Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bavarian Strawberry Pudding

New York City, 
1935


In her memoir This Time Together, comedienne Carol Burnett reminisces about the summer of 1959, when the musical comedy Once Upon a Mattress was enjoying a healthy run. “A few of us in the cast decided to splurge on Saturday night after the show and treat ourselves to a sundae at the most expensive ice cream parlor in New York City: Rumpelmayer’s, in the St. Moritz Hotel on Central Park South, she recalls. I was flush with the excitement of being in a hit stage show and raking in $80 a week to boot. I could afford a Rumpelmayer’s treat.1

“Rumpelmayer’s was a pretty posh ice cream parlor. You could spot familiar faces there anytime after the bows had been taken and the lights had dimmed on Broadway for the night. Some folks went to nightclubs and bars, but those who had a sweet tooth and who also wanted to be seen went to Rumpelmayer’s. I remember having peeked in a few months earlier and spotting Marlene Dietrich in a gorgeous gray pantsuit at the counter, elegantly digging a long-handled spoon into a whipped cream goodie.”

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Survival of the Fittest

New York City, 
1882

As his three-month visit to the United States in 1882 was coming to an end, British philosopher Herbert Spencer dreaded having to attend a dinner being held in his honor. Spencer was an insomniac who could get irritable and grumpy, especially when something threatened to encroach on his privacy. Nevertheless, for the two hundred distinguished gentlemen who planned to attend the farewell banquet, there was a growing sense of excitment about finally getting to meet the great man before he returned to England.1 After dinner was concluded and the tables cleared, they could look forward to lighting their cigars and settling in for a long evening of speeches that promised to touch on “intelligent design, the proper role of government, America’s place in the world, and God’s existence,” all burning issues of the Victorian era.2