David Bruce: Food Anecdotes

M.F.K. Fisher wrote about food, but she denied that she was a food writer. Of course, she was an authority on food, and that led to a problem. She explains that she received many fan letters, including some from celebrities, but the letters tend to end, “We’d love to have you come to dinner, but we wouldn’t dare ask you.” This means, Ms. Fisher says, “They don’t. And I eat a lovely rye crisp at home.” Ms. Fisher was good company, even if her companions sometimes weren’t. She lived in France for a few years, and she acquired a French friend who wished to be helpful and who thought that Ms. Fisher knew much less than she knew. The result? Ms. Fisher said, “She explained to me things that I had known for decades.” As a food expert, she knew good food, and she avoided bad food. Once, she was out with her daughter and granddaughter. They were hungry, so they stopped at a McDonald’s and each got a hamburger. Each took a bite or two of her hamburger and decided that actually they were not all that hungry. Driving home, Ms. Fisher thought that something was wrong with her car because it smelled funny. She remembers, “When we got home, I said to my daughter, ‘Don’t you want me to warm up your hamburger? You must be hungry.’ I warmed it up, and then I knew why the car smelled funny.” The hamburgers ended up in the garbage pail. According to Ms. Fisher, it is wise to eat fast food quickly or it will decompose into its original ingredient. When someone asked her what is fast food’s original ingredient, she replied, “Bilgewater.” It is possible, of course, that Ms. Fisher’s children have well-developed taste buds. When her older daughter, Anne, was an infant, Ms. Fisher fed her a spoonful of Gerber’s strained beans. Ms. Fisher remembers that Anne looked at her as if to ask, “Why are you doing this to me?” Ms. Fisher never gave her Gerber’s baby food again.

One of the more interesting cemeteries in the United States is Ben and Jerry’s “Flavor Graveyard,” which is located in in Waterbury, Vermont. This cemetery has tombstones for discontinued flavors of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, among them “Oh Pear” (1997), “Makin’ Whoopie Pie” (2002-2003), and “Urban Jumble” (2000-2001). Standing in the cemetery, Sean Greenwood, Ben and Jerry’s Grand Poobah of Publicity, said, “I think we’ve got the best, and the not-best, up here. Flavors like ‘Wild Maine Blueberry.’ It’s been decades since we made this flavor, but we used to have the trucks back up here with truckloads of blueberries, and everyone would pitch in and unload the blueberries, and make it while the blueberries were fresh.” Another example of one of the best discontinued flavors is “Rainforest Crunch,” about which Grand Poobah Greenwood recited this poem: “With aching heart and heavy sigh, / we bid Rainforest Crunch goodbye; / that nutty brittle from exotic places / got sticky in between our braces.” He added, “You feel bad when the good ones just don’t make it anymore.” However, Grand Poobah Greenwood said that the “Sugar Plum” ice cream, made of plum and caramel, is a flavor that deserves to be in the cemetery. Visitors enjoy the graveyard. Grand Poobah Greenwood said, “You walk up to the graveyard here, and there’ll be fans that are up here putting flowers next to a headstone, or down on one knee, kind of paying their respects.”

Walt Disney’s daughter Diane did not name her first child, a boy, after him. He joked that the next baby would be named after him, but the next baby was a girl whom Diane and her husband, Ron Miller, named Tamara. Walt sent a telegram to “Tamara Walter Elias Disney Miller.” Diane says, “He was awfully cute.” Here’s another example of Walt’s cuteness: He and imagineer Bob Gurr once visited a coffee shop that had some Disney merchandise on the bottom shelf. Walt preferred that the Disney merchandise be in a better location, and so he began putting it on the top shelf. An employee, not recognizing him, asked, “May I help you?” Walt replied, “No, we’re all right. We’ll have this done in just a few minutes.” By the way, Walt once performed a good deed that went somewhat awry. He and artist Ward Kimball traveled by train to Chicago to see a railroad fair. They went to the dining car and Walt ordered a filet mignon. Ward remembers, “I was looking forward to one of the best dishes I had ever tasted and that was the beef stew, cooked railroad style. They had a way of kind of burning the meat—delicious!” However, when Ward ordered the beef stew, Walt did not think that that was good enough for him, so Walt said, “Beef stew! What do you want that for? Bring him a filet mignon.” And so Ward ate a filet mignon.

When artist James Montgomery Flagg was a child, he made a pun that made his Uncle Francis laugh. His uncle, who lived in Summit, New Jersey, had a dog whose name was Clover. Young James said that all the fleas in Summit were happy. Why? Because all of them were in Clover. By the way, James’ mother was a vegetarian; his father was not. His mother would often ask his father, “What kind of corpse do you want for dinner?” Sometimes, his father would reply, “Oh, let’s start with a dipper of warm blood, and then could you get us some cat’s brains on toast?” One of the nice things that his mother did for young James was to spoon out some of her coffee onto his morning toast—a treat he enjoyed.

When gangster Al Capone invited a celebrity to dinner, the celebrity wisely thought it prudent to go. Once, he invited George Burns and Gracie Allen, Eddie Cantor, George Jessel, and some other entertainers to dinner. All accepted the invitation. After dinner, Mr. Capone asked the famous celebrities if anyone would like to entertain. Every celebrity wisely raised his or her hand.

“We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons.” —
Alfred E. Newman

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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