ingredients interspersed but not sealed. ¶ The first time I saw this I thought it was amusing, but it’s been done too many times now. Besides, that assembly has another name: lasagna. Read entire article.

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March 19 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is the feast day of St. Joseph, carpenter, father of a very distinguished Son, namesake of my own father (no insinuation there), and patron saint of Sicily. It’s that last connection that explains all the celebration of the day in New Orleans. ¶ Because St. Joseph’s Day always falls in Lent, the food connected with the day is meatless. The famous dishes on this day include cardoons (the stems of an artichoke relative), pasta milanese con sardi (see below), fennel salad, eggplant caponata, fava beans, and a wide range of cookies, flavored with anise, sesame seeds, and almonds. Some only appear that this time of year. ¶ St. Joseph’s altars are found in both homes and businesses, and are almost universal in Italian restaurants. Many of the altars are listed in the newspaper today. Stop by, have a few cookies, pick up a lucky fava bean, say a prayer to St. Joseph, and feel moved by yet another essential New Orleans cultural undercurrent. Read entire article.

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The NOMenu Food Almanac

March 11, 2017 Days Until. . . St. Patrick’s Day–March 17 St. Joseph’s Day–19 Easter–April 1 Restaurant Anniversaries The Palace Cafe opened today in 1991. Envisioned as a more casual version of Commander’s Palace, it was at first managed by cousins Ti Martin, Dickie Brennan, Lauren Brennan, and Brad Bridgman. When the Commander’s Brennans split up their properties, the Palace Cafe went to Dick Brennan’s side of the family. The place opened with an emphasis on seafood and rotisserie dishes, but over the years the restaurant evolved into a jack…

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Recipe (Fish On The Half Shell) & Food Almanac For Today

Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Briquette. I continue to take Mary Ann’s advice seriously. She thinks I don’t dine out in as many different restaurants as I can, with the emphasis on new eateries. I admit to going to too many, too-familiar Metairie restaurants. Not because I want to go to those places, but because they’re on my way home, and much easier to approach than, say, the Magazine Street restaurant corridor. Tonight’s exploration takes me by foot to Briquette, a restaurant on the corner of Girod and South Peters. Owner…

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March 8 In Eating
March

March 8 In Eating

It is National French Onion Soup Day. Let’s make some before the cool weather ends completely. The story behind the dark, slightly sweet, aromatic onion soup, served in a crock with a cap of cheese on a floating crouton, was that it was first served in Les Halles, the gigantic marketplace that once was in the center of Paris. Like all such markets, it opened very early in the morning, and it could be cold. One of the vendors began cooking an onion soup covered with enough cheese to keep the soup from cooling quickly. The cheese would re-seal itself after every incursion of the spoon. (So it’s wrong to eat the cheese first, at least if you want to be entirely traditional.) Although French onion soup lends itself to cold weather eating, it’s pretty good all the time. I make a version that involves using six different onions and six different chili peppers (small ones). Read More. . .

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March 7 In Eating

In 1876 on this date Alexander Graham Bell was granted the patent for the telephone, thereby allowing us to call restaurants to reserve tables. What did people do to get a spot in the dining room before the phone was in widespread use? Perhaps reservations were not needed, or the reservation concept was not in existence. Read More. . .

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March 1 In Eating.
March

March 1 In Eating.

March 1, 2017 Days Until. . . St. Patrick’s Day–March 17 St. Joseph’s Day–19 Easter–April 1 Today’s Flavor This is national Tex-Mex Cooking Day. Today in 1845, President John Tyler annexed Texas to the United States. With the permission of the Texans, of course. A Texas cuisine was already in place. It could even be said that Tex-Mex food was already born. It has grown ever since, with the influence of Germans, Czechs, Africans, and a constant flow of people from Central America. It’s still not enough to keep the…

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February 23 In Eating
February

February 23 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today in 2007, a group of New Zealand fishermen landed the largest colossal squid ever caught. It was just under forty feet long, and weighed almost a thousand pounds. These fantastic creatures have been known for a long time, but almost never encountered live. They can fight a sperm whale to the finish, the winner not a foregone conclusion. Not enough breading and oil could be found to fry this calamari, so it was grilled and served with aioli instead. Read entire article.

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February 21 In Eating
February

February 21 In Eating

Deft Dining Rule #249 

Ask which is the worst table in the restaurant, and you’ll never be brought to that table.

Edible Dictionary 

aloo gobi, Indian, n.–Potatoes and cauliflower make up the bulk of this popular Indian dish, usually served as a vegetarian entree. It’s cooked on top of the stove with high heat, giving a roasted quality. The flavor profile is made further complex with a generous supply of Indian spices (ginger, turmeric, cardamom, cumin and chile peppers, among other things). The finished dish packs quite a flavor punch, and is difficult to stop eating. The idea has lately become a favorite of chefs whose cooking knows no national boundaries.

Today’s Flavor

The Web buzz is that today is National Sticky Bun Day. I haven’t yet mentioned that February is National Potato Month. And today is National Hash Brown Potatoes Day.

Hash browns are a fuzzy concept. In shape they run the gamut from large diced potatoes to finely shredded. They’re usually cooked in a hot grill or skillet, but the other ingredients combined with it ranges from nothing at all to cheese, onions, bacon, ham, and whatever else the cook at the greasy spoon has handy. Everybody has a different preference.

Mine is for the way my wife Mary Ann makes them, which takes advantage of her penchant for burning things. She pre-bakes potatoes a little less than you would for eating. Then she melts some butter in a hot skillet and shreds the potatoes right into the skillet, scattering some chopped green onions as she goes. Then she walks away until she smells something burning, turns the potatoes over, and lets them go a little longer. This technique is terrible for most cooking, but happens to be perfect for hash browns, and the result is irresistible.

Read More. . .

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February 13 In Eating
February

February 13 In Eating

AlmanacSquare The buzz on the Web is that today is National Tortellini Day. Tortellini come from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. They’re small ravioli–little pillows of pasta usually rolled up around the stuffing instead lying flat. The filling is most often cheese, but spinach, tomatoes, basil, mushrooms, or other fillings–more often vegetable than meat–can be enclosed in tortellini. A slightly large variation is called tortelloni, which no doubt has its own special day. There’s more. . .

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February 8 In Eating
February

February 8 In Eating

February 8, 2017 Days Until. . . Mardi Gras–5 Valentine’s Day–6 The Chemistry Of Food Today is the birthday of Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleyev, who created the periodic table of elements, seen in every chemistry classroom. I’ve often thought that a periodic table of food would make in interesting kitchen poster. Let’s see. . . Water would be Element 1. Chicken Stock is Element 3, Veal Stock Element 11, Beef Stock Element 19. Salt would be Element 17. Sauvignon Blanc is Element 2, Chardonnay is Element 10, Pinot Noir Element 18….

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February 7 in Eating

February 7, 2017 Days Until. . . Mardi Gras–6 Valentine’s Day–7 Food Names In The Movies The man with what may be the greatest food name of all time, Buster Crabbe, was born today in 1908. He came to prominence first as a swimmer in the 1928 and 1932 Olympics. His good looks got the attention of Hollywood, and his acting career began. He made over 75 movies, usually cast as a powerful hero: Tarzan, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers were among his best-remembered recurring roles. Whether Buster Crabbe ever…

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February 6 In Eating
February

February 6 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today in 1935, the board game Monopoly was sold for the first time. Now you can find custom versions of the game for many cities and special interests. But I don’t think I’ve seen one with restaurants as the theme. Let’s see. . . in New Orleans, the inexpensive properties just past GO would be Domilese’s and Dong Phuong. Around the first turn you’d have the opportunity to buy Mandina’s and Liuzza’s. Just past Free Parking you’d have Mr. B’s and Clancy’s and Brigtsen’s. The green properties would be Galatoire’s, Arnaud’s, and Antoine’s. But which would be the ones where Boardwalk and Park Place? August? Commander’s Palace? Square Root? There’s more. . .

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December 17 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Today is National Maple Syrup Day. Maple syrup of the best quality is such a flavor revelation that it’s a wonder why more of a cult hasn’t grown up around it. It certainly has its fans, but most people have never tasted a real maple syrup, let alone a good one. The best maple syrup is the lightest in color, and comes not from Vermont but Canada. That country makes at least three-fourths of the maple syrup sold worldwide, and the maple syrup you find on your supermarket’s shelf is probably from there.

Maple syrup is made by collecting the sap that runs up from the roots of a maple tree in the spring to begin the growth of the year’s crop of leaves. It’s about ninety-five percent water, which must be either boiled away or removed by reverse osmosis. As is true of most reduction processes, the faster the stuff is boiled the more the flavors suffer. If you’re ever in Canada, ignore the high price of light maple syrup and buy it. Like a good wine, a lot of work goes into making the best maple syrup, and a marvelous flavor comes out. Read entire article.

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February 2 In Eating
* Red Bean Edition

February 2 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Al Copeland, the creator of Popeyes Fried Chicken and the Copeland’s restaurants, was born today in 1944. Without having graduated from high school, he worked in his brother’s doughnut stand until he went out on his own in 1972 with the first Popeyes stand, in Arabi. It looked more or less the way Popeyes did for decades after. He had many other things right from the beginning, most notably the red-pepper-based seasoning that made Popeyes distinctive. Popeyes was a tremendous success, and Copeland used that success to get into many other activities–some successful. some disastrous. He opened the first Copeland’s in 1985, which was so good and so far ahead of its time that it established Copeland’s reputation as having had a golden palate. Ironically, he died from a rare cancer of the salivary glands in 2008. A fascinating man. Read entire article.

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February 1 In Eating
* Red Bean Edition

February 1 In Eating

AlmanacSquare Don’t be frightened by this, but it’s Rutabaga Day. Rutabagas are among the most misunderstood and underrated vegetables in this country. It’s a cross between the turnip and a variety of wild cabbage. It has been raised for food since at least the 1600s. It’s always been popular in Scandinavia. For that reason, the name for the vegetable in Great Britain is “swede.” I encountered that word on a trip to England a couple of years ago, when I bought a Cornish pasty stuffed with swede/rutabagas.

Full article>/h6>

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