Over our evening meal at home tonight, I laughed as I remembered a joke told – I think – by Woody Allen, many years ago:
There were two women at a holiday resort and one said “Ah – this food is terrible!” And the other said: “Yes! And the portions are so small!”
(In case you’re wondering what an amuse bouche is – it’s French for something to tickle your tastebuds – you get it on menus at expensive restaurants. It’s something unusual and dramatic and in a very small portion.)
I reckon that joke is about 40 years old plus – but my family has one older than that – a relative was told it in school 60 years ago. Nobody laughed. And the teacher who told it said to go home and tell it to their parents, because they would be amused. (Rightly judging that the grownups would be more likely to ‘get’ absurdist humour). And so the relative told it to her parents and it went down big; her father guffawed and almost keeled over. Here is the old joke:
Two people were at a restaurant, for a meal. When a bowl of mayonnaise arrived, one woman began to rub it into her hair. “What are you doing, rubbing mayonnaise into your hair?” asked her startled companion? “Oh, I’m sorry” she replied. “I thought it was blancmange.”
If the joke doesn’t make sense; don’t worry. It’s the lack of sense which makes it funny. It is just absurd.
Today somehow being a day for aged jokes about food, I quoted one about 150 years old, today to a friend who mentioned pâté – quoting the wit Sydney Smith (1771-1845) – who said that his friend, Henry Luttrell’s “idea of heaven was eating pâté de foie gras to the sound of trumpets”.
Sydney Smith was accustomed at one point in his life to London dinnerparties of great elegance – he did enjoy his food – but then his career as a minister took him to live in the depths of the countryside where tastes and food were simpler. He took this change well, but noted that he now lived “Twelve miles from a lemon.”
This became the title of a small book about him which I rejoice to say I have upon my bookshelves.
I wonder what old jokes about food other people can remember.