Thursday, January 9, 2020
The Nutmeg State. Nutmeg. Mace. Campbell's Soup. Volare. Dagwood. Borlotti Beans. Soup Bean Creek.
Eating Across America
Connecticut, The Nutmeg State, became State Number Five today in 1788. The nickname commemorates a fraud. Nutmeg, a tropical spice, cannot be grown there. But it was expensive enough that some early Yankee con men carved nuggets of what looked like nutmeg from wood and sold it as such to anyone they could fool. The tradition lives on: now Connecticut's specialty is insurance.
In honor of the statehood of Connecticut, this is National Nutmeg Day. Nutmegs are the fruits of a small tree native to the East Indies. It's really two spices in one: the nutmeg itself, which looks like a pecan but smaller, and mace, which is a lacy covering around the nutmeg. Both are used in recipes. Mace has a more powerful aroma, but nutmeg has the more intense flavor. Indeed, a little nutmeg goes a long way, especially when used in a savory dish. Like what? Sneak a pinch into cream sauces and bechamels. You won't taste nutmeg, but you'll notice an improvement in the finished dish. Most of us have jars of nutmeg that should have been thrown away years ago. The old stuff has as much flavor as the grated wood that gave Connecticut its unlikely nickname. The best way to use nutmeg, of course, is to grate your own as you need it--if you can find the damn nutmeg grater.
The Old Kitchen Sage's Cooking Tip #705: No dish ever needs a little more nutmeg.
Annals Of Popular Cuisine
Campbell's Soup was made a trademark by the Patent Office today in 1906. The first of their soups was tomato. . . In other food branding news, today in 1984, Wendy's premiered a strange new advertising campaign that added a new catchphrase to American speech: "Where's the beef?" The line was delivered by Clara Peller to a fellow octogenarian to express her disappointment with the product of a competing burger joint.
Soup Bean Branch is in North Carolina, near the Tennessee state line. (For some reason, we find more food-named places around there than any other part of the country.) It's a little stream that runs on the west side of the Blue Ridge in the Appalachians, in pretty, hilly, wooded countryside. The water of Soup Bean Branch runs through intermediate streams into the New River, then the Kanawah, then the Ohio, and finally the Mississippi--which brings it past the French Quarter in New Orleans. It's a long, very circuitous route for that soup. The nearest place to eat is the intriguing Thurl's Music Hall, just over the state line in the well-named Mountain City, Tennessee.
Deft Dining Rule #239: The world's most underrated combination of flavors is seafood with beans. Any kind of either tastes great together.
Music To Eat Vitello Tonnato By
Domenico Modugno was born today in 1928. The Italian singer had a Number One hit in the United States--in Italian, yet!--with a song titled Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu. It was better known as Volare. One of the most familiar songs in the world, it is heard in Italian restaurants everywhere. Spunto, a short-lived restaurant on St. Louis Street (in the building where Nola is now), played Volare at top volume every half hour. The waiters would go around the room warning that it was about to start, so as not to alarm the patrons.
borlotti bean, n.--A very light brown bean, usually splotched with a dark reddish-brown. It's about the same size as a navy bean or blackeye pea, but in a different family known as "shell beans." That name comes from the long, colorful pods of these beans. Although they originally came from the New World, borlotti beans have become very common and popular in Italy, where they're served most often in soups like Pasta y Fagioli. They're also good in salads. Borlottis are also called cranberry beans in this country, although there's some dispute as to whether the two are exactly the same.
Food In The Funnies
Today is the birthday, in 1901, of Chic Young, who created the Blondie comic strip. It's more about her husband Dagwood than Blondie. Dagwood is an iconic chowhound, although he doesn't appear to be an ounce overweight. His finest creation is an overloaded sandwich on a whole loaf of French bread. It contains every known foodstuff, including whole fish. Such things have come to be known as a Dagwood Sandwich. A few years ago news came of the development, by New Orleans guy and Popeyes alumnus Lamar Berry, of a chain of Dagwood Sandwich Shoppes. The chain has opened about a dozen shops in a few states but took a while to get one here. Then it all went away. There is still a small catering operation out there with the name.
It's the birthday, in 1913, of actor Eric Berry, who appeared in the film Double Exposure, among others. . . Wally Mary Stiefel McBride Baker was born today in 1898. and died in 2009. That was more unusual than it is today. Television personality Beth Troutman saw the tally light come on today in 1977.
Words To Eat By
"Richard Nixon committed unspeakable acts with cottage cheese."--Jay Jacobs, the former New York restaurant critic for Gourmet. It's Richard Nixon's birthday (1913).