David Bruce: Food Anecdotes

• Colonel James H. Mapleson (1830-1901) once received word that mezzo-soprano Sofia Scalchi was ill and unable to sing in an opera scheduled that night. He and a physician therefore went to Ms. Scalchi’s hotel apartment to ask what they could do for her, but just before they arrived at her door, a dinner of roast duck and lobsters was delivered to her apartment. Colonel Mapleson waited for the dinner to get started and after hearing the sound of laughter, he and the physician entered her apartment. No longer able to claim that she was ill, Ms. Scalchi sang that night.

• Two feisty Church of Christ preachers, A.G. Freed and Foy E. Wallace, Jr., were invited to dinner. Their hostess asked them if they wanted coffee. Mr. Freed was against drinking coffee, so he said, “No, I’m a Christian.” Mr. Wallace saw that this remark embarrassed the hostess, so he said, “Pour me a cup. I’m a Christian, too, but I didn’t let it make a fool out of me.”

• When George Balanchine took his New York City Ballet on tour to his native Russia, many dancers found Russian food unappetizing. Suzanne Farrell once mentioned to him that she liked the omelets, and trying to be helpful, Mr. Balanchine arranged with the Russian cooks to feed her omelets for breakfast, lunch, and supper. She ate hundreds of eggs during the tour.

• Doug Gilbert, a drama critic for the New York World-Telegram, once had a chance to get involved in theater production. He was having dinner in a restaurant with a producer who wanted to hire him, but misfortune struck. Mr. Gilbert had ordered clam spaghetti and he had his mouth full when he suddenly sneezed — his mouth opened, and the clam spaghetti flew onto the face of the producer.

• These days, people are very sanitary in their eating habits; however, early in the 20th century, they were not. When Anna Russell was growing up in England, the maid used to leave a big bowl outside, and the milkman would ladle milk into it. By the time the maid brought the milk inside the house, several flies would be floating in it, but things like that didn’t bother people back then.

• Johannes Brahms enjoyed good food. One day, his doctor ordered him to stop eating rich food. The very next day, the doctor saw Mr. Brahms in a Viennese restaurant eating a feast of very rich food. After listening to his doctor’s criticisms, Mr. Brahms replied, “Do you suppose I’m going to starve to death just to be able to live a few more years?”

• As a young woman traveling from town to town to make money by singing, Emma Abbott was often forced to eat less than she should. Once, she was so hungry that she sold her long hair in order to get money to buy food. Fortunately, she was discovered by opera singer Clara Louise Kellogg, who helped make her rich and famous.

• Dr. Samuel Johnson disliked Scotland. At a dinner party, his hostess served a Scottish dish, then asked how he liked it. Dr. Johnson said, “Madam, it is a dish fit only for pigs.” His hostess replied, “Let me help you to more of it.”

• During the Russian Revolution, food was scarce. The mother of young ballerina Illaria Obidenna Ladré got hold of some butter and used the butter as payment to Ms. Vaganova, a ballet teacher, for private lessons for Illaria.

• A little boy wondered why at every suppertime, the family had to pray for its daily bread, instead of simply praying once a week. His older brother knew the answer: “We have to pray every day so the bread will be fresh.”

• As a youngster, H. Allen Smith’s father loved bananas. Once, he got hold of an entire stalk of bananas and ate every one. For the rest of his life, he couldn’t stand to be in the same room with a banana, much less eat one.

• Queen Liliukalani of Hawaii once met Queen Victoria of England and told her that she had English blood in her veins. Queen Victoria was surprised to hear this, but Queen Liliukalani explained, “One of my ancestors ate Captain Cook.”

• Q: Who thought up the idea of serving whipped cream on iced coffee or hot chocolate? A: The Italian Domenico Barbaja (1778-1841), who made a small fortune after his drinks became fashionable.

• In his old age, Gioacchino Rossini wrote piano pieces to amuse his guests. He titled one Hors d’oeuvres; its movements were titled “Radishes,” “Gherkins and Butter,” and “Anchovies.”

• Wolf Mankowitz’ father knew one of the last African Basuto chiefs who had been a cannibal. He asked the chief what human flesh had tasted like, and the chief replied, “It was delicious.”

• Mark Twain always ate breakfast, no matter how much work he had to do. According to Mr. Twain, “When I have something that I must do before I get my breakfast, I always get up and get my breakfast first.”

• Yogi Berra was once asked if he wanted his pizza cut into four slices, or eight. He replied, “Four. I don’t think I can eat eight slices.”

• “A cucumber should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing.” — Samuel Johnson.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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