Tuesday, January 7, 2020
Bourdain Is Here. Now It's Carnival. Nick Cage. Onassis. Hot Sausage. Link, TN. Kielbasa. Tower of Pisa. Fanny Farmer.
Eating Around New Orleans Today
Forty-One Days Until Mardi Gras
The Carnival Season began last night in New Orleans, with the Bal Masque of the Twelfth Night Revelers and the Phunny Phorty Phellows' streetcar parade. Mardi Gras is February 25. Laissez le bon, etc.
People We'd Like To Dine With
Nicolas Cage, actor, former New Orleans resident, and a big help in the rebuilding of our city, was born today in 1964. I'd love to take him to Antoine's to thank him personally, but I think that would only give me something else to thank him for.
Annals Of High Living
Aristotle Onassis was born today in 1906. The Greek maritime shipping zillionaire's life is best known because of his marriage to Jacqueline Kennedy. But here's something weird that's almost forgotten: in the 1970s, there was a restaurant in the 500 block of Bourbon Street called the Bourbon Onassis. The menu claimed to be "a tribute to a man and his money." It served a dish I've never seen since: gefilte fish remoulade. (I am not kidding.) Actually, that's not a bad idea.
Today is said to be National Tempura Day, honoring the fried Japanese dishes with the puffy, thick, soft coating. But here in New Orleans it's Hot Sausage Day. That's because hot sausage, also known locally as chaurice, is most appreciated for its perfect compatibility with red beans and rice. Indeed, one of my fondest taste recollections is of a fifty-cent plate of beans at Martin's Poor Boy Restaurant in the early 1970s. The cook fried a pair of hot sausage patties on the flattop grill. He then transferred them with a metal spatula, along with all the grease (there's no other word for it) that could come along for the ride, and plopped it all atop the beans. I don't know if I ever had better beans than those. These days, most hot sausage comes in large patties, either atop the beans or in a poor boy. Some restaurants--notably the now sadly gone Bozo's and the Rivershack, had/has hot sausage in ground beef to make spicy hamburgers.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
I knew a short maker of sausage with red pepper
He'd pack 'em in a cold box and then he would schlep 'er
To a sandwich shop Mondays where in lieu of a bill
He'd accept as his payment his appetite's fill
Of red beans and white beans and really hot chili
Filled with his product, but even so still he
Kept the circle unbroken, until he retired
Not rich but quite famous from the patties he fired.
Deft Dining Rule #744: Hot sausage--in fact, all really spicy foods--are at their best when eating them brings you to the threshold of pain from the pepper.
Link Road takes a gentle bend at the little community of Link, near the geographical center of Tennessee. It's forty-eight miles south southeast of Nashville, in a horse and dairy farming area. Lots of big open fields full of bluegrass. A large farm at Link has many stalls for horses and milk cows. Pleasantly bucolic, with a few rock-topped hills poking up about a hundred feet above the terrain. If nobody at the farm offered to fry up some sausage for you, it's a ten-mile drive to the Robatin Family Restaurant in Eagleville, ten miles west.
kielbasa, Polish, n.--Kielbasa is the generic word used in Poland for the entire range of sausages produced in that country, and wherever else Poles have wandered. And they produce a lot of them. A sausage called simply kielbasa more or less takes the average of them all. It's about an inch in diameter and six to eight inches long, made primarily with pork. Sometimes includes a smaller amount of beef. Kielbasa is usually smoked long enough that its skin takes on a dark color, although the smoke flavor itself is typically on the mild side. There's enough pepper (often spicy paprika) to give kielbasa a little warmth. Most kielbasa is served with grilled onions and peppers, and mustard is almost always nearby. In the 1970s, it began being sold at Mardi Gras parades. It makes a more interesting statement than a hot dog, and became a favorite snack for a lot of parade-goers.
Familiar Icons Of Eating
The Tower of Pisa, whose image appears in more Italian restaurants than any other, was closed to the public today in 1990. Its famous tilt had gone a little too far, and for the next eleven years it was shored up and stabilized. It's back open now. As many times as you've seen pictures of the Campanile (its real name), seeing it in real life will stop you in your tracks. The number of tourists taking pictures pretending to hold it up will also stop you in your tracks.
Annals Of Food Writing
Today in 1896, Fannie Farmer published her first cookbook. It was originally entitled The Boston Cooking School Cook Book, but with millions of copies in print, it's now known as the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. It became famous because it was the first book to specify exact quantities for all ingredients. It was much welcomed by people who'd never cooked before.
The Saints (no, not those)
This is the feast day of St. Emilian of Saujon, France, a small town north of Bordeaux. He was a Benedictine monk who spent time as a hermit in the eighth century. The winemaking commune of St. Emilion, whose wine is predominantly made with Merlot grapes, is named for him, despite the slight spelling difference.
Donna Rice, whose romance with Gary Hart brought down his campaign for the Presidency in 1988, was born in New Orleans today in 1958. . . American novelist Nicholson Baker wrote the first page of his Big Book today in 1957. . . Art Baker, the host of a 1950s television show called You Asked For It, was born today in 1898. . . Ducky Shofield, who played shortstop for a number of teams in the Big Leagues, took the Big Field today in 1935. . . John Berryman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, jumped from a bridge to his death today in 1972. The poet's life can be hard. . . Kobe Bryant made nine consecutive three-point baskets, plus three more in the same game, to set the NBA record today in 2003.
Words To Eat By
"A highbrow is the kind of person who looks at a sausage and thinks of Picasso."--Alan Patrick Herbert, British author of the early 1900s.
"Doctor, do you think it could have been the sausage?"--Alleged to be the last words of French poet Paul Claudel.