Chemical cocktails

6 Nov

Hot on the heels of this weird tale, here’s another scoop brought to you by the New York Times (all the news that’s fit to print!):

A sad-eyed young man, very deliberate in all his movements, wandered into The Times office last night, produced a handful of notes and asked if he could see anybody. Then he corrected himself and said he could see perfectly well; but might he see some one?

“I am the sole unofficial survivor,” he observed, fixing the office boy with a single eye, while the other restlessly roved, “of a medical dinner—a synthetique—”

The office boy fled and summoned the largest reporter, to whom the visitor continued his tale.

“The entire menu,” he said, “was manufactured by a Professor of Chemistry, I got there late after the cocktails, so I escaped. I have tonsillitis, anyway. I have just put the last man in a cab. No, I err. The last man is leaning against the Astor bar asking the bartender such foolishness as this: ‘If an artificial egg is hatched in an incubator will the chicken have a wooden leg or a glass eye?’”

The Times reporter said he would be glad to hear more of this remarkable dinner, and the sad-eyed young man obliged with these details:

The synthetique dinner, where all the comestibles were manufactured on the spot from chemicals, was given at the Astor by Prof. Thomas B. Stillman, Ph.D. of Stevens Institute. His chief guests were two lawyers, Henry W. Goodrich of this city and James E. Howell of Newark. There were some unofficial guests besides.

The feast arose out of a discussion between the two lawyers and the professor at a dinner given in the latter’s honor by Mr Goodrich at the Players Club some time ago. The professor, in commenting on the excellence of this dinner, announced that most of this talk about adulterated foods was so much nonsense; that, although much food was artificial, a very small percentage was harmful to the dyspeptic centres. Then he undertook to be host and chef at a dinner of wholly artificial food, to be given at the Hotel Astor on Feb. 20.

At the hotel last night the two lawyers and a few unofficial guests found the professor bland and smiling. He donned an apron and disappeared into a small laboratory to manufacture a chemical cocktail, leaving Messrs. Goodrich and Howell and the others to look over this menu:

Cocktail Martini.      Cocktail aux Huitres.

Soup Claire a la Tortue Verte.

Biscuits Synthetique et Butterine.

Pompano au Court bouillon.

Vin blanc de Bourgogne.

Ris de Veau glacés au petits fois.

Rote Ptarmigan au Beurre et gelle de Grosseille rouge synthetique.

Salade de l’Aguacata, sauce synthetique.

Sorbet Annanas.

Crème glacée.

Café substitute.

Crème de menthe synthetique.

After each item appeared various chemical formulae.

The Professor, reassuming the rôle of host as the Martini cocktails were served, offered a toast to the good health of his guests. As the drain glasses were laid down he remarked: “Made of absinthine, alcohol, saccharine, and glacé jaune d’aniline, gentlemen.”

As each course was served, in the middle of its consumption, Prof. Stillman named the manufacture. The ptarmigan called forth expressions of amazement and approval. The Professor said: “I must confess that the ptarmigan is real. Time was limited, gentlemen, but let me draw your attention to the sauce synthetique which accompanies it. I manufactured it with a few chemicals. You may understand now how ‘splendid’ raspberry jelly can be sold for 12 cents a pound.”

The guests had to admit that they could not tell the difference. They asked, with a swift interchange of glances, if the Professor had the biscuits, a few crumbs of which were still remaining from the artificial turtle soup.

“Certainly,” said Prof. Stillman, “very simple. Fecule, tartare, eau distille, saccharine, bicarbonate de soda, and lait (complexe).”

At the last course, crème de menthe synthetique, the professor begged to be excused, as this required considerable care, entailing as it did the slow distillation by 250 volts of electricity of poivre, baume, sauge, canelly, racine de Iris, gingembre, and alcohol, with the final addition of green d’aniline.

Meantime word had gone around the unofficial guests that the Martini cocktail tasted just the same as the genuine exhilarator, but being artificial, lacked the usual results of frequent potions. This opinion was frequently expressed. And while the professor was carefully dropping the contents of a blue bottle as the final touch of the Salade de l’Aguacata the unofficial guests in various attitudes of eloquence were soon speculating on the probable results of harnessing a wigwam to a cotton reel and allowing the same to pass unobstructed.

“I don’t know,” concluded the sad-eyed young man who told the story, “if they ever reached the crème de menthe synthetique. I came away. Rather, I should say, my time was taken up in summoning electric lights—ah—cabs for my friends. I did not drink any of the artificial cocktails myself. I—I came a little late. And, anyhow,” with a strange departure from his deliberate manner, “I am suffering from tonsillitis.”

Prof. Stillman, when interviewed later, expressed some concern for the unofficial guests, but was sure that the two official guests had stood the dinner quite well.

“I have not the slightest fear of results,” he said. “Much of the food you eat every day is exactly the similar to what I made and had served here to-night.”

Mr Howell and Mr Goodrich were quite sure they had enjoyed the dinner immensely.

— “Chemical Cocktails Most Potent in Effect”, New York Times, 22 February 1906.

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