Countesses Aside, the Elephant Can’t Be Cut Up for a Cutlet

In today’s “Orange County Opinion” I was amused by the righteous indignation of J. Daniel’s letter “Fund-Raiser and Elephants” (July 6).

It is obvious that Gloria Zigner made a humorous reference to an anecdote by the late Ludwig Bemelmans, “The Elephant Cutlet,” included in “La Bonne Table,” a collection of the best short stories of this many-talented author-artist, who also was a famous hotel manager.

Here is a copy of “The Elephant Cutlet”:

Once upon a time there were two men in Vienna who wanted to open a restaurant. One was a dentist who was tired of fixing teeth and always wanted to own a restaurant, and the other a famous cook by the name of Souphans.


The dentist was, however, a little afraid. “There are,” he said, “already too many restaurants in Vienna, restaurants of every kind, Viennese, French, Italian, Chinese, American, American-Chinese, Portuguese, Armenian, dietary, vegetarian, Jewish, wine and beer restaurants in short, all sorts of restaurants.”

But the chef had a idea. “There is one kind of restaurant that Vienna has not,” he said.

“What kind?” said the dentist.

“A restaurant such as has never existed before, a restaurant for cutlets from every animal in the world.”


The dentist was afraid, but finally he agreed, and the famous chef went out to buy a house, tables and chairs, and engaged help, pots and pans and had a sign painted with big red letters ten feet high saying: “Cutlets from Every Animal in the World”

The first customer that entered the door was a distinguished lady, a countess. She sat down and asked for an elephant cutlet.

“How would madame like this elephant cutlet cooked?” said the waiter.

“Oh, Milanaise, saute in butter, with a little spaghetti over it, on that a filet of anchovy, and an olive on top,” she said.

“That is very nice,” said the waiter and went out to order it.

“Jessas Maria and Joseph!” said the dentist when he heard the order, and he turned to the chef and cried, “What did I tell you? Now what are we going to do?”

The chef said nothing; he put on a clean apron and walked into the dining room to the table of the lady. There he bowed, bent down to her and said, “Madame has ordered an elephant cutlet?”

“Yes,” said the countess.


“With spaghetti and a filet of anchovy and an olive?”


“Madame is all alone?”

“Yes, yes.”

“Madame expects no one else?”


“And Madame wants only one cutlet?”

“Yes,” said the lady, “but why all these questions?”


“Because,” said the chef, “because, madame, I am very sorry, but for one cutlet we cannot cut up our elephant.”

In reality, there is much illegal slaughter of elephants done by poachers in Africa. J. Daniel should direct attacks in this direction and leave Opera Pacific alone.