A review H. L. Mencken did for the American...


April 01, 1991

HERE IS a review H. L. Mencken did for the American Mercury, in December 1930, that we happened upon and now pass along, condensed:

"THE BOSTON COOKING-SCHOOL COOK-BOOK, by Fannie Merritt Farmer. $2.50. 831pp.

"Miss Farmer, I take it, has long since joined the angel host, but her cooking school in Boston still goes on, and so does her cook-book. . . First published in 1896. . . its circulation to date, including the initial printing to the present revision, runs to 1,436,000 copies. Obviously, a technical work in such heavy demand must have some merits. A glance shows them here: clarity, comprehensiveness and common sense.

"The weaknesses of the work lie in two directions. First, it is written by a woman and addressed to women, and hence a certain tea-table preciosity gets into some of the recipes. What male with a normal respect for his pylorus would actually eat a rasher of celery fritters. . .?

"The other defect of the book apparently flows from the fact that it was hatched in Boston, where lower- middle-class British notions of cookery still prevail. The recipe for terrapin a la Maryland, with its use of flour, would make a true Marylander howl, and so would the recipe for fried soft crabs -- not soft-shell crabs, but simply soft crabs -- which prescribes frying them like doughnuts in deep fat, with a coating of crumb butter. This last is an obscenity beyond belief."

...* * * BEFORE DEMOCRATS get too down in the dumps about their chances of unseating President Bush in 1992, let them take some encouragement from the 1948 campaign.

At that time, there was virtual unanimity among the political cognoscenti that Republican Tom Dewey would defeat Harry Truman.

Life magazine ran a glamorous picture of Dewey, describing him without any hedging adjectives as "the next president of the United States."

Newsweek magazine polled 50 of the nation's top political "experts" about the election outcome the week before polling day.

The result: 50-0 that Dewey would win.

Newspapers, including this one, had pieces ready on a Dewey triumph that never happened.

Skeptical readers might discern a touch of self-interest in the above commentary. They will accuse Gallimaufry of trying to promote a real contest so there will be a constant flow of material to fill the editorial columns.

And they will be right.

...* * * IT IS AMAZING what wisdom can be found hidden inside Chinese fortune cookies. To top off a carry-out meal, we found the following: "How to stay young? Keep in good health and lie about your age."

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