David Bruce: Food Anecdotes

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Diamond Jim Brady loved good food. He once ate a fish sauce in a restaurant in Paris and loved it. Unfortunately, the recipe was the property of only one restaurant in the world, and that restaurant’s chef guarded the recipe and kept it secret. But Diamond Jim wanted the recipe, and Charles Rector, the owner of Diamond Jim’s favorite restaurant in New York City, wanted to keep his biggest-eating — and biggest-spending — customer happy. Therefore, he took his son out of law school and sent him to Paris to work at the restaurant which had the secret fish sauce. After several months, he was entrusted with the recipe and returned home. Diamond Jim met him at the pier and yelled at him while he was still on the boat, “Have you got the sauce?” That evening, Diamond Jim ate nine plates of fish with the special sauce, then told Mr. Rector, “If you poured some of that sauce over a Turkish towel, I believe I could eat all of it.” (Don’t believe that a restaurant owner would go to so much trouble to keep a customer happy? Believe it — according to Mr. Rector, Diamond Jim was his “best 25 customers”!)

Marian Christy once interviewed Julia Child about food and cooking. Ms. Child’s position was that good food and good cooking are necessities in a home. Ms. Christy’s position was that a busy woman may not have time to cook good food. Ms. Child ended up winning the argument. A few days later, she telephoned Ms. Christy to come over for lunch. When Ms. Christy arrived, Ms. Child added a little mayonnaise to some crab meat, put it on a leaf of lettuce, then added a sprig of parsley. She then poured out glasses of chilled white wine and put on the table some bread she had heated in the oven. The time it took to do this was only a few minutes — and the food was good.

Throughout his movie career, Mario Lanza gained and (usually) lost weight very quickly. (In some of his movies, he seems to gain and lose weight between scenes. Sometimes, a thin Mario will walk into a building, but inside the building a fat Mario is acting. For one movie, the movie studio had Mario’s costumes made in three different sizes: normal, big, and obese.) Of course, the movie studio tried to keep his weight under control, but he outfoxed them by doing such things as ordering from room service three different meals under three different names so he could eat as much as he wanted.

“‘Bring us a red California wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon, and be sure to chill it,’ ordered Raymond Oliver, who had selected a seafood salad for his lunch. Then turning to me, the famous French epicure explained: ‘I don’t see why we should let our tastes be dictated by some code. I like red wine, even with fish, and prefer it chilled. Who is going to tell me what I must or must not drink with such and such a dish?’ M. Oliver runs the famous three-star Michelin restaurant Le Grand Vefour, in Paris, and is the official ambassador of the cuisine Française.” — “The San Francisco Chronicle.”

In 1994, ice dancers Irina Lobacheva and Ilia Averbukh competed at the World Championships, finishing a respectable 13th. However, the next year this married couple had trouble finding enough food to eat and enough training time in their native Russia and so finished 15th at the 1995 World Championships. Therefore, they moved to Delaware in the United States where they found plenty of food and training time, enabling them to finish 6th at the 1996 World Championships. They kept improving and finally got on the medals stand by finishing third at the 2001 World Championships.

As a high school student, comedian Jay Leno, host of The Tonight Show, worked at a McDonald’s, where he says that he and his coworkers gave away free food. Some friends of Jay’s would come in, order huge amounts of food, and Jay would say, “Ten burgers, eight fries, thirty shakes — that will be a quarter.” The McDonald’s manager once asked him, “We lost $25,000 last month. What happened?” Jay replied, “Oh, gosh, I must have given the last guy the wrong change.”

Winston Churchill was eating when his butler informed him that French President Charles de Gaulle was on the telephone and wished — strongly — to speak to him. Reluctantly, Mr. Churchill took the call, and by the time he hung up, his soup was cold. This enraged him, and he complained, “Bloody de Gaulle! He had the impertinence to tell me that the French regard him as the reincarnation of Joan of Arc. I found it necessary to remind him that we had to burn the first one!”

Diana Vreeland, editor of Vogue, had strong beliefs regarding food. An employee put two pieces of white bread beside Ms. Vreeland’s bowl of consomme. Shocked, Ms. Vreeland asked, “Who is responsible for this unintegrated farina?” After the employee confessed, Ms. Vreeland told her, “Ah, my child, don’t you know that people who eat white bread have no dreams?”

In a religious vision, Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, met other prophets, including Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Offered his choice of water, milk, or wine to drink, Muhammed chose milk. This represents a middle way between the asceticism of drinking water and the epicureanism of drinking wine. Thus, Islam avoids being too strict and avoids being too easy.

At first Harold Ross, founder of The New Yorker, loathed Rockefeller Center, and he let his New Yorker writers criticize it freely. Later, however, he changed his mind, and in 1933 The New Yorker stated that Rockefeller Center was “beautiful,” adding that “if Mr Rockefeller will send us over a level teaspoonful of strained dirt, we will eat it publicly.”

Eve Ensler, writer and star of The Vagina Monologues, has had some interesting experiences. She was once served a salad made to look like a woman’s exterior sexual organs — bean sprouts represented pubic hair.

At an “Italian” restaurant in Iowa, Jay Leno ordered spaghetti and meatballs, and the waiter asked him, “You want fries with that?”

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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