an excerpt from Jim Harrison's first Smoke Signals food column, EAT YOUR HEART OUT,
after being promoted from Assistant Food Editor to Top Chow

Dear Mike,

You said you were curious about my meals with Orson Welles, who of course, is a bit of a trencherman. The most memorable was at Ma Maison (the restaurant with the unlisted phone number out there in Glitzville.) The two of us were accompanied by a beautiful Hungarian countess who left in either boredom or disgust half way through the meal. You see, Mike, she was slender and could not comprehend our great, sad hearts, choked as they were with fatty deposits.

Orson began by clearing his palate with a half dozen bull shots in quick succession. As we were hungry, the first course was a half-pound of fresh caviar with an iced bottle of Stolichnaya. (Politics! In Palm Beach 2 years ago a liquor store refused to supply me with Stolichnaya because of what the Russians were doing in Afghanistan. I explained to him that the residents of that sorry country of Afghanistan were Muslims and don't drink vodka. My account was such that I got my vodka.) The next course was a wonderful ragu of sweetbreads in pastry covered by a half-quart of black truffle sauce, accompanied by a rare old burgundy, the name of which would mean nothing to the impoverished hippies who read your magazine. Then without a moment's rest arrives a whole poached Atlantic salmon in a sorrel sauce and a white Bordeaux. At this point the countess wrapped herself in her cape and spun into the night.

Her departure enabled me to ask Orson how he snagged Rita Hayworth at the top of her form. He said he was in Rio at the time her picture appeared on the cover of Life magazine; he took the next plane to L.A. and literally brow beat her into the marriage bed within ten days. It seems, though, that romantically the great man's true weakness was for hat check girls. To tell you the truth, I was beginning to lose some of my appetite at this point, my life at the time being submerged in a number of business and romantic failures. My spirits arose however when the next course arrived; an immense plater of slices of rare duck breasts in green peppercorn sauce accompanied by beautifully braised and sculpted root vegetables. With this, quite naturally, we had a very rare Romanee-Conti. I was astounded that Mr. Welles had remembered the day before over an ample lunch that this was my favorite item, perfected by the great Paul Bocuse before he submerged himself in the cuisine minceur, a method even more fraudulent than psychiatry. This last course nearly put me under and I looked down happily at the record of the meal left in the shirt front. I rejected the platter of desserts and rushed to the bathroom. A certain unnamed actress had given me a vial of white powder which she told me I should use to keep awake. I know you can vouch for the fact that I don't use drugs, but this seemed an exceptional occasion. I poured the whole gram on my palm and snorted heavily so that anyone coming in the bathroom might think I was washing my face. I have no memory really about what we talked about other than food and sex.

But back to food and politics. . .I won't drink Polish vodka because of the long record of anti-Semitism in that country. I generally avoid German restaurants for the same reason. So I am not without my politics, am I? I avoid the cooking of my motherland, Sweden, because it is a land without garlic, a land without sunshine. I avoid Jewish cooking because it is basically lousy. A certain tribe mentioned in Levy-Strauss's The Savage Mind eats bear shit for constipation, not political reasons. Perhaps when no one is looking Nancy Reagan licks her new china. I do know that of all Mother Westwind's children, the mammalian group, man alone cooks. Man alone is capable of looking over a girl's shoulder while he fucks at a coffee table laden with 15 appetizers, as he stares into the blank eyes of the Dungeness crab that will be transformed into a mere turd.

©  1982-2008 Smoke Signals

to be continued in '08 number 2