Posts Tagged With: Roman Empire

217/365: National Oyster Day*

Flash those pearl-y whites as you shell out a few dollars if you’re planning on enjoying today’s food holiday. August 5 is National Oyster Day!

And enjoy you should. Oysters are tasty delicacies meant to be savored. And, they have alleged aphrodisiac properties. That’s what is called a win/win, people!

Oysters are a group of bivalve mollusks that live in saltwater. They have been an important food source for as long as man has roamed the earth; there is plentiful evidence of ancient mounds of oyster shells in many prehistoric sites throughout the world. Oyster farming and cultivation dates back to the Roman Empire. Casanova, infamous ladies’ man of the 18th century, allegedly made a habit of consuming 50 oysters every morning for breakfast, helping to fuel the myth that oysters are aphrodisiacs, a notion that began when Aphrodite – the Greek goddess of love – rose from the sea on an oyster shell. (The fact that she purportedly ordered “Somebody get me a freakin’ towel, I’m dripping wet here!” has been lost to history, no doubt in an attempt to maintain the illusion of sexiness in the story). It turns out there’s some truth to the theory, actually; oysters are rich in amino acids that trigger increased levels of sex hormones. Oysters, like caviar, were once so plentiful in New York Harbor they were a cheap food for the working class, but overfishing dramatically dropped their population levels to the point that they are now considered a delicacy. Stories like this make me wonder whether hot dogs will be viewed as a rare delicacy that commands outrageous prices in another hundred years or so.

A Portland landmark since 1907.

A Portland landmark since 1907.

There are many different ways to enjoy oysters: they can be eaten raw, smoked, baked, fried, boiled, steamed, stewed, pickled, etc. Probably the best way to eat them is the simplest: on the half shell, raw (they are actually alive when you eat them – not that this should gross you out or anything), with a squeeze of lemon juice, a spoonful of mignonette, a dash of hot sauce, and perhaps a bit of horseradish, to suit your tastes. Oysters take on the flavor of the water from where they are harvested, and can taste sweet, salty, buttery, or metallic. East Coast oysters tend to be thin and mild-tasting, while West Coast oysters are plumper and more flavorful, often described as creamy and sweet.

Up until a few months ago, Tara and I both thought we hated oysters. Then one day, on a whim, we ordered a couple as an appetizer while at a trendy bar in Portland, and were blown away. We have since had them several times, and now count them as a delicious delicacy, savoring their briny flavor whenever possible. So we were quite happy when this holiday rolled around! The fact that it’s also National Waffle Day barely registered. There was only one food item we were interested in celebrating, and that was the oyster, baby.

What better place to celebrate than Dan and Louis Oyster Bar, Portland’s oldest family-owned restaurant? This landmark spot dates back to 1907, and is located above the city’s famed Shanghai Tunnels. There’s even a glass pane in the floor where you can look down and see the tunnel below your feet. Not only does Dan and Louis ooze history, they know how to do oysters! As you’d expect. We shared a half-dozen Pacific oysters, including our favorite, Pickering oysters from Puget Sound. Sweet, mellow, and delicious. Today’s food holiday was pretty awesome!

Dan and Louis Oyster Bar

Categories: Seafood | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

154/365: National Egg Day

June 3rd is everything it’s cracked up to be, and that’s no yolk. It’s National Egg Day!

National Egg Day is one of the oldest food holidays in the world. It was first declared a holiday by Roman emperor Claudius Nero Germanicus during his reign between 41-54 A.D. A poultry plague devastated Europe at the turn of the century, and people were afraid to eat chicken and eggs. Claudius was convinced eggs were safe and challenged nobles in his realm to eat them in order to prove to the peasants they were harmless. Augustus Antonius took the emperor up on his offer, and ate a meal of boiled eggs before a large gathering. He did not keel over and die, and the Roman population once again embraced eggs and poultry. Claudius issued a royal proclamation declaring June 3rd as the Holy Roman Day of Eggs. The holiday was celebrated for 500 years but eventually faded from memory. In 1805 Napoleon captured historical Italian documents of the Roman Empire. Reading through them, he was intrigued by their fondness for eggs, and in turn declared June 3rd to be “Oeuf Journée Nationale,” or National Egg Day. It has remained popular ever since.

Tara suggested we make deviled eggs to celebrate, and I thought that was a great idea. They’re delicious, simple to make, and usually reserved for special occasions. I think both Napoleon and Claudius would be proud. Tara’s got a special recipe, and will take you through it step-by-step now.

I got the inspiration for this post from a previous blog entry written in 2008 that shows step by step instructions.  At the time, I had an online/blogger friend in Australia that had never seen or tried deviled eggs and I was convinced that she had to have some.  Since pictures are always fun, here we go again!

This time I started with a dozen eggs (+1 that was rolling around from our last carton) that I let boil for about 35 minutes.  They were cooled in cold water, peeled, and paper towel dried.  Each egg is cut lengthwise; the whites arranged on a plate, and the yolks mashed with a fork in a bowl.  I then laid out the  mayo, mustard, diced onion*, garlic, pepper, and Lawry’s seasoned salt.

Ingredients for deviled eggs.

Ingredients for deviled eggs.

Unfortunately, I can’t give exact measurements on ingredients.  It really depends on your taste and how many eggs you actually end up with.  I don’t know about you, but I always end up with at least one or two eggs that don’t peel right and end up in the trash.  Rough measurements are… two-three heaping tablespoons of mayo, squirt of mustard, ¼ finely diced small onion, 1-2 cloves minced garlic, and five or six shakes of pepper.

IMAG0892

I blend the yolk mixture, taste, and add any of the above ingredients as needed, and then spoon the filling into the egg whites.  Did you catch that the seasoned salt WASN’T added to the filling?  Bonus points if you did!  A trick I learned from the same person I got this recipe from is to use Lawry’s to finish the eggs instead of paprika.  There’s something about the seasoned salt that brings all the flavors together.  Yum!

Spooning is fun.

Spooning is fun.

Cover the eggs and refrigerate for 2-3 hours (overnight is better).  This gives the ingredients time to meld and the flavors to blend.  Enjoy!

*I don’t always use dried minced onion, but when I was digging in the pantry for an onion, there was only one left and it was half rotted.  Minced onion makes a good substitute, just make sure you re-hydrate in warm water before adding to the yolk mixture.

Deviled egg

Categories: Poultry | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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