The moveable feast : Famous food quotes


Everyone says something about food. Even me. I am told that when I was five years old I sat before a quivering red jelly and declared that I was waiting for it to die before I ate it. The famous actor and wit WC Fields said, “I like children — fried.” And Woody Allen is down on record as, “I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead. Not sick, not wounded, dead.”

Since food is such a common — if extraordinary — topic you have almost all the greats through the ages saying something about it. George Bernard Shaw, the writer and playwright who wrote in Arms And The Man about the chocolate cream soldier who refused to fight and filled his pistols with chocolate creams said, “There is no sincerer love than the love of food.”

A little later another writer Virginia Woolf said, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

Cervantes who invented the mad knight Don Quixote wrote, “It is a true saying that a man must eat a peck of salt with his friend before he knows him.” And to Mark Twain is attributed that lovely saying about food, “Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you want and let the food fight it out inside.”

A humorist Steven Wright summed up the contemporary eating experience in America by saying, “I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time’. So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.”

Position can change people and their view of food. As a child Confucius was brought up in poverty and lived on a diet of rice and cabbage with possibly a little pork and bean broth. As a man in 501 BC Confucius accepted the governorship of a small town and distinguished himself in his job but was unhappy with his wife as she didn’t fulfill his expectation as a cook - the meat sauce was never right nor the meat perfectly cut, the rice was never white enough and the minced meat rarely fine enough. Nag, nag, nag. According to him, “The way you cut your meat reflects the way you live.”

I have used the food critic and Chef Brillat Savarin’s quote before because it is just so very true, “The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star.”

Two fictional characters gave me my truest quotes. Said Forrest Gump, “My momma always said, life is like a box of chocolates. You never know quite what you’re going to get.” And from the children’s programme Sesame Street we have Miss Piggy saying, “Never eat more than you can lift”.

It is Orson Welles who rather tastelessly echoed President Kennedy by saying, “Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” His other food witticism was, “My doctor told me to stop having my intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people.”

Calvin Trillin the columnist gives me some quotes to close with like, “The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original has never been found”. He adds about England, “Even today, well-brought-up English girls are taught by their mothers to boil all veggies for at least a month and a half, just in case one of the dinner guests turns up without his teeth.” And finally it is Calvin Trillin who says as I do, “I don’t care where I sit, as long as I get fed”.