5 Disastrous Dining Choices from History
You’ve likely had a dinner that you immediately regretted. I myself have had many, especially the “dinners” I’ve had in my own bed, after midnight. Whether the regret after is based in shame or in biological despair, “I shouldn’t have eaten that” is a common modern refrain. Or maybe you’re one of those diamond-cut exercise freaks who thinks almonds are a good snack, in which case, shouldn’t you be out rock climbing instead of reading internet articles?
Some dinners in history, though, have been uniquely ill-advised. Dinners with ramifications that lasted long past your body’s ability to clear itself of cut-rate taco meat. Supper choices that planted their fork in the road of a life or many lives, times when everything could have been different if someone had simply stayed in and hit the leftovers.
Here are five disastrous dining choices from history…
Rasputin’s No-Good Terrible Horrible Dinner Party
Historical figures don’t make it into the plot of Hellboy by being boring. Famously stinky magic man Grigori Rasputin is no exception. The man remains an object of grim fascination to this day for his occult connections, enhanced by him having an extremely dark-wizard-worthy beard and general vibe. Even if you strip away all his purported auras and explorations into black magic, the fact is he was still very powerful from a political perspective.
Thanks to accidentally saving her hemophiliac son by banning for spiritual reasons the prescription of blood-thinning aspirin, the Tsarina Alexandra practically gave Rasputin the keys to the kingdom. Of course, a ratty magic man having incredible sway over a kingdom didn’t sit especially square with the establishment, specifically a man named Felix Yussupov. He extended a dinner invitation to Rasputin, but instead of delicious borscht, Rasputin was served a three-course assassination. First, he was given poisoned cakes and wine, which he alarmingly downed with no ill effects, at which point Yussupov panicked, shot Rasputin repeatedly, and drowned him in the river because third time’s the charm, I suppose.
The First Sioux War Started Over A Single Cow
A misunderstanding about ownership between settlers and Native Americans that resulted in horrific repercussions? Unimaginable! Our second entry is yet another example of the exceedingly poor mediation skills of America’s Manifest Destiny-fueled murderers. In 1854, when some Mormons were traveling the Oregon Trail, one of their cows, as they are known to do, wandered off.
Another thing cows are known for is being made of delicious meat. When a local member of the Mincojou tribe of the Lakota Sioux saw a random, unaccompanied cow, that was his focus, and the cow was killed and eaten. The Mormons were none too pleased about this, and following the Treaty of 1851, they brought in a Native American mediator to help the two sides resolve… just kidding. Twenty-eight soldiers showed up, demanded they hand over the unlucky diner, and then shot and killed the chief of the tribe. At that point, the Sioux fought back, and the “negotiations” ended with all the soldiers dead. This kicked off the two-year long First Sioux War.
James Blaine’s Tone-Deaf Feast
You’re probably, at least vaguely, in some retired portion of your mind, aware that Grover Cleveland was a United States President. What you’re much less likely to be aware of is that up until a week before, he was not pegged to come out ahead in the presidential contest. What pushed him over the edge and into the seat of Commander-in-Chief wasn’t his own doing, either, but was instead one highly ill-advised dinner party attended by his opponent, James Gillespie Blaine.
These days, it’s an essential part of any presidential campaign for whatever blue-blood politicker chosen to be the nation’s next leader to hobnob on video with the residents of some podunk rib shack, covertly spitting a half-chewed pork trotter into an aide’s napkin to show they’re a man of the people. Blaine’s dinner was the exact opposite: a lavish feast fit for a medieval king, at the hoitiest, toitiest restaurant available. By the next day, a mere week before the polls opened, the Associated Press printed the nine-course menu he’d enjoyed along with a list of the millionaire guests he’d shared it with.
He was roundly, soundly mocked for the extravagance, and when the dust settled, he’d lost the location of said dinner, New York, by a handful of votes, costing him the presidential election.
Park Chung-hee’s Deadly Dinner
The fourth entry comes with a caveat: It’s a dinner that was undeniably disastrous for one particular attendee, but that also arguably benefitted an entire country. That’s because the person who came out on bottom (six feet under, in fact) from this particular dinner was a dictator. Park Chung-hee was the third President of South Korea at the time, though really, he shouldn’t have been. He’d already served for the maximum two presidential terms, but had Parliament force through a change allowing him a third.
This considerably worried his friend, security chief and advisor Kim Jae-gyu, who made him promise it would be his last term. That promise lasted one year, until 1972, when Park established martial law and replaced the constitution with his own, highly non-democratic version, known as the Yushin Constitution. As you can imagine, this did not have a positive effect on public or private opinion of him and his regime. At a dinner in 1979 with ex-BFF Kim, the two got into an argument that I can only imagine started with “hey man, you’re a fucking dictator” and that ended with his old ally shooting and killing Park. Like they say, keep your friends close, and your friends that are also your armed security chiefs closer.
Adolf Frederick’s Death By Dinner
Let’s close this out with one where the literal contents of the dinner were the cause of the disaster. Historically excessive glutton and King of Sweden Adolf Frederick met his end at the hands of not an assassin, or illness, but by a self-administered pastry. Pigging out at a pre-Lent feast, Frederick finished off an extensive main course with a generous tribute to his sweet tooth. For dessert, he ate 14 servings of a cream-filled Swedish pastry known as semla, and in doing so, accidentally gave himself his own last meal. He died of “digestive problems,” which is the most dignified way to describe eating so much that your insides exploded.
Eli Yudin is a stand-up comedian in Brooklyn. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @eliyudin and listen to his podcast, What A Time to Be Alive, about the five weirdest news stories of the week, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you get your podcasts.