Two on my favorite writers, A. J.  Liebling and Ludwig Bemelmans, were twentieth century contemporaries who wrote about all manner of appetites with a wit and charm.  Like a fine aperitif, I turn to their writings with nostalgia for classic cuisine and an exuberant style of living. Both ended up writing for the New Yorker and brought a complimentary perspective to eating and dining.

“The first requisite about writing about food is a good appetite,” wrote Liebling. By his own standards, Liebling was among the best. In 1927, he lived for a year in Paris on his father’s largesse, doled out in monthly bank drafts. Ostensibly studying for a career in journalism, he combed the city’s restaurants instead.  Pick up Between Meals, and read “A Good Appetite” and “Just Enough Money”. These are primers on how to develop a fine palate on a less than luxe budget.  (A lagniappe, he often traveled with scholarly cookbook writer Waverly Root, a constant reference throughout the book.)

Ludwig Bemelmans is best known as author and illustrator of the Madeline children’s books. But, from the tender age of 14, he worked in the hotel business in Europe and had a knack for writing about it. His inside tales of the slapstick antics of ill-tempered chefs, sneaky waiters and sanctimonious guests, complete with whimsical drawings, beats anything I’ve read or seen on the subject. (Think Big Night set in the Hotel Ritz.)  Start with La Bonne Table, an hors d’oeuvre varié of his food writing from the 40’s and 50’s.