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Food Friendly May: Sensible Food Philosophy From William Gaxton | Manolo for the Big Girl

Food Friendly May: Sensible Food Philosophy From William Gaxton

Not many people know the name William Gaxton anymore, but he was at one time a Hollywood star and popular comedian. He’s shown here with co-star Lucille Ball in the 1943 film Best Foot Forward.

I’ve never seen the film. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen William Gaxton on the screen. I know him primarily from a book. A cookbook.

In 1948 one Grace Turner published a collection of recipes by celebrities of the day, along with brief prose sketches of the stars who submitted recipes called – prosaically enough, The Celebrities’ Cookbook. Some of them like Henry Fonda, Marlene Dietrich, and Burgess Merideth are well-remembered today. Others, like Gaxton, Margo, and Margaret Speaks, are largely forgotten.

Sadly, reading the biographical material sometimes feels like a lot of modern hand-wringing about food and weight. Milton Berle talks a great deal about watching his weight by eating a lot of salad. Kate Smith has a diet dessert recipe to offer. Billie Burke takes it as read that nobody would ever, ever, ever want to be fat. And the list goes on.

But William Gaxton talks about how important it is to eat well, in terms of filling yourself up.

I know what it is like to fill up on water until you almost bubble with it, and just can’t hold any more. That’s why I am in sympathy with so many young boys who get in trouble with the law. Their temptation often comes from empty stomachs. As for actors – why a beef stew would have saved many a young actor’s career!

He goes on to talk with great enjoyment about eating French fries in Belgium, his favorite potato salad, the spinach salad Al Jolson taught him to make, what kind of sauce he likes on his spaghetti, how to tenderize a tough cut of beef, and how much he loves serving a cheese course to dinner guests in the European style.

He also speaks in praise of the European style of eating.

… as a people we are inclined to eat because the whistle blows. We rush through our meals, instead of lingering to enjoy them. Mr. Gaxton believes we should take a tip from our European neighbors and slow down long enough to savor a fine dish finely cooked and well served.

And you know what? I absolutely agree with Mr. Gaxton. Whether you’re eating a slice of toast, or an elaborate banquet, it’s worth taking a moment or two to just enjoy the aromas, the textures, and the flavors of food.

Also? Nobody functions better on an empty stomach.

3 Responses to “Food Friendly May: Sensible Food Philosophy From William Gaxton”

  1. Alexie May 1, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

    I live on a street that has an Italian deli run by an Italian. My partner and I were having lunch there the other day and were eating quickly, because we wanted to go and watch the rest of the Royal Wedding. The Italian guy came out and told us off for eating fast! He didn’t want to see his food treated like that.

  2. Twistie May 1, 2011 at 5:55 pm #

    See, Alexie, this is precisely what take out and various recording devices are designed for. Record major events like the royal wedding (hey, I wasn’t getting up at three in the morning to watch it through eye crud and caffeine depravation!), grab some take out, and take a few minutes with just the food.

    I think I love this guy running the deli.

  3. amber May 2, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    This is what the Italians in Eat Pray Love were talking about, no?

    I was sitting in my pajamas over the weekend watching TV and wondering why that wouldn’t be okay. Someone want to fill me in?