Four Random Things

Friday, March 22, 2024

A Friday Hodgepodge

1. I mentioned finding a sandwich shop that sells muffulettas shortly after we moved to the New Orleans area.

Wanting to know more about the origins of this local sandwich, I found an article about the Central Grocery, where Italian immigrants created it over a century ago.

From the article:

Image by Richard Martin, via Wikimedia Commons, license.
Around this time, someone -- perhaps Lupo himself -- dreamt up the muffuletta. Culinary origin stories are often difficult to prove, but it's hard to find a more compelling tale than the one his eldest daughter Marie Teresa recited to countless customers, as well as in interviews and her own self-published cookbook, Marie's Melting Pot. French Market Sicilian vendors, as the story goes, congregated at Lupo's for lunch, where they ordered trays of salami, ham, and cheese, a few spoonfuls of olive salad, and a wedge of bread. The grocery lacked tables and chairs, so the diners settled for seats amid the barrels and crates, precariously balancing their lunch trays on their knees. Lupo, whom everyone called "Toto," a common Sicilian diminutive for Salvatore, eventually offered to stuff all the ingredients inside a sliced muffuletta loaf. Soft and sesame-seeded, round and flat, the muffuletta, a common Sicilian bread likely named for the mushroom cap, or muffe, it resembles, seemed custom made for sandwiches.
While I am happy to know that Central Grocery's muffulettas are available for purchase, the website tells me that my pilgrimage to the original store will have to wait for the completion of repairs to the damage Hurricane Ida dealt it.

2. Speaking of immigration, something this foodie liked about H-Town back in my Houston days was the fact that I could get good Tex-Mex and good Cajun/Creole food, even in grocery stores:
Houston is very cosmopolitan and has heavy Cajun and Creole influences already. I can and do buy roux, andouille, and boudain in ordinary supermarkets here. Crawfish, fresh seafood, and good, cheap restaurants (of all varieties, including Cajun) abound.
Nearly two decades (!) since Katrina hit New Orleans, it's a little bit like that here now, with many of the Hispanic workers who helped rebuild the area after that storm putting down roots here.

That said, it's not exactly the same. Whereas Houston had a Brennan's location and (I think) a Copeland's, I'm not finding old favorites from Houston here, and my itch for Tex-Mex has remained un-scratched so far.

To be fair, I did walk into the grocery last weekend to the pleasant suprise of them selling boiled crawfish by the pound just inside. I never got that in Texas.

Or, to put it more positively, I get to explore some more and possibly come up with some more recipes.

3. Sticking with Texas for a bit, there is an interesting piece in Atlas Obscura about a desk that decades ago, some college students hauled to a hilltop in western Texas so they could study in the magnificent solitude afforded by the view:
They would spend their afternoons and evenings studying at this spot and taking in the great views offered by the west Texas sun and expansive plains and mountains extending in every direction. One of the students decided to bring a notebook and wrote a note in it. When he returned later, he discovered that someone had

Today, the notebook kept in the desk's drawer offers visitors the chance to write to other visitors and reflect on what it means to leave a mark and make a statement in such a place at whatever moment in time they happen to be there. Completed notebooks from the Sol [sic] Ross desk are kept at the Archives of the Big Bend...
I never made it out to Big Bend, while I was in Texas, but a friend of mine from grad school once spent a week there alone to collect his thoughts.

Now, I can see why.

4. After yesterday's mention of a compilation of Machiavellian triumphs at Ask a Manager, I recommend another compilation, titled "Mortification Week." A sample:
If you lived in New England during 2020, you were not only dealing with the pandemic but also a large amount of stink bugs. During a Zoom call, a bug flew into my hair while I was on camera. My colleagues got to see me scream, flail, and proceed to fall out of my chair. The recording of this moment still makes the rounds once or twice a year, though I have learned to laugh along with it.
Also amusing are entries involving typos and auto-correct.

-- CAV

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