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    Sunday, April 21, 2024

    The coldest museum in the world

    Who asked for the first autograph, and why?

    What was it about the idea of someone else’s signature — presumably someone that had done something impressive — that made a human think, “Y’know, my life will be better if I have Confucius affix his name in cuneiform to this scrap of goat skin.”

    (There are many, many things historically inaccurate or wildly out of context in the above example, but I hope I’ve supplied a helpful image to get this rolling.)

    However it happened, “autographs” became coveted in some circles — and not just with plebians like me. Famous athletes are always exchanging signed jerseys with one another. And Immanuel Kant is said to have encountered Mozart in the Vienna train station. Impulsively summoning his courage, the transcendental idealist blurted to the composer, “Say, would you mind signing this —” not possessing an autograph book as such things didn’t yet exist, Kant proffered a sheet of paper and a quill pen — “this, ah, page from an early draft of ‘The Critique of Pure Reason’? Just sign anywhere.”

    And Mozart did! Along with a cute treble clef symbol!

    Anyway, autographery happens. Folks collect signatures of famous people for fun and profit. I personally have dozens of autographed books and albums because … well, I’m an idiot. Still, Brian Wilson signed a CD copy of “Pet Sounds” for me and, though his signature looks more like a diagram of a falling stock than a legible name, I gaze on it fondly every time I play the album.

    But have I told you about my autographed food items?

    It’s an idea that occurred to me some years back after I successfully bid on a restaurant quality walk-in freezer at a charity auction.

    “You did WHAT?” my wife Eileen asked. “Why?!”

    “It was for a good cause. It comes from a ship — one of those cruise lines that went out of business after another onboard plague on a five-day run from Miami to Trinidad. I didn’t expect to win.”

    We managed to wedge it into a corner of the basement and that’s when it hit us: I could collect celebrity chef autographs or other food-related bis of memorabilia and, rather than just have a signed menu or a cocktail napkin from a restaurant, I could amass actual autographed FOOD.

    It’s taken a while, but we’re ready to open the Autographed Food Museum to the public. I think you’ll enjoy some of the items on display, and we provide coats and scarves to wear during your stay inside the freezer/museum. Some of the exhibits you’ll enjoy:

    ∎ Julia Child’s initials, made with her thumbprints on the surface of a wedge of her quiche Lorraine

    ∎ A signed chunk of bone-in ribeye that Chef Gordon Ramsay ripped in half with his bare hands after an apprentice improperly glazed some hen-of-the-wood mushrooms. Along with Ramsay’s name is the fond sign-off “You’re (adjectival obscenity) lucky I don’t kill you!”

    ∎ A mass-produced hot dog signed in mustard by Sinclair Lewis, author of “The Jungle”

    ∎ Thirteen individual Wheaties flakes laid out in a line, each one with a letter imprinted so that the writer’s name is spelled out: M I C H A E L J O R D A N

    ∎ A Wendy’s Baconator, with two bites out of it, signed by then-president Donald Trump as he watched the Jan. 6, 2021, shenanigans at the U.S. Capitol

    ∎ A genuine autograph by Gerry Thomas, which is historically fantastic because he’s the guy who came up with the idea for Swanson Frozen TV Dinners — and our Thomas autograph is on one of the original “Salisbury Steak with Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans and Apple Cobbler” meals!

    Oh, and as you exit our Autographed Food Museum, you’ll see an array of T-shirts, hoodies and programs for purchase. We’ll be happy to sign them for you.

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