Foodstuff Fun For Today

Tom Fitzmorris February 10, 2020 16:24 Almanac

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Catfish Boundary. Saccharin Man. Andouille. Boston Butt. Sausage Lakes. Plimsoll. Grange Maker. Rockin' Dopsie. Elvis. Rum And Coca-Cola.

Days Until Mardi Gras

The parades will soon take over the streets of New Orleans, and with them comes the street food. Here is my annual appeal that we have more New Orleans food out there, and less of the kind of stuff you'd see at the state livestock fair in Nebraska. More andouille, crawfish bread, boudin, and fried shrimp. Fewer funnel cakes, Polish sausage sandwiches, and cotton candy. All the restaurants with stands and packages for dining and parade watching will be running those programs at full tilt. They get a little more expensive every night, as the parades get better and more densely attended.

Food Through History

The Treaty Of Paris, ending the French and Indian War, took effect today in 1763. Among its other effects, it created an international boundary between the British American colonies and Spanish Louisiana at Pass Manchac--where Middendorf's is now. Customs and catfish?

Annals Of Food Research

Ira Remson, one of two scientists who discovered saccharin, was born today in 1846. Saccharin gets a bad rap, I think. It's the sweetest of all the common artificial sweeteners and seems to do no harm to the body. Indeed, it appears that it goes right through you unchanged. It has an aftertaste, but the makers of Sweet-n-Low--the most widely marketed form of saccharin--balance it out with cream of tartar. That comes from wine. So you get a little wine in every pink packet.

Food Calendar

It is National Andouille Day. Andouille is the finest form of smoked pork sausage. From the best butchers, it's made with chunks of pork filled out with a little ground pork and pork fat, plus a spicy seasoning mix that also includes a distinct amount of garlic. The final element is smoke, which is applied about as heavily as a barbecue sausage would get. Andouille is thought of as Cajun and its name is French, but the part of Louisiana most famous for it--the River Parishes, between New Orleans and Baton Rouge-- has a German heritage. I think that shows up in its texture.

Andouille is usually sliced into thick coins about a half-inch thick before it's cast into the pot with the red beans, gumbo, or jambalaya (its favorite hangouts). It's also delicious all by itself, grilled until the skin is crunchy and served with some Creole mustard on the side. The great andouille comes from the old Jacobs in Laplace, the capital of andouilleland. Cochon and Creole Country also make superb versions. I find Richard's the best of the supermarket brands.

Delicious-Sounding Places

Sausage Ponds, Maryland is a pair of long ponds backed up behind earthen dams on a small creek. It's all in Anne Arundel County, near the western shores of the Chesapeake Bay, thirty-three miles from Washington, D.C. The area is a mix of farms and country homes. The ponds are listed in a guide to Maryland fishing spots (here), in case you think we're making this one up (and we don't blame you). In case you don't catch anything, the nearest restaurants are in Edgewater, two miles north. We recommend the Wharfside Bar and Grill.

Edible Dictionary

Boston butt, n.--A pork roast taken from the top of the shoulder of a hog. It's often used as a less-expensive substitute for ham, for which it serves reasonably well. However, Boston butt comes into its own as a meat for making sausages--notably firm, chunky ones like andouille. It's also the preferred cut for smoking slowly for many hours, resulting in pulled pork barbecue. It has enough fat and gelatinous tissue that it pulls easily away from the bones in moist shreds. The name comes from Revolutionary times, when butchers in Boston cut shoulders in a distinctive way, cured them, and packed them in barrels called "butts." Nobody in Boston recognizes the name, which has more currency in the South.

Dining Rule #382:  Never order a sausage in a strange place without first asking exactly what it is, or looking at it carefully. There is no worldwide body defining the contents of sausages.

Restaurant Namesakes

It is the birthday in 1824 of Samuel Plimsoll, for whom the Plimsoll Club was indirectly named. The club, which was near the top of the New Orleans World Trade Center at the foot of Canal Street, was originally for people in maritime shipping. It was private, but enough special events took place in their dining rooms that many non-members have dined there. Its kitchen, while not what I'd call one of the best in town, was quite capable of putting on an exceptional dinner. The view through the big windows up there adds to the specialness of the place. The Plimsoll Club's logo was the mark on the side of a ship that shows the lowest level the vessel can lie in the water, and therefore its maximum load-bearing capability. (The idea was the creation of Samuel Plimsoll.)

Great Winemakers

Max Schubert was born on this day in 1905. He was the winemaker at Penfold's in Australia who created the most famous of all Australian wines, Grange Hermitage (now called just "Grange"). He is also given credit for turning Australian wine from making things like sherry to the production of world-class table wines. So lift a glass of Shiraz to his memory today.

Music To Eat Andouille By

Alton Jay Rubin-- better known as Rockin' Dopsie, one of the fathers of Cajun zydeco music--was born today in 1932. Food connection: "zydeco" is a corruption of the first two words of the French verse les haricots sont pas salés (the beans aren't salty). The line appears in some of the earliest songs in the zydeco style.

Music To Drink A Coke By

The Andrews Sisters had a number one hit today in 1945 with Rum and Coca-Cola. Joey Dee and the Starliters (who later evolved into The Rascals) had a hit with the Peppermint Twist today in 1962.

Music To Eat Bouillabaisse By

Hippy-dippy 1960s hit singer Donovan Leitch--who, according to his song Mellow Yellow, was mad about saffron--was born today in 1946.

Music To Order Room Service By

Today in 1956, Elvis Presley recorded his breakthrough record, Heartbreak Hotel. My big sister, who was a teenager then, bought the 45 and played it incessantly. It stuck in my five-year-old ears, and I still think it was the best record he ever made. (I Was The One, another good song, was on the flip side.) Not long afterward, according to her memoir Insatiable, New York restaurant critic Gael Greene--then a cub reporter--interviewed Elvis in his bedroom, then took full advantage of the opportunity, if you know what I mean.

Food Namesakes

Two British writers had page one of their lives on this date: Charles Lamb in 1775, and James Suckling in 1609. . . Pro football player Joe Lavender hit the scrimmage line of life today in 1949.

Words To Eat By

"Pounding fragrant things--particularly garlic, basil, parsley --is a tremendous antidote to depression. But it applies also to juniper berries, coriander seeds and the grilled fruits of the chili pepper. Pounding these things produces an alteration in one's being--from sighing with fatigue to inhaling with pleasure. The cheering effects of herbs and alliums cannot be too often reiterated. Virgil's appetite was probably improved equally by pounding garlic as by eating it."--Patience Gray.