Friday, June 13, 2014

Dinner of the Thirteen Club, 1907.

Warning: if you suffer from triskaidekaphobia (morbid fear of the number 13) – read no further!

The members of The Thirteen Club of New York had an especially good time at their regular dinners - held on the thirteenth of the month - when that day fell on a Friday, as it does today. In a post several years ago I described the club’s raison d’être and general shenanigans (including of course a menu), and I featured one more of their dinners in Menus from History. It being the thirteenth of the month today, I want to share with you the details of the club dinner on July 13, 1907 (a Saturday) as reported in the New York Times the following day. As was their usual routine, the number 13 figured prominently in all parts of the evening, including the dinner menu, and many attempts were made to tempt fate by defying commonly-held superstitious beliefs – one of which clearly backfired on this occasion!

Hard knocks for All Superstitions at the Annual Dinner at Brighton Beach.
Efforts to break the old-time superstitions and prove that thirteen is not a hoodoo were not as successful as they might have been when tried by 213 members of the Thirteen Club in banquet hall No. 13 of the Brighton Beach Hotel last night.
            Most of the 213 guests assembled at 13 minutes after 6 o’clock for the purpose of attending a reception at that hour. The reception did not start until 13 minutes after that time, and at 13 minutes 7 o’clock the hour named for taking seats at the tables set for thirteen guests each, it was a thirteen to one shot that there would be a delay.
            There were thirteen horses scheduled for the big Suburban at the Brighton Beach track yesterday, and many times thirteen people assembled at the track to watch the ponies run. Many of these took a thirteen to one shot, and won, and they had to spend their winnings in food and wine.
            The assembly filled the various dining salons to such an extent that it was two hours and thirteen minutes before the members of the Thirteen Club could gain access to the dining room, and then there was another delay of thirteen minutes to patch up the bruised and bleeding nose of Secretary J.R. Arabanell – received by being struck squarely in the face by the falling of a ladder he was hanging over the door to defy the old superstition of walking under a ladder.
            With these few mishaps, the dinner started off in great glee, and merriment reigned for several hours. Mirrors were smashed, salt was spilled promiscuously, punch and wine were drunk out of miniature skulls, and under dimmed lights old superstitions was buried with solemn ceremony, a huge black coffin, properly inscribed, being carried through the banquet hall on the shoulders of thirteen members of the club.
            …. Other speakers were Judge William B. Green, who told what it meant to be scared by suspicion. To prove his lack of belief in any superstition, he smashed a large looking glass into smithereens and defied the seven years of bad luck which are supposed by some to follow such an act.
            Each of the guests was furnished with thirteen littleneck clams on the half shell, thirteen radishes, thirteen olives, thirteen tablespoonfuls of clam consommé en tasse, broiled bluefish with thirteen small potatoes, thirteen grains of sweet corn on the cob, roast Philadelphia chicken thirteen weeks’ old, thirteen inches of watermelon in the rind, and thirteen drops of cognac, while a 13-year old Susanne Rocomore sang a thirteen-verse song entititled “I Just Cant Believe My Eyes,” and responded with thirteen verses of the old-time “Goo-Goo Eyes.”
            Just 13 minutes past midnight the 13th of July was voted the best 13th of the month celebration the club has had in thirteen years, then in groups of thirteen the tired and weary Thirteeners wended their weary way to the train, which pulled away from Brighton Beach just thirteen minutes later.

As the recipe for the day, may I tempt you with a little clam bouillon? Feel free to serve it in whatever quantity you wish, per guest.

Clam Bouillon
Wash and scrub with a brush one-half peck clams, changing the water several times. Put in kettle with three cups cold water, cover tightly, and steam until shells are well opened. Strain liquor, cool, and clear.
The Boston Cooking School Cookbook (1896)

Fannie Merritt Farmer.

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