Today’s weight-obsessed gastronomes, ever mindful of carbohydrates and calories, generally demur when dinner rolls are passed their way. Yet history reveals that such reticence is unusual. Centuries ago, the attitude prevailed that a meal without bread was no meal at all. Even kings made a show of their baked goods. When in 1663 Transylvanian Prince Mihály Apafi invited the entire Ottoman army to dine with him after a battle, he rolled out, among other tidbits, two-score enormous boules. So impressed with this display was the Turkish world traveler, Evliya Celebi, that he recorded it in his journal. “The meadows were covered with Hungarian carpets,” he writes, “onto which forty giant loaves were placed.” The king’s means of conveying the loaves to the hungry soldiers Calebi found equally impressive. “Each one had to be drawn on an oxcart,” he continues, for “each … was twenty paces long, and five paces wide, and as high as a full-grown man.”
Did the muffin boy trudging through London’s dark, dank streets ever curse the hot, buttery wares that forced him outdoors? Perhaps, though the thought of going penniless no doubt bedeviled him more. And perhaps as means of consolation his mind would settle on a remark made by Charles Dickens, who found that a cold night did wonders for the streets of London. Such wonder-working happened, he wrote, when “just enough damp” fell from the sky to “make the pavement greasy without cleansing it of any of its impurities.” If that falling damp also made the gaslights glow brighter and the small shops that lined the street “more splendid,” then so much the better.
A New York newspaper (the exact one is unkown) reported that one evening in the summer of 1907 a dinner was given thirty-five feet under the sea by the inventor of a submarine christened The Argonaut. He along with thirteen guests boarded his vessel, which was was anchored at Bridgeport, Connecticut, and sank below the waves to travel several miles along the ocean floor. Postprandial entertainment consisted of two divers exiting via a special compartment in order to display the virtues of “the patent diving suits” they had donned.