Ravel and food

Ravel was touring America, in 1928, but was having some interesting experiences with food. One on occasion:

The Mason & Hamlin Company not only provided a piano for Ravel’s use at his hotel, and another for his tour, but also sent him a piano-tuner capable of acting as a courier, interpreter, and general assistant.  This versatile person was to join the French composer on the Twentieth Century Limited when he left New York for Chicago; but at the last minute, an unexpectedly severe snowstorm delayed the piano-tuner and he missed the train.  Ravel had been invited that day to a luncheon given for him by Paul Kochansky, the Polish violinist, at which a number of his close friends were present, and as usual he lost all count of time.  Ravel also would have missed the train if his friends had not suddenly noticed the hour and rushed him to the station.  They arrived just in time to get him on board, and not until the train was pulling out did they discover that the indispensable tuner-interpreter-courier was not on the train.

Consternation!  What should be done? – for Maurice Ravel spoke no word of English – he could not even order a meal by himself.  His friends hurried to the station-master and explained the predicament.  The latter was not very resourceful, but finally through Mrs. Edison’s influence everything was satisfactorily adjusted.  A long distance call to Albany brought an interpreter to the train at that station, and arranged to him travel as far as Chicago.  Meanwhile a telegram to the conductor ordered Ravel’s dinner: “lamp chops, string beans, and coffee…”

Once in Chicago, Ravel attended a  luncheon hosted by one of Chicago’s social leaders:

She planned an elaborate luncheon, served by numerous butlers and footmen and including every delicacy from lobster to squab. Ravel, however, scarcely touched his food, and his conversation languished with each course.  When lunch was over he pleaded a headache, and with courteous bows and thanks departed from the palatial residence.

Pour l’amour de Dieu, stop at the nearest pharmacie‘, he begged the friends who had brought him, “and telephone the hotel to prepare a good meal for me.”

“A meal?” his friends replied wonderingly.  “But you just have lunched…”

“You call that a meal?” Ravel answered peevishly.  “There wasn’t a thing anyone could eat.  No meat at all … mais tout le monde sait que je suis carnivore [Everyone knows I am a carnivore]he added, like a child who cannot understand why all the world does not know his idiosyncrasies.

(1) Goss, Madeline (2008) Bolero: Life of Ravel. Goss press, pp. 228-229
(2) Ibid, pp.229-230