Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Lentil. Eggs Benedict. Egg Harbor. Jell-O. Red Dye.
It is International Lentil Soup Day. Lentils are an ancient part of the human diet, having been cultivated since prehistoric times in the Middle East. They have two things going for them: they're highly nutritious, and they taste great. Lentils are legumes, more closely related to chickpeas and green peas than to red beans, limas, or other New World beans. They come in many colors, from green to red to brown; the latter is most common in our part of the world.
Lentils lend themselves so well to soup that they are found in that role throughout the Mediterranean. I order lentil soup whenever we find it; after hundreds of samples, I can't say I've ever had a bad one. Some are astoundingly delicious; the best tend to come from Italian and Lebanese restaurants.
Lentils play a particularly large role in the Indian menu. Not only do they serve them as soups and as beans, but they also mill them into a flour that's made into poppadums, those big thin wafers you get at the beginning of an Indian dinner.
The unique shape of the lentil gave rise to the word "lens," with which it shares a shape. (I know that sounds unlikely, but it's true.)
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
When the cook in the house
Prepares lentils and fish
The reviews from the spouse
Are surprisingly lavish.
eggs Benedict, n.--Poached eggs set atop grilled ham on some kind of biscuit or toast, with the entire stack topped with hollandaise. Eggs Benedict is almost universally on the menu in restaurants serving brunch menus or fancy breakfasts. The idea is so appealing that many variations on the idea have appeared, usually involving a trade-out of the ham for some other protein. This can range from other meats to fish to vegetables. How the dish was created is a subject of dispute, with several highly authoritative sources each telling a different story. Most of these indicate that eggs Benedict became popular early in the 1900s, but several different people named Benedict have been claimed as the person who was present at its invention. The food writer Elizabeth David, who has written widely on the origins of dishes, says that it's an older, French dish that originally used salted, dried codfish. But the main data worth knowing as that the bread on the bottom needs to be able to absorb the water coming off the poached eggs without getting soggy, and that the hollandaise has to be thick and flavored with a touch of red pepper.
Egg Harbor, Indiana is in the vast cornfields in the west-central part of the Hoosier State, close to the Wabash River, the state line with Illinois. At's all farms, in a grid of roads that all meet at right angles. No water nearby to form any kind of harbor. But it's easy to believe that many eggs are produced around there. The nearest place to get some eggs cooked for you is Harold's Restaurant, four miles south in Poseyville.
Today is the birthday, in 1791, of Peter Cooper, a man active in everything from industry to politics to education. He built the first steam locomotive in the United States, the Tom Thumb. We remember him as having patented a gelatin dessert in 1845. After the patent expired, the concept evolved into Jell-O.
Food In Science
Today in 1976, FD&C Red Dye #2 was banned from use in food in the United States, after Russian scientists found it caused cancer in lab rats. As a result, we had no red M&Ms for many years. At the local level, Barq's Red Cream Soda became colorless for a time. There was no change in the flavor, but everybody said it did taste different. That dye was replaced by others that didn't cause problems.
Actor Joe Don Baker was born today in 1936. . . Sir Anthony Berry, British politician, was born today in 1925. . . Pro baseballer Chet Lemon stepped up to the Big Plate today in 1955. . . Former governor of Indiana Conrad Baker was inaugurated into life today in 1817.
Words To Eat By
"Kissing don't last: cookery do!"--George Meredith, British writer, born today in 1809.
Words To Drink By
"An American monkey after getting drunk on brandy would never touch it again, and thus is much wiser than most men."--Charles Darwin, born today in 1809.
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; if this is tea, please bring me some coffee."--Abraham Lincoln, born today in 1809--making today his 211th birthday.