During a winter tour of Europe in 1879, Mark Twain, faced with what he perceived to be the utterly dismal nature of the continental breakfast, was driven to daydream of divine intervention. Addressing the European breakfast in ‘A Tramp Abroad,’ he wrote:
“Imagine a poor exile contemplating that inert thing; and imagine an angel suddenly sweeping down out of a better land and setting before him a mighty porterhouse steak an inch and a half thick, hot and sputtering from the griddle; dusted with fragrant pepper; enriched with little melting bits of butter of the most unimpeachable freshness and genuineness; the precious juices of the meat trickling out and joining the gravy, archipelagoed with mushrooms; a township or two of tender, yellowish fat gracing an outlying district of this ample county of beefsteak; the long white bone which divides the sirloin from the tenderloin still in its place; and imagine that the angel also adds a great cup of American home-made coffee, with the cream a-froth on top, some real butter, firm and yellow and fresh, some smoking-hot biscuits, a plate of hot buckwheat cakes, with transparent syrup — could words describe the gratitude of this exile?”
But it wasn’t just breakfast. Appalled by the quality of every last bit of food available in continental hotels, Twain felt compelled to compose a fantasy menu for the feast he wished to find awaiting him when he stepped off the steamer upon his return to American shores. The menu included eighty items.
Back in October, at Bubby’s DUMBO location, chef/owner Ron Silver teamed up with Mark Beahrs, author of ‘Twain’s Feast: In Search of America’s Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens,’ to actually create Twain’s fantasy feast, within “the bounds of sanity and reason.” Of the meal, Ron said, “This is the pinnacle of my cooking life, cooking this dinner.”
Bubby’s released a short film covering the project yesterday:
For the curious, here’s Twain’s complete menu, as published in ‘A Tramp Abroad,’ his account of his European tour.