The Thing About Today – November 18

November 18, 2020
Day 323 of 366

November 18th is the 323rd day of the year. It is Independence Day in Morocco as they celebrate their separation from France and Spain in 1956. It’s also Proclamation Day of the Republic of Latvia as they celebrate their independence from Russia in 1918.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Princess Day, National Vichyssoise Day, Mickey Mouse’s Birthday, and National Educational Support Professionals Day (which is typically on the Wednesday of American Education Week).

Historical items of note:

  • In 1626, the new St Peter’s Basilica was consecrated.
  • In 1787, French physicist and photographer Louis Daguerre was born. He developed the daguerreotype, the first publicly available photographic process.
  • In 1810, botanist and academic Asa Gray was born. He is considered the most important American botanist of the 19th century.
  • In 1863, King Christian IX of Denmark signed the November constitution that declared Schleswig to be part of Denmark. This was seen by the German Confederation as a violation of the London Protocol and led to the German–Danish war of 1864.
  • In 1865, Mark Twain’s short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was published in the New York Saturday Press.
  • In 1883, American and Canadian railroads instituted five standard continental time zones, ending the confusion of thousands of local times.
  • In 1923, astronaut Alan Shepard was born.
  • In 1928, the animated short Steamboat Willie was released. It was the first fully synchronized sound cartoon, directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, and featured the third appearances of cartoon characters Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. This is considered by the Disney corporation to be Mickey’s birthday.
  • In 1939, Canadian novelist, poet, and critic Margaret Atwood was born.
  • In 1942, actress Linda Evans was born.
  • In 1946, author Alan Dean Foster was born.
  • In 1953, English author and illustrator Alan Moore was born.
  • In 1955, composer and conductor Carter Burwell was born.
  • In 1960, actress Elizabeth Perkins was born.
  • In 1961, Scottish screenwriter and producer Steven Moffat was born.
  • In 1963, the first push-button telephone went into service.
  • In 1994, Star Trek: Generations premiered.
  • In 1996, Star Trek: First Contact premiered.
  • In 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled 4-3 in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and gave the state legislature 180 days to change the law making Massachusetts the first state in the United States to grant marriage rights to same-sex couples.
  • In 2013, NASA launched the MAVEN probe to Mars.

Since November 18th is National Vichyssoise Day, I wanted to find out what a Vichyssoise was.

Turns out that it’s a soup. Specifically, a thick soup made of boiled and puréed leeks, onions, potatoes, cream, and chicken stock. It is traditionally served cold but it can also be eaten hot.

Recipes were common by the 19th century in France, and the recipes are often named “Potage Parmentier” or “Potage à la Parmentier” after Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, the French nutritionist and scholar who popularized the use of potatoes in France in the 18th century.

The origins of the name Vichyssoise are a subject of debate among culinary historians. One version of the story is that Louis XV of France was afraid of being poisoned, so he had so many servants taste the potato leek soup that, by the time he tried it, the soup was cold, and since he enjoyed it that way it became a cold soup. Julia Child, on the other hand, called it “an American invention”. As such, the origin of the soup is questionable.

Louis Diat, a French chef at the Ritz-Carlton in New York City is most often credited with its reinvention. He grew up in Montmarault in the Allier department near the spa resort town of Vichy.

The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

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