Today Is January 13, 2020

Written by Tom Fitzmorris January 13, 2020 09:08 in Almanac

Monday, January 13th, 2020

Fires. Peach Melba. Melba, Idaho. Hummus. Lost Dishes. Baked Potato Opening. Bycatch. Saint Of Salmon. Salmon P. Chase.

Eating Around New Orleans Today

Carl's fried chicken all day today. Not just this evening at Fountain Lounge. Part of the Geaux Tigers fun everywhere in town. Pelican Club is open for lunch rather than dinner today. Watch parties all over. We like Lula Distillery, and Central City BBQ, also Pythian Market before the game and a $25 buffet at Dabs in Metairie. NOPSI Hotel, Copper Vine Wine Pub, and Vitascope Hall should be hopping.

Annals Of Restaurant Fires

Today in 1830 a major fire swept through New Orleans. It was rumored to have been started by escaped slaves, but in those times such claims were suspect at best. It destroyed a large part of the French Quarter and downtown. But the city was prosperous then, and after the fire, a building boom ensued, with the result that a large number of structures in the French Quarter and CBD date back to the 1830s--including most of those being used now as restaurants.

Over the years a number of restaurants have been ravaged by major fires. The one most people remember was the fire started in an air duct by the flames from bananas Foster at Brennan's on April 3, 1975. It took six months for the restaurant to reopen. The same year, Visko's in Gretna burned down and reopened, but it was never the same afterward. In 1980, also in Gretna, the local branch of the Natchez catfish house called Cock of the Walk went up in flames, never to return. Right after it opened following Katrina, Mr. Ed's in Bucktown had a disastrous fire from which they quickly rebuilt.

Fires in kitchens happen more than you might realize. Fortunately, kitchens have such good fire-prevention apparatus that fires in them rarely take the whole place down. Instead, they close the restaurant for the night, and give everybody in the house when it happens a free meal.

Food Calendar

Today is rumored to be National Peach Melba Day. Peach Melba is named for the same person for whom Melba toast is named: Dame Nellie Melba, an Australian opera singer and the object of ardent desire for half the men in the world in the late 1800s. Peach Melba, created by no less a chef than Auguste Escoffier, is a peach half atop ice cream with a thick, smooth raspberry sauce. The only place I know that serves it anymore is Antoine's. It's is a pretty tasty thing if made with fresh peaches, which are not really in season right now.

Delicious-Sounding Places

Melba is on the southwestern outskirts of Boise, Idaho, about ten miles from downtown. Its population is 450. Most of the people are involved somehow in farming. This is potato country, watered by the nearby Snake River, which cuts a fertile valley through these parts. They also grow a lot of corn and wheat. It's a good area for fishing, hunting, and winter sports. The town was founded in 1912. There are a couple of restaurants, the most intriguing being Buck's Saloon and Steakhouse.

Edible Dictionary

hummus, Arabic, n.--A blend of chickpeas, garlic, and sesame seeds, ground down into a smooth paste and blended with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and some subtle seasonings. It's served at room temperature as a dip or spread. Hummus is the most widespread staple of Middle Eastern cooking and has been for thousands of years. All of its ingredients are among the most ancient of human foods. Its role in its home cuisine is so pervasive that it's found in all but the dessert course. It literally holds the other parts of a Middle Eastern meal together. The name comes from the Arabic for chickpea. The spelling varies a great deal, but hummus is becoming the preferred English word for it. Although it's served from Greece to India and across Northern Africa, it's most powerfully identified with Lebanese cuisine.

Deft Dining Rule #29: If a restaurant has removed your favorite dish from the menu, and you miss it, just ask for it. Four times out of five they'll make it for you. 

Annals Of Food Writing

Today is the birthday of Pierre Franey, a long-time food writer for the New York Times and author of several cookbooks, including some in collaboration with Craig Claiborne. He made his name as a chef at Pavillon in New York City, a seminal restaurant that brought first-class French culinary style to the American restaurant scene. Franey was on my radio show once, and I had dinner with him afterwards at Les Continents, in the Inter-Continental Hotel. He was full of stories and bonhomie.

Presidential Eating

This is the day, in 2002, when President George Bush II choked on a pretzel while watching a football game, and passed out momentarily. Another good reason not to watch football games.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez: After you bake potatoes, get them out of the oven immediately and open them up. The best way is to poke a cross on top with four insertions of a fork. Then squeeze the sides with the thumbs and forefingers of both hands. It will pop open and let the steam out, so they don't get soggy. Eat immediately, too.

Annals Of Seafood Research

On this day in 1998, an article in the San Francisco Chronicle noted that 20 million tons of edible fish per year--about ten pounds for every living person--are caught as "bycatch" and thrown away, dead. This is one of the worst pressures on fish stocks. Laws in recent years have addressed this, although the situation is still pretty bad.

Music To Eat Gumbo By

Two New Orleans jazz greats were born today: guitarist Danny Barker (1909) and trumpeter Percy Humphrey (1905). I was lucky enough to hear both of them several times, near the ends of their long careers.

The Saints  

This is the feast day of St. Kentigern, a bishop and missionary in Wales and Scotland in the sixth century. He is the patron saint of salmon. One of the stories told about him is that he caught a salmon, cut it open, and turned up a ring lost by the queen of Cadzow.

Food Namesakes

Salmon P. Chase, who was the Secretary of the Treasury under Abraham Lincoln, and later the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was born today in 1808. His picture is on the $10,000 bill. . . A year earlier, Major General Napoleon Bonaparte Buford of the Union Volunteers was born. The oversized Rally's hamburger is not named for him, but his name brought it to mind.

Words To Eat By

"Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education." --Mark Twain