The Way of All Food

Damon Runyon

Seven orders of chicken, 10 orders of potatoes, 9 glasses of orange juice, 2 quarts of milk, 1 giant salad, 5 egg salads, 5 orders of rolls, 5 orders of pie with ice cream.

This is the food and drink consumed at one sitting by a soldier of Fort McPherson, an incident that for some reason (not entirely clear to me) was deemed worthy of publication in the newspapers with pictures of the consumer.

I think it possible that the newspapers consider Salvatori a big eater. I would not say so. I would say he is a fairly hearty eater, not big. But you do not hear much about real big eaters since rationing came in and, among the present crop, I suppose Salvatori may stand out. But he is not big.

Certainly he is not to be mentioned in the same breath with some of the old time eaters I have written about in this column, such as “Diamond Jim” Brady, a millionaire gourmet of years ago. Do you see where the Salvatori menu includes nine glasses of orange juice? Well, “Diamond Jim” used to drink the juice of a case of oranges on opening one eye in the morning and another case on opening the other eye, according to report; and after that would have a dozen porterhouse steaks smothered in chops for breakfast.

I love the exploit credited to “Diamond Jim” in a raw oyster eating contest against the champion of the State of Maryland who stipulated that a barrel of raw oysters be placed in front of each contestant, the one first devouring the contents of his barrel within a specified time to be awarded the belt.

Well, Jim is supposed to have demurred at the conditions because he was not familiar with oysters, but the Maryland champ was insistent and finally Jim asked permission to go in a side room of the hall where the contest was held and consider the situation before deciding whether to go through with the katch, or default.

He came out of the room in about half an hour wiping his mouth with a big silk handkerchief, nodded okay and went on and won the struggle hands down, eating all his oysters while his opponent quit at two-thirds of the barrel.

“But do you know,” Jim is supposed to have said afterwards, “I wasn’t dead sure I could eat a whole barrel of oysters until I went in that side room and tried one.”

The mighty Indian athlete, Jim Thorpe, was once accounted an eater good enough to win an Olympic eating contest if there had been one on the programme, but I doubt that he can eat up to his old form. He is getting on in years and, as a man ages, his stomach shrinks.

At least that is what the medicos tell me and it seems borne out by the case of Feab Smith Williams, otherwise George Godfrey, a large prize fighter who was also sometimes known as “The Black Shadow of Leiperville.” In his youth George is said to have tossed off two dozen stewed muskrats under the impression that they were squirrels, but the best he could do against the same fodder later in life was twenty-three at a sitting.

It has long been my ambition to develop the greatest eater in history and for a time I thought I had the man in Walter Stewart, a brilliant young sports writer from down Memphis way. He was on Broadway but a short time, but he had restaurant keepers hiding their chairs when he hove in sight to avoid serving him at the prices that then prevailed.

Stewart went back to Memphis after awhile to keep from starving to death on short portions here. Anyway, he is out of consideration for the time being, and it is no secret that I have centered my hopes on Bill Girard, a handsome picture producer at Twentieth Century-Fox in Hollywood.

It is my opinion that the eating of a cooked elephant would be an eating exploit that would go ringing down the corridors of time and an elephant is the goal of my ambition for my champ. Bill is now up to eating a horse, so he thinks an elephant will be a shoveover for him in a few months.

But what is the use of me telling you these things? You will probably think I am just fibbing.