On Rye, Rice and a Recipe for Ray


* Rye was originally a weed that showed up in the wheat fields of what is now eastern Turkey. It looks a lot like wheat, and for a long time farmers thought it was just wheat that had somehow gone wrong.

* The word "torpedo" comes from the Latin word for electric ray, the bottom-dwelling fish that can give a paralyzing electrical shock. The Romans used to cook electric rays, and we still have a couple of their recipes for them.

* Tea is a camellia. Jamaica (the tart flavoring of Red Zinger tea) is a hibiscus.

* These days Louisiana food is synonymous with rice and seafood, but a hundred years ago it was mostly cornmeal and pork. Rice was a luxury grain and seafood was only available right on the coast. It was only growing prosperity that made seafood jambalaya a big deal. And until well into the 20th century, there was no cult of crayfish, which were rarely eaten except by the very poor.

* Dried peppers may have different aromas, but all green peppers smell about the same. The reason is 2-methoxy-3-(2-methylpropyl)pyrazine, one of the most aromatic compounds known--you can taste it when it has diluted to one part in 2 trillion (1/2,000,000,000,000).

* Whales are mammals and give milk, but because of their cold environment, it's extremely rich and as thick as cheese. You can check this out by milking a whale.

* OK, OK, you wanted a Roman sauce for electric ray. Here goes: Pound pepper, rue and dried green onions, add honey, fish sauce, grape juice concentrate, wine and olive oil and boil, thickening with cornstarch. Put that on your torpedo .

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