Reading Note:
Old Enough for Liebling
14 February 2018

I was only fifteen when A J Liebling died, at the age of 59, a martyr to his gourmandise. It would be years before I’d outgrow the priggishness that for so long made it impossible for me to consider reading the work of a boxing fan, tant pis pour moi. A few years ago, David Remnick published a Liebling miscellany, Just Enough Liebling. It contains “The Jollity Building,” a tour of vanished New York that features the famous Brill Building. It could be called Dickensian if it were not so much better than Dickens. It is interesting to compare Liebling with the New Yorker colleague to whom he left his library, Joseph Mitchell. There is no Paris in Mitchell, and Paris in every paragraph of Liebling. 

Just Enough Liebling also includes three of the gastronomic memoirs that were also published as Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris, where I have read them in the past couple of days. How I wish that I were re-reading them. Between Meals is that kind of treasure, full of what seem like tall tales even though, alarmingly, they might be true. 

I have to wonder, though, if Liebling is still intelligible to readers, without the encumbrance of annotations. It’s always deadening to research the reference in a joke.

If an actress had a dish named after her now, the recipe would be four phenobarbital tablets and a jigger of Metrecal.

I remember Metrecal, and so does Kathleen, but who under sixty?

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