An article about Baltimore in Gourmet magazine's current issue transported Haussner's restaurant from Highlandtown to Fell's Point; attributed artwork belonging to the Baltimore Museum of Art to the Walters; attributed to the Walters masterpieces that don't exist; misspelled Barbara Mikulski's name, and inflated the city's population from 736,000 to 2.5 million.
Such gaffes would embarrass any reputable publication, but they should be especially mortifying to a magazine whose founding editor was a Baltimorean -- Pearl V. Metzelthin.
The editorship of Gourmet was only one of this remarkable woman's accomplishments. The chatelaine of an imperial German embassy, she circled the globe five times, lived in 11 countries, was presented at three imperial courts, spoke eight languages, including fluent Chinese -- and watched her husband die of a disease brought on by malnutrition.
It was his death in famine-plagued, post-World War I Europe that inspired Mrs. Metzelthin -- who had studied medicine both at Johns Hopkins and in Berlin -- to take courses in nutrition at the Sorbonne in Paris and the University of Berlin, as well as in German dietetic clinics. A life-long interest in food, first sparked by her craving for American corn on the cob, sweet potatoes and peanuts while living overseas as a girl, became not just an obsession but her profession.
Born Pearl Neufeld in Baltimore around 1886, she left the city at the age of 7 when her father took the family on a business trip to Europe. Her mother died on the journey, and Pearl and several of her sisters were placed in a boarding school in Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland).
She returned briefly to Baltimore, where she taught German and French and took some medical courses at Hopkins, then returned to Europe. While studying medicine in Berlin, she met Theodore Metzelthin (pronounced Met-zel-teen), a German diplomat, whom she married in 1912. They honeymooned in Siam, then were posted to China. There the Metzelthins lived in comparative splendor, with 32 servants.
With the outbreak of World War I in 1914 China declared war against Germany. The Metzelthins embarked on a hazardous, 45-day escape from the country in sedan chairs, a leaky Chinese junk, on horseback and on foot in order to reach a port from which they sailed for San Francisco. They crossed the United States, sailed from New York to Iceland, then journeyed to Scandinavia and finally reached Germany, exhausted. Although a native American, Mrs. Metzelthin remained in Germany throughout World War I.
After her husband died in 1922, Mrs. Metzelthin was left to fend for herself. She began an incredibly eclectic career as a nutrition expert, public speaker, aviation pioneer, teacher, writer and editor. Between 1924 and 1927, she lectured in 41 of the United States, spoke to audiences overseas and even gave radio addresses on dietetics in several languages. In Baltimore, she lectured at the Women's Club of Roland Park, Har Sinai Synagogue and the Zion Church. She enlivened her talks by displaying -- and sometimes wearing -- centuries-old Chinese costumes given to her by oriental aristocrats she had known.
Mrs. Metzelthin returned to the U.S. permanently in 1930 and became director of research in regional foods and consumer habits for the Wiles Biscuit Company in New York. In 1937, she went to work for American Airlines and designed equipment for preparing the first comprehensive hot meals ever served on board U.S. passenger aircraft. She earned the sobriquet ''the flying dietitian,'' logging some 92,000 miles by air -- a daunting effort even today.
In 1939, she returned to Baltimore (where she still had relatives) to write ''Wide World Cook Book,'' published in 1940. It contained 500 recipes she gathered from 76 countries during her years of international travel.
When Gourmet's founding publisher, Earl MacAusland, asked Mrs. Metzelthin to become the magazine's first editor in 1941, she helped set its style by hiring such diverse and renowned writers as Clementine Paddleford, the New York Herald Tribune's prototypical food writer,author M. F. K. Fisher and theater critic George Jean Nathan, who had been H. L. Mencken's co-editor on The Smart Set and The American Mercury.
Mrs. Metzelthin left Gourmet in August 1943. She died on Long Island on New Year's Eve, 1947.