America’s Most Prodigious Eater

March 24, 2016

IMG_5044If New York City has one prodigal glutton, it has to be – without any question – Diamond Jim Brady. A millionaire railroad magnate and rare jewel enthusiast, Diamond Jim haunted the nouveu-riche lobster palaces of the theater district in the late 1890s, eating everything in (and out of) sight. His regular was Rector’s, a cavernous Delmonico’s competitor that served over 1,000 people per day. Still, Rector called Diamond Jim “the 25 best customers I ever had.”

Here’s a roundup of Diamond Jim’s daily routine (From America Eats Out, by John Mariani):

“a hefty breakfast of eggs, breads, muffins, grits, pancakes, steaks, chops, fried potatoes, and pitchers of orange juice. He’d stave off mid-morning hunger by downing two or three dozen clams or oysters, then repair to Delmonico’s or Rector’s for a lunch that consisted of more oysters and clams, lobsters, crabs, a joint of beef, pie, and more orange juice. In midafternoon, allegedly, came a snack “of more seafood,” followed by dinner: “Three dozen oysters (the largest Lynnhavens were saved for him), a dozen crabs, six or seven lobsters, terrapin soup,” and a steak, with a dessert of “a tray full of pastries… and two pounds of bonbons.” Later in the evening, allegedly, came an après-theater supper of “a few game birds and more orange juice.”

I find this all a little specious.  And I am not alone: David Kamp did some interesting sleuthing on the subject.

Still, that’s no reason to abstain from Diamond Jim’s ultimate indulgence. Behold this recipe, from Rector’s cookbook, published in 1949. Legend has it that Diamond Jim was so enamored of this dish he asked that George Rector send a cook to France to study the technique. Voila: IMG_5046IMG_5040

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