Today Is January 14th, 2020

Tom Fitzmorris January 14, 2020 11:18 Almanac

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

Mardi Gras: 2/25/2020

Valentine's Day: Feb. 14.


Food Inventions

Today is the birthday, in 1861, of David Wesson. His 1899 breakthrough was figuring out a way to make cottonseed oil usable in cooking. The raw material was available in enormous supply, inexpensively. But cottonseed oil had a terrible odor when heated. Wesson deodorized it with a high-temperature vacuum process. That brought Wesson Oil to the kitchen, and it's still there. More than a few cooks say it's still the best oil for frying.


Today's Flavor

It's National Pastrami Sandwich Day. Not a bad idea. Pastrami is beef--usually brisket--that's been cured, lightly smoked, and often peppered on the outside. It makes a great sandwich. Because of its association with New York-style delis, pastrami is usually served on rye or other deli-style breads. But it makes a great poor boy sandwich. The best places for a pastrami sandwich are Martin Wine Cellar Deli, Stein's Deli, Kosher Cajun,  and Maspero's.


Americans’ love of pastrami dates back to its arrival in the late 1800s, when it was first served in New York City by Lithuanian immigrant Sussman Volk, who was given the recipe by his Romanian friend in repayment of a favor.  By the 1920s and 30s, delis in New York City’s theater district helped further popularize pastrami, often serving stacks of the delicious meat on rye with a pickle on the side. The pastrami sandwich became closely linked with Jewish culture and celebration, and pastrami was commonly served at weddings and bar mitzvahs – again, only on rye.


Today’s pastrami is not just for stacking on rye.  Innovative pastrami dishes for each meal, including pastrami, egg and cheese for breakfast; pastrami tacos for lunch; pastrami-inspired barbecue for dinner and a pastrami boosted burger.


Deft Dining Rule #270:

The pastrami on a sandwich should be sliced no thicker than the thickness of a credit card. The mustard should be brown, and spread uniformly and thinly enough to be visible only from above, not in cross-section. No mayo.


Edible Dictionary

almond paste--Although this seems to require no explanation, there's more to it than meets the eye. It is indeed almonds ground into a smooth, spreadable consistency, it also contains sugar, water, and sometimes glycerin and almond extract to enhance its texture and flavor. Almond paste is a major ingredient in baking, particularly in France. It's used in almond croissants and cookies. Almond paste is also the heart of marzipan, used widely for cake decoration. The most opulent use of almond paste is in "Gateau Du Roi"--the king cake, made in Northern France and Belgium to celebrate the Epiphany. It's nothing like the New Orleans king cake, even though its significance on the calendar is identical.


Gourmet Gazetteer

Sandwich Creek runs about nine miles south in a canyon next to Skookum Peak, in the northeast corner of Washington State. Its confluence with the Pend Oreille River--which cuts a fertile valley through the mountains around there--is fifty-five miles north of Spokane. Adding to the mouth-watering possibilities is Sandwich Creek's only tributary: Cook's Creek, which is almost as long and runs alongside Sandwich Creek about a quarter-mile west. The nearest restaurant to Sandwich Creek is Audrey's, twenty-three miles downstream on the Pend Oreille in Newport.


Music To Eat Gumbo By

Today is the birthday, in 1938, of Allen Toussaint, the leading contender for the title of Greatest New Orleans Musician Of All Time (Not counting Louis Armstrong). Toussaint was a mellow guy who seemed to prefer the edge of the spotlight to the center of it. Listen to his records--even if it's just noodling around on the piano--and you want it to go on for hours. He wrote a long list of New Orleans classics, including most of Irma Thomas's songs and the Number One hit Southern Nights. Beyond his powerful musical presence, the man had a superb personal style. He was always impeccably attired, his tastes running to beautiful suits with stunning ties. He passed away in 2015 and is much missed.


Food On The Air

Today is the birthday (1919) of Andy Rooney, who until he died in 2011 was the quirky, funny, iconoclastic feature reporter on CBS's 60 Minutes. The first I ever heard of him was a special he made in the late 1970s called "Mr. Rooney Goes To Dinner." In it he gave his philosophy of dining. Most of his tenets were along the lines of "Never eat in a restaurant with an 'Open' sign in the window. If they're good, they won't need to tell anybody they're open."


The most interesting part of the piece showed two visits to Antoine's--one he made anonymously with a hidden camera, the other with a full camera crew very much in evidence, with the full P.R. treatment. It was embarrassing for Antoine's, and especially for the waiter (whose identity I can't remember). Rooney said that all sorts of malfeasances had occurred on his anonymous visit and that the waiter who was so accommodating when the camera was rolling was the same one who'd treated him shabbily the day before. This was long ago, before current owner Rick Blount completely changed the fortunes of this iconic restaurant.

Food Namesakes

Trumpeter Billy Butterfield, one of the founding members of the Worlds Greatest Jazz Band, sounded his first note today in 1917. . . Record producer T-Bone Burnett laid down his first sound today in 1948. . . Pitcher Catfish Hunter was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame today in 1987. . . Another big-league pitcher, Steve Cooke, walked onto the Big Mound today in 1970. . . Harrison Salisbury, long-time New York Times correspondent, write his first lines today in 1908. . . In 1890 on this date, George K. Cooke patented a new kind of gas burner that was self-lighting, with both the main gas jet and a smaller pilot jet.


Words To Eat By

"Anytime a person goes into a delicatessen and orders a pastrami on white bread, somewhere a Jew dies."--Milton Berle.


Words To Drink By

"I should never have switched from Scotch to martinis."--Humphrey Bogart, who died today in 1957. Those are alleged to have been his last words.