A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from May 05, 2017
“I don’t take soup. You can’t build a meal on a lake”

"No, I don’t take soup. You can’t build a meal on a lake” is a soup saying that has been printed on many images. The quotation is from New York-born socialite and interior designer Elsie de Wolfe (1859?-1950), also known as Lady Mendl, who wrote in the book After All (1935):

“Never, under any circumstance, do I touch soup, as I do not believe in building a meal on a lake. ”


Wikipedia: Elsie de Wolfe
Elsie de Wolfe, also known as Lady Mendl, (December 20, 1859? – July 12, 1950) was an American actress, interior decorator, nominal author of the influential 1913 book The House in Good Taste, and a prominent figure in New York, Paris, and London society. According to The New Yorker, “Interior design as a profession was invented by Elsie de Wolfe,” although the praise is not strictly true. De Wolfe was certainly the most famous name in the field until the 1930s, but the profession of interior decorator/designer was recognized as a promising one as early as 1900, five years before she received her first official commission, The Colony Club in New York. During her married life (from 1926 until her death in 1950) the press often referred to her as Lady Mendl. She was born in New York City and died at Versailles, France. Cremated, her ashes were placed in a common grave, the lease expired, in Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.

Google Books
After All
By Elsie De Wolfe
New York, NY: Harper & Brothers
1935
Pg. 260:
Never, under any circumstance, do I touch soup, as I do not believe in building a meal on a lake.

3 October 1937, San Diego (CA) Union, “the Amazing Lady Mendl—Young at Seventy” by Annie Le Guillon, Magazine sec., pg. 4, col. 4:
Never does she (Lady Mendl—ed.) touch soup. ("I do not believe in building a meal on a lake,” she remarks.)

Google Books
Elsie de Wolfe:
A Life in the High Style

By Jane S. Smith
New York, NY: Atheneum
1982
Pg. 271:
Friends often recalled the Duchess’ strictures against beginning a dinner party with a soup course, a rule she had learned from Elsie Mendl. “No, I don’t take soup,” Elsie always said. “You can’t build a meal on a lake.”

Google Books
Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations
Edited by Elizabeth Knowles
New York, NY: Oxford University Press
2007
Pg. 219:
Elsie Mendl 1865-1950
American socialite and fashionable decorator
explaining her dislike of soup:
I do not believe in building a meal on a lake.
Elsie de WOlfe After All (1935)

Google Books
To Hell with the Diet:
A Feast of Quotations for the Guilty Epicurean

By Aubrey Malone
Stroud: Gloucestershire: The History Press
2014
I don’t take soup. You can’t build a meal on a lake.
Lady Mendl

Twitter
Scuole di Cucina‏
@Scuole_Cucina
No, I don’t take soup. You can’t build a meal on a lake. ~Elsie de Wolfe (Lady Mendl)
1:58 AM - 3 Apr 2017

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Friday, May 05, 2017 • Permalink