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.
Of those who could claim to have rested their head on a lion’s lower jaw, Isaac van Amburgh was the first. An intrepid animal trainer, Van Amburgh was said to have been unmatched in his feats of derring-do. He and his pride of tamed felines became something of an international sensation, commanding the attention of no less estimable a personage than Queen Victoria, who commissioned a portrait of him, so impressed was she by his talents. Others among the great and good stood equally astounded. The Duke of Wellington was reported to have asked Van Amburgh, “Were you ever afraid?,” to which the celebrated lion tamer responded, “The first time I am afraid, your grace, or that I fancy my pupils are no longer afraid of me, I shall retire from the wild beast line.”
In her 1918 cookbook One Hundred-Portion War Time Recipes, Bertha E. Nettleton, former manager of Columbia University’s Horace Mann Lunch Room, shares tips for feeding a crowd. “In the effort to plan menus which comply with suggestions and requirements of the Food Administration and which at the same time meet financial ends, the resources of the Institutional Manager or Lunch Room Director are taxed to the utmost,” she writes.
A nation at war taxes these resources all the more. Nettleton thus published her cookbook with “[t]he aim and purpose [of furnishing] recipes and suggestions helpful to those who are trying to cope with the present situation by increasing the variety of dishes which are palatable, nutritious, economical and practicable.” American doughboys could ship for Europe well-nourished, while noncombatants back home could do their part for the cause.