Prince Faisal and the Ham

Thirty-five years ago the Arabs started coming to America to buy Thoroughbred racehorses, and everyone in the game was in a frenzy to latch on to a "Mohammed" or a "Khalid" or some son of the desert. Dogwood Farm—then in Georgia—thought we had rung the bell when we were introduced to Prince Faisal bin Salman bin Abudlaziz Al Saud. Prince Faisal was in Columbus, Ga., at Fort Benning studying to become the next Minister of Defense of Saudi Arabia; an office held by his father.

Prince Faisal

He was a bona fide prince of that oil-rich country, and a guy who reportedly adored racehorses and the life that went with them. Naturally, we were dying to show him around.

Not surprisingly, he had a sizeable entourage—lawyers, bodyguards, court jesters...and the lovely Princess Asiya. One of his Georgia staff suggested a visit, and we agreed upon a day. We would tour the barns, show the horses in which shares were available (of course!), and then repair to our guest house for what needed to be a very high-class lunch.  

My wife, Anne, researched the cuisine of Saudi Arabia and gathered that there really were no dietary restrictions. Therefore, we would use this occasion to introduce a fine, highly-prized Kentucky ham given us earlier, along with other supporting culinary offerings associated with the Thoroughbred world and sporting life.  

The day arrived. Prince Faisal and his group came rolling through the Dogwood gate in a huge motor home, emblazoned with the crest of Saudi Arabia. We hosts were assembled at the race track poised at sort of a quasi-attention, ready to ooze charm.

The visitors filed off the motor coach, introductions were made, and the program began.

Prince Faisal at the time was a chubby, little fellow, rather puzzlingly clad in a beige jump suit, which also sported the Saudi crest. He was highly effervescent, responsive; and truly loved seeing several sets of Dogwood horses. After a most satisfactory and promising morning, we went to the guest house for lunch, where there would be just the right touches one would want to solidify the visit of Arab royalty.

The menu consisted of the aforementioned ham, a nice salad, and an old favorite—Kentucky Burgoo.

The first in the buffet line was an Atlanta attorney. He looked worriedly at the offerings, and then cleverly sought to save the day by exclaiming, "Oh, Anne, I see you are serving corned beef. How nice!"

Anne briskly straightened him out, "No, no! That's a Kentucky ham!"

At which point, a pall fell over the group. Faisal muttered desultorily, "Oh, I am afraid we cannot eat any type of pork. But there are so many other nice dishes." Like hell there were! The salad was heavily laden with bacon bits. And the burgoo could not have existed without the pig's contribution. The meal—and the day—were rapidly headed downhill, due to the menu's strong reliance on the hog.

While we labored gamely through several conversational topics, Anne had rushed into the kitchen and was preparing some cheese biscuits. After what seemed an eternity, she zoomed back into the dining room with an earthenware dish filled with the piping hot (I mean steaming!) cheese biscuits. She offered these first to Princess Asiya.

It bears noting that the Princess was a staggeringly buxom young woman, and was wearing that day a blouse that amply demonstrated her décolletage.

Just as Anne proffered the earthenware dish, inexplicably it broke in half, and several of the hot cheese biscuits fell into the cavity housing the royal Arabian bosom.

What else could go wrong?

At that point, the situation was so bad, it was almost good. We all laughed a great deal. In fact, when the royal motor coach departed through the Dogwood gates an hour later, the prince good-naturedly bid us goodbye on the vehicle's public address system, " BEEF!"

Did Prince Faisal buy any shares in our horses? No.

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