David Bruce: Food Anecdotes

William M. Gaines, the publisher of MAD magazine, loved food – and lots of it. One day, he treated the staff to a meal at the Gotham Bar and Grill, and when he ordered, he ordered LOTS of food. In fact, the number of entrees ordered at a MAD dinner usually numbered twice the number of diners. For one thing, Mr. Gaines would order a few entrees for himself only, as well as a few that were simply placed on the table so that anyone could help himself if he was so inclined. On this occasion, he and his staff ordered so many appetizers, entrees, desserts, and wines that a waitress appeared on an errand from the kitchen. “The chef sent me out,” she said. “He wants to know, who are you?” On one occasion, the wait staff brought over an additional table – not for extra diners, but simply to have room for all the food and drink that had been ordered. (This occasion turned into a four-hour feeding frenzy.) MAD writer Dick DeBartolo was a dessert freak, and at his first meal with Mr. Gaines, he told him that he always looked at the dessert menu first, so he would know whether to order a heavy or a light entree. Mr. Gaines said to order whatever he wanted for the entree and let him take care of dessert. When it was time for dessert, Mr. Gaines ordered one of every choice, so the waiter brought over an entire dessert cart and left it.

When figure skater Sasha Cohen was a little girl, her parents would not let her eat junk food at home, so she had to get spoiled at her grandparents’ house. She remembers her grandmother’s brand of discipline: “Sasha, you cannot have ice cream if you do not finish your doughnut first!” Sasha was a lover of ice cream, even at age 5, so she loved her grandmother’s strict rule: No child is allowed to eat ice cream more than three times per day. Her parents would sometimes indulge her with a kid’s ice cream cone away from the house, and Sasha remembers once requesting of the salesperson, “Please make my kid’s cone extra large.” He thought that this was funny, and so the scoop that he gave her was huge. She once ordered ice cream in a cup at a restaurant, but the server forgot to bring her a spoon. No problem. Young Sasha knew that spoons were located in a big container nearby, so she went to the container, which was high above her head, and she started pulling on it. Soon, the container and lots of silverware tumbled noisily to the ground. Everyone in the restaurant grew quiet, but Sasha triumphantly held a spoon up and announced, “I got it!” The people in the restaurant applauded.

Queen Kaahumanu was the first feminist of Hawaii. When she was born, women on the islands had to live by many rules. For example, women were not allowed to eat with the men, and women were not allowed to eat bananas, or pork, or coconuts, or baked dog. However, when her husband, King Kamehameda died, Queen Kaahumanu decided to make a few changes. First, she became the joint ruler of the islands, along with Liholiho, her husband’s son by another wife. Then she and Liholiho’s mother started to change society by doing such things as eating bananas in front of the new king. The new king was open to the changes, and soon, the new king started eating at the same table with them. The Hawaiian people also welcomed the changes and made great changes in their way of living, including destroying many wooden idols.

During the Great Depression, people sometimes found it difficult to live on what they made, even when they had a job. Ed Smith started work at the Walt Disney studio, where he made a beginning salary that led to his living on turnips and bruised fruit. One day at work, because of malnutrition, he passed out. Later, his boss, Ben Sharpsteen, talked to his boss, Walt Disney himself, and recommended that the wages of beginning workers be raised. Mr. Disney agreed, and he raised the wages high enough that people such as Mr. Smith could afford to eat at a nearby greasy spoon restaurant with the other Disney employees.

• Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi once set a curfew of 11:30 p.m. for his team. Late one night, he visited a restaurant about four miles away from the Packers’ hotel. Unfortunately, his star end, Max McGhee, was also in the restaurant. Mr. Lombardi told Mr. McGhee that he was supposed to be at the hotel, but Mr. McGhee replied, “Not until 11:30 p.m., Coach.” Since the time was 11:28 p.m., Mr. Lombardi said, “That gives you exactly two minutes. Do you think you can make it?” Mr. McGhee thought for a moment, and then said, “Not against this head wind, Coach.”

In 1974, the citizens of Coacaloco, a small town in Mexico, decided that they needed a mayor because their mayor was corrupt and kept stealing the profits from the sales of the bananas they grew. Four thousand citizens stormed the mayor’s residence and found the mayor, Señor José Ramon del Cuet, hiding under a desk. They pulled him out and demanded that he resign. He refused, so the citizens brought in a box of bananas and forced him to begin eating them. After being forced to eat 12 pounds of bananas, Señor Cuet decided to resign as mayor.

Saint Teresa of Avila knew that for everything there was a season. Once, a visitor came to see her and was astonished to see her dining on roast partridge which had been given to her-after all, are holy people supposed to do that? She simply said, “There is a time for penance, and there is a time for partridge. Now is the time for partridge!” Not surprisingly, Teresa of Avila once prayed, “Lord, deliver me from sour-faced saints!”

During the 1950s, comedian Sid Caesar, star of “Your Show of Shows,” was so famous that when he ate fast food people would steal French fries from his plate to take home as souvenirs.

Copyright 2015 by David Bruce

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