Today's Foodstuffs

Tom Fitzmorris January 22, 2020 10:18 Almanac

Wednesday, January 22, 2020


Archie. Beer Cans. Vegetables Au Gratin. Blondies. Cheesetown. Galloping Gourmet. Frugal Gourmet. Bar In The Sky. Gratin.


Archie Casbarian was born in Egypt today in 1936. After a career that spanned much of the world and reaching the top of the hotel business in New Orleans, in 1978 he bought Arnaud's and restored it into the brilliant restaurant it is today. The level of excellence we have become accustomed to there is now carried on by his elegant wife and children Archie Jr, and Katie.


Food Inventions


Today in 1959, Coors began selling its beer in aluminum cans. At the time, and for about twenty years more, Coors was only available in a few western states. That self-imposed rarity gave it a panache of excellence that it didn't deserve. When, after hearing about it for years, you finally had your first can of Coors, the sleek, light aluminum can enhanced the experience. Or it could have been that Coors was the first beer to achieve what many consumers seem to want: beer that tastes like nearly nothing.


Food Calendar


Today is National Gratin Vegetables Day. A couple of weeks ago I jumped the gun on this celebration of small casseroles of various vegetables by making a cauliflower gratin. The cauliflower was surrounded by a matrix of cheese-laced bechamel with a crusty topping of more cheese, baked until the former became rich and lava-like and the latter was crusty and lightly browned. I have a recipe for this later in the newsletter.


It is widely reported on the Web that today is also National Blonde Brownie Day. They're also known as "blondies," and are another manifestation of white chocolate, that scourge on the chocolate-loving population.


Delicious-Sounding Places


Cheesetown is in the eastern foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, in south central Pennsylvania, fifty-nine miles southwest of the state capital, Harrisburg. It's in rolling farm and dairy country, and in fact a large dairy is at the crossroads. So there really is cheese made in the area. However, suburbia is encroaching, with houses going up in a nearby tract called Kensington Heights. It's just off US 11, which can be followed all the way to New Orleans, through very pretty countryside. For a bite to eat before you start down that road, drive five miles to Chambersburg and find the Cottage Family Restaurant.


Annals Of Food Media  


It's the birthday (1934, London) of Graham Kerr, who in the 1960s had a television cooking show called The Galloping Gourmet. (The name came from a book he did with Australian winemaker Len Evans, in which the pair ate their way around the world in about a month.) Kerr made cooking cool, and inspired many men to take it up as a hobby.


The Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith, was born today in 1939. The bearded, bowtie-wearing, slender chef wrote many cookbooks and was a fixture on television talk shows, in addition to hosting his own long-running cooking program. He appeared live on my radio show twice. His career ended abruptly after he was charged with sexual assault by several of his past and present assistants. He died in 2004.


Drinking In The Sky


Today in 1970, the first regularly-scheduled flight of the Boeing 747 took off from New York City on a six-and-a-half-hour flight to London, on PanAm World Airlines. The original design of the 747 had a lounge on the second level. A friend who traveled to France often in those days said that he spent most of the flight time standing at the 747's bar. Anything would be better than coach, I guess.


Edible Dictionary


gratin, n.--A small casserole with a topping that forms a crust after being baked in the oven. Although the word has acquired the connotation that the crust is made of cheese, classical gratins are topped with bread crumbs. (The French word is a reference to grating.) At Antoine's in New Orleans, which straddles the divide between France and America, the gratins have both cheese and bread crumbs. Creative chefs create other kinds of gratins, using almost anything that will form even a light crust when baked. Auberge de l'Ill in Alsace is famous for a fruit gratin topped with glazed sabayon. In most of America, however, the word means that the dish is covered by a thick layer of melted and then re-solidified cheese, usually Cheddar.


The Old Kitchen Sage Sez: If you need to grate a cheese that's so soft that it sticks to the grater (mozzarella and Fontina come to mind), rub the inside and the outside of the grating surface with butter before you start.


Deft Dining Rule #509: The only au gratin dish worth ordering in a steakhouse is potatoes au gratin. And even that is really just an excuse to eat more cheese.


The Saints


It is the feast day of several saints named Vincent. The one that interests us is St. Vincent of Saragossa, Spain. He is a patron saint of grape growers, and those who make everything from wine to vinegar from those grapes.


Food Namesakes  


Sir Francis Bacon, the English philosopher and writer who has been claimed to be the "real" Shakespeare, was born today in 1561. . . The creamy-voiced soul singer Sam Cooke started cooking today in 1931. . . Chris Lemmon, the actor son of Jack Lemmon, was squeezed out today in 1954. . .  Illinois Congressman Melissa Bean emerged from the pod today in 1962. . . The Apple Macintosh computer, which made the mouse and the graphical user interface popular, was introduced in commercials during the Super Bowl today in 1984.


Words To Eat By

"A squid, as you know, of course, has ten testicles."--Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet, born today in 1934. Since he was on television, everybody heard and remembered this slip of the tongue.