It's time now to do a bit of traveling in time, starting with a visit to New York City fandom of the late 1950s. The writer of the following article is becoming a familiar (and welcome) presence here; his previous articles for Mimosa have described Second Fandom, the great Nolacon Room 770 party, and the Morgan Botts Foundation. This time he describes an early example of a fan dinner expedition.
'The Politics of a Dinner' by Roger Sims; title illo 
  by Peggy Ranson
Upon opening my newly arrived copy of Mimosa 14, a stray sheet fluttered to the floor. "What is this?" I said to myself. "Are the Lynches guilty of improper stapling?" Then I examined the paper and at once realized that they had used this as a ploy to make sure that the receiver would read this most important part of the zine. "Well," I continued, "if that's what you want! But I'll read the good part first!"

So as I understand it, what is desired is an article about food that does not describe how two fans going to dinner gathered 98 fans like a magnet gathers iron filings as they walk from the consuite to the restaurant.

Hmm... I guess that lets out a recapitulation of my very first fanzine article, the one I wrote for Lee Hoffman's Quandry concerning the Nolacon I banquet. Anyway, that was some forty-odd years ago, and my memory is somewhat dim in regards to the facts. However, I do believe that it had something to do with a fly that was either drowning or had drowned in the salad dressing, and a table discussion as to the proper method to use when one wants to change the consistency of the jelled consommé.

But there are other things I could writ about... There was the time my roommate, Ian Macauley, cooked spaghetti for supper. Not knowing how to tell if it was done, he asked me to look at it. As I started to, he told me that it had been cooking for only 45 minutes. Also, some time later, he invited two young ladies that he worked with to sample my cooking ability. When they both finished the last morsel of food on their plates, as well as all of the serving plates, they looked around but found nothing more to eat. Then, in what looked like a single motion, they laid down their forks, bolted to the door and slammed it shut as the last of their words reached our ears: "Thanks. Goodbye..."

Maybe, Resnick and the elusive napkin; no, too short...

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Then there was the time that the Deli counter person hit me in the chin with a twice-baked Jewish rye crust that was aimed at Harlan Ellison.

And there was the time in Africa when we were forced to remove ourselves from the breakfast table because an elephant had...

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...decided to occupy the same space.
illo by Peggy Ranson
Hm... How about the time in Australia when John Millard took the meal chit and divided it down to the closest tenth of a cent for each of the six of us who were traveling together?

Or maybe the story of when George cooked breakfast and Roger got the broken eggs. (No, that would not do -- he likes broken eggs.)

...So what to write about?

Then it hit me. So, after seeking medical help for a mild concussion and several contusions which were in need of stitches, I finally find my self at the keyboard ready to began yet another effort for Mimosa.

Back in the old days of my fannish career, circa 1957, I lived in New York, during the period where New York fandom was splintered into many fan clubs. These were ESFA (Eastern Science Fiction Association), the Hydra Club, and the Lunarians. I belonged to the Lunarians but attended meetings of some of the other clubs.

Well... the truth is I attended only one meeting of ESFA, which I believe was held somewhere in the wilds of New Jersey. It was in a place which seemed light years from 107th Street and 8th Avenue where I lived, but was actually was only two subways and a bus ride away. There were a lot of people there, some of whom I knew. Most of the formal part of the meeting was a panel discussion of which I remember nothing. However, a member of the audience stood up and asked to say something. Before stating his point (which I no longer remember), he gave his name, whereupon we all applauded. He was Cyril Kornbluth.

Even though I didn't attend too many fan club meetings, I did attend several meetings of the Libertarian League, because on the first Saturday of each month they gave a most salutary dinner. By the time I became involved with the group, a number of the original members had gafiated. (I believe most of these were Spaniards who had fought with the forces who were against Franco in the Spanish Civil War, as members of the Jefferson and Lincoln Brigades.) So what I really attended were dinners sponsored by four of the Fanarchists* and the remains of the Libertarian League. One of them was Big Bill Donaho, he of the famed monk costume at the 1959 worldcon, and who (it has been reported) once stopped fights by sitting on the two combatants. At this time, he and several of his friends were living in a loft in the Village which they had christened the 'Dive'. The dwellers of the Dive held periodic happenings. At one of these outings we (Ian and myself) learned about the 'dinners' and decided that the price was right, and hoped that the food would be eatable.

So the first Saturday of whatever month was next found us at the hall in great anticipation of good food, good wine, and good talk. Only a few of the original members attended, but enough of them remained to make the meeting afterwards interesting, even if I didn't understand what they were talking about. It was like they were talking English, but it sounded like Spanish.

illo by Peggy Ranson The dinners were ably cooked by Big Bill Donaho, with Dan Curran as the chief server and bottle washer. The menu was the same each month: chicken Paella, chunks of lettuce, olive oil, hot sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, coffee, cream, sugar, and red wine. There was no dessert. The Paella was mostly rice, with enough chicken to make it interesting, and it was seasoned with saffron, onions, both green and red peppers, pimento, salt and black pepper. It has been reported that the cook, wanting to make it more authentic, once even added squid. But only once. Bill talked the angry crowd out of the lynching by promising never again to fool with their well-loved recipe. (The actual recipe has been lost somewhere between 1959 and the date of this writing** . But for anyone interested, according to Larousse Gastronomique, the classic paella contains in addition some of the following: pork, ham, beefsteak, peas, kidney beans, artichoke hearts, cod, hake, lobster, shrimp, mussels, squid, and garlic sausages. But then what would you expect from a dish that is named for the pan that it is cooked in.)

Oh, yes, a rumor at the time had it that the FBI had a hidden camera across the street, aimed at the door to photograph everybody who entered the hall! But it would seem that I may be the only one to remember this rumor. What we may have here is a fannish hoax. That is, someone having fun by saying something that is so far from the truth that it makes both the hearer and the speaker into something other than what they really are.

About the time of the 1958 Worldcon, I got into a terrible fight with my immediate supervisor and was fired. This meant that I could take as much time as I wanted to travel to and from the con. But that's another story. Also, at the convention, Detroit was awarded the 1959 Worldcon, and so by not having a job and wanting to be involved in running the `59 Worldcon, I bid fond farewell to the New York fannish scene (and Donoho's excellent dinners) and returned to my fannish roots.

But that, again, is another story...


* A NYC-area fan organization. Members included Pat and Dick Ellington, Dave Mason, Katherine MacLean, Art Saha, Trina Robbins, Chuck Freudenthal, Don Bratton, and Marty Jukovsky.

** A comment from my Mother as to the amount of the ingredients comes to mind at this point, "enough for a family"; and to the question how long should the dish in question cook always replied, "So it should not burn."

All illustrations by Peggy Ranson

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