The Feast

Joaquin Rodrigo

The winter of 1937 was a tough one for the Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo and his wife Victoria. Having grown up blind, Rodrigo was accustomed to difficulties, but as an exile in France during the Spanish Civil War, he was struggling just to get enough to eat. The couple was staying in an inexpensive hotel in Paris.

A friend referred them to someone who might be interested in buying some of their antiques. Weak with cold and hunger Rodrigo and Victoria went to see the prospective buyer. She apologized for having a dinner guest. “You’ll have to wait a little while,” she said. “I assume you’ve already eaten?”

Rodrigo assured her that they had, being too polite to mention the meager plate of rice and half banana that was their usual supper. The composer and his wife sat down in the corner and waited. The dinner seemed to go on and on. “Try some of these wonderful slices of ham,” the hostess said to her guest. “How do you like them?”

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“Absolutely delicious,” was the guest’s reply.

The hostess offered Burgundy and duck with orange sauce. “It’s too bad that the dessert is only an apple tart,” she said, “and fruit and coffee.”

When the feast finally came to an end, the hostess said to Rodrigo and his wife, “I’m sorry that you couldn’t join us. But don’t you think it’s a little late now to talk business?” She referred them to an antique dealer, adding, “he doesn’t pay much because right now there is such a huge supply. We have so many refugees in France who need assistance.”

A few years later, after World War II, Rodrigo and his wife encountered the woman again. Rodrigo was famous for his Concierto de Aranjuez. Their former hostess had been blacklisted as a collaborator and was destitute. Rodrigo and his wife shared with her their relatively sumptuous dinner of potatoes and cabbage.

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