Other than the famous banquet when rapturous guests thanked their imperial host for the delicious meal that had never been served, the greatest fictional meal of all time was a dinner that Colette gave in 1936 in her apartment off the Palais-Royal to collect vignettes from famous people and moments of the 20th century. To set the scene: the rage at the time were opium, smoothly-brown and almond-eyed servants, ocelots, pet sewer rats like Kyrie and Eleison who sat on one of the guest’s shoulders while pretending they weren’t voyeurs or even voyeuses, and dressing manly to save money on dresses. “We shall restore our collective masculinity,” one of the females said a bit too loudly over a third glass of champagne blessed with cocaine. It was not inverted transvestism, merely economy.
The dinner started with Prince Yusupov and his banished intimate companion, the Grand Duke Dimitri Romanov, telling of the night they killed Rasputin by feeding him rose cream cakes and Madeira laced with cyanide; it continued with Missy (Colette’s mistress), while shooting morphine between her thighs, insisting that there was nothing Against Nature in Huysmans’ liaison with a “cherry-lipped youth.” Dinner was then interrupted by Lady Diana Cooper passing her Poiret compact brimming with cocaine to Cocteau while he, tendril fingers pushing his face upwards for best public effect, told everyone that Yusupov’s version of the height of decadence–to eat very rich roast beef with very rich old d’Yquem–was just the lie that tells the truth. WC Fields, disgusted with all the precious talk, declared then that “I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.” // Jeremiah Tower
(image: French writer Colette (1873-1954). Bibliothèque nationale de France)