1940s Archive

An Alphabet for Gourmets

continued (page 4 of 8)

My brother poured the chilled white wine with a flourish, in a napkin, assuming what had always been Father's prerogative … and later I served the great casserole of spaghetti, and it was without its eternal “family” accompaniment of rich sauce, and it was doubly delicious for that flaunting of tradition.

The Tipo was good. The Tipo flowed. So, happy magic, did our talk. There we were, solidly one for those moments at least, leaning our arms easily along the cool wood, reaching without thought for our little cups of hot, bitter coffee or our glasses, not laughing perhaps as the families do in the pictures and the stories, but with our eyes loving and deep, one to another. It was good, worth the planning. It made the other necessary mass meals more endurable, more a part of being that undeniable rock, the Family.

G is for Gluttony…

… and why and how it is that. It is a curious fact that no man likes to call himself a glutton, and yet each of us has in him a trace of gluttony, potential or actual. I cannot believe that there exists a single coherent human being who will not confess, at least to himself, that once or twice he has stuffed to the bursting point, on anything from quails financière to flapjacks, for no other reason than the beastlike satisfaction of his belly. In fact, I pity anyone who has not permitted himself this sensual experience, if only to determine what his own private limitations are, and where, for himself alone, gourmandism ends and gluttony begins.

It is different for each of us, of course, and the size of a man's paunch has little to do with the kind of appetite which fills it. Diamond Jim Brady, for instance, is more often than not called “the greatest glutton in American history,” and so on, simply because he had a really enormous capacity for food. To my mind he was not gluttonous, but rather monstrous, in that his stomach was about six times the normal size. The obvious fact that he had to eat at least six times as much as a normal man did not make him a glutton. He was, instead, Gargantuan, in the classical sense.

His taste was keen and sure to the time of his death, and that he ate nine portions of sole Marguery, the night George Rector brought the recipe back to New York from Paris especially for him, does not mean that he gorged himself upon it, but simply that he had room for it.

I myself would like to be able to eat that much of something I really delight in and can recognize overtones of envy in the way lesser mortals so easily damned Brady as a glutton, even in the days of excess when he flourished.

Probably never again will this country see so many fat rich men as at the end of the last century, copper kings and railroad millionaires and such, literally stuffing themselves to death in imitation of Diamond Jim, whose abnormally large stomach coincided so miraculously with the period. He ate a hundred men like “Bet-You-a-Million” Gates into their oversized coffins, simply because he was a historical accident, and it is interesting to speculate on what his influence would be today, when most of the “robber barons” have gastric ulcers and lunch on crackers and milk at their desks. Certainly it is unfashionable, now, to overeat in public, and the few real trenchermen left to us are careful to practice their gastronomical excesses in the name of various honorable and respected food-and-wine societies.

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