It is well known that Damon Runyon was fascinated with the underworld characters hanging out in saloons on Broadway during prohibition. I was unaware he was also fascinated with tripe.
From the start of the story “Blonde Mink”:
Now of course there are many different ways of cooking tripe but personally I prefer it stewed with tomatoes and mushrooms and a bit of garlic and in fact I am partaking of a portion in this form in Mindy’s restaurant on Broadway one evening in January when a personality by the name of Julie the Starker sits down at my table and leans over and snifs my dish and says to me like this:
“Tripe,” he says. “With garlic,” he says. “Why, this is according to the recipe of the late Slats Slavin, who obtains it from his old Aunt Margaret in Troy. Waiter,” he says, “bring me an order of this delicious concoction only with more garlic. It is getting colder outside and a guy needs garlic in his system to thicken his blood. Well,” he says, “this is indeed a coincidence* because I just come from visiting the late Slats and having a small chat with him.”
From somewhere in the middle of the story “Pick the Winner,” there’s even the same tripe dish:
Now what happens one evening, but Hot Horse Herbie and his ever-loving fiancée, Miss Cutie Singleton,** and me are in a little grease joint on Second Street putting on the old hot tripe à la Creole, which is a very pleasant dish, and by no means expensive, when who wanders in but Professor Woodhead.
Naturally Herbie calls him over to our table and introduces Professor Woodhead to Miss Cutie Singleton, and Professor Woodhead sits there with us looking at Miss Cutie Singleton with great interest, although Miss Cutie Singleton is at this time feeling somewhat peevish because it is the fourth evening hand running she has to eat trip à la Creole, and Miss Cutie Singleton does not care for tripe under any circumstances.
*And not the only coincidence. Last night, writing about Ron Paul’s newsletters, the name of one of Paul’s libertarian mentors for some reason brought to my mind Arnold Rothstein, the guy who probably fixed the 1919 World Series. Checking my memory on Wikipedia, I learned that Rothstein was probably a partial model for both the late Slats in “Blonde Mink” and Nathan Detroit, possessor of the oldest floating crap game in Manhattan, in “The Idyl of Miss Sarah Brown.” “Blonde Mink” is very loosely inspired by Rothstein’s death, although Slats did not die violently, and Runyon doesn’t use Slat’s comments when the police asked who shot him: “You stick to your trade. I’ll stick to mine” and “Me mudder did it.” I don’t think the fact that I’ve been reading Runyon lately caused Rothstein to come to mind.
**Hot Horse Herbie and Miss Cutie Singleton may be familiar from an earlier appearance on the blog.