David Bruce: Food Anecdotes

Carl Reiner once joined a group of friends who were dedicated to eating very good Chinese food and had formed an informal group for that purpose. The biggest eater among the friends was Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22. At a restaurant, everyone sat down, but then the friends insisted that Mr. Reiner sit in the seat of honor: the one with its back to the kitchen. This struck Mr. Reiner as odd, and he asked whether this was a tradition. Mr. Heller explained, “Traditionally, honored guests, who aren’t accustomed to seeing a rat scurry across a kitchen floor, don’t seem to enjoy the evening as much as those of us who are accustomed to the intrusion.” When the soup was served, Mr. Heller announced, “This is a special night, and in honor of my guest, I will serve.” He served himself a generous helping of soup, then gave the ladle to Mr. Reiner and said, “Now you serve.” Mr. Heller had conceived an ingenious way of ensuring that he got his fair share of soup even on those occasions when perhaps not enough fair servings existed for everyone. Mr. Heller also created the touch-rice rule, which applied to everyone but himself. According to this rule, eaters had to eat a mouthful of rice after eating a mouthful of the expensive stuff from the communal dishes. Because this rule did not apply to Mr. Heller, it helped to ensure that he got his fair share of the expensive stuff. Mr. Reiner had a great time on that evening: he ate good food, he laughed long and loud with good friends, and because his back was toward the kitchen, he saw the rat only once. By the way, after the meal, Mr. Heller asked to be driven by the theater marquee that stated, “They Bombed in New Haven: A New Play by Joseph Heller.” Looking at the marquee, he said, “Just wanted to see my name up there. I never thought I’d be on a Broadway theater marquee, and there I am! It’s very exciting! Don’t know how long the play will run or if I’ll ever write another one, so if you guys don’t mind—a couple more minutes?”

Amelie, the daughter of Lars Gronholt, sometimes did not eat her lunch, so he began to draw cartoons featuring superheroes who encouraged her to eat her lunch. In one cartoon, Thor bites into a sandwich, raises it high in the air, and says, “This sandwich—I like it! Another!” In a comment on a story about Amelie and Lars, a woman who posts online using the name Napsauce wrote, “When I was in first grade, my dad drew on my lunch bags. Every single day, I got a new, full-color installment of ‘The Adventures of Lunchman in Lunchland,’ along with Lunchman’s trusty sidekick, Alphonse the Armadillo. After lunch, I would carefully cut the illustration off the bag and paste it into a book. At the end of the school year I surprised him with the book of all his illustrations … and 34 years later, he still has it, yellowed, faded, and a little crumbly, but still incredible. I was a lucky, lucky little girl.”And GiantRubberGorilla wrote, “I used to take oranges and with my fingernail carve out two eyes and a smile—then I’d hand it to the kid and say—‘Here. Tear off his face.’ She loved it.” And BigDaddy-O wrote, “I do a funny joke every day in my grade schooler’s lunchbox. Something like: Q: Why did the rubber chicken cross the road? A: She wanted to stretch her legs. Then I say Love, Papa! I missed one day of doing this, and she was really put out! ;}”

My Uncle Reuben, who was born in the late 1920s, spent a few years on a Georgia chain gang while he was in his teens. After he was released, he spent time as a homeless wanderer. Of course, he was broke and hungry a lot of the time, and he begged. Once, when he was broke and hungry, he went to a cafeteria and asked to speak to the manager. He explained to the manager that he was broke and hungry, and the manager told him to sit down. The manager then loaded a plate with food and gave it to him. Uncle Reuben acquired skills in working with sheet metal, got a good job, and raised a family. He has given money to homeless people who say that they are hungry, and he has taught his children to do the same thing. He is aware that not all homeless people will spend the money on food, but he does not let that bother him. Being too careful about giving away money to homeless people can mean that some hungry people stay hungry.

One of the stories about bald-headed movie director Cecil DeMille and the making of The Ten Commandments concerns a shot with a thousand extras. Mr. DeMille spent all morning setting up the shot. He was ready to shoot it when he spotted a female extra talking to the person next to her. Angry, he said to the extra, “I asked for silence, and you continued to talk. What you have to say must be more important than what I’m doing here. So I want you to share with all of us what it is that you were saying.” He made the extra speak into a live microphone connected to several loudspeakers: “Speak right into the mike. Tell us. Tell us all. Or I’ll make certain you never work here again.” The female extra said into the mike, “I was just telling another extra that I was wondering when the bald-headed bastard with the microphone was going to call lunch.” Everyone was silent, and then Mr. DeMille said into his mike, “Lunch.”


“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” — Julia Child

“I always cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.” — W.C. Fields


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved



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