To be a gourmet you must start early, as you must begin riding early to be a good horseman. You must live in France, your father must have been a gourmet. Nothing in life must interest you but your stomach.
This is absolutely a book for the hammock on a summer afternoon. It will sweep you to 1914 when Bemelmans began as a busboy at New York’s long-gone Ritz Hotel at Madison and 46th Street and worked his way through commit de rang, waiter, and banquet manager. It will lift you through space into crazed kitchens and plush dining rooms, and it will introduce you to characters who don’t exist anymore–the cooks and sou-chefs and dogs bodies who’ve
been replaced by media-glorified thug poseurs.
He was born in the Tyrol, crashed out at his Uncle’s hotel, where it was rumored he’d shot a waiter, and chose emigration over prison.With wit, happy good-luck, and connected friends he made his way as an artist and writer. In one essay in this book, a mentoring waiter buys him pencils, paper, and cartooning books, determined that this talented young man should not end up with the flat feet and sour disposition of a life-long waiter.
If his loose-lined drawings look familiar, it’s because you recognize the style from his Madeline series. Their success funded and fueled more drawing and writing–essays here on taking the cure, visiting Cuba, eating caviar, Hollywood lunches at Romanoff’s and the studio commissary. And to complete the scrapbook feeling, are the reproduced menus from Grand Vefour, Lucas Carton, and New York’s own Le Pavillon.
Excuse me, I’m headed for an afternoon in the hammock.