Another of the Great Eaters has left us. Herb Weitman passed away earlier this week. Herb was known to long-time readers of Pollack food writing (from long before I joined the team) as the Old China Hand.
He and Joe met when they both worked for the St. Louis football Cardinals, Joe as their PR director and Herb as their photographer. The friendship was cemented over many dinner tables. As Joe often said, "We didn't always win on Sunday afternoons. But we made sure we always won on Saturday night." Tales of dinners both on the road and at home, things like Gourmet Night at the old Kemoll's on North Grand, were available at the drop of a hint, or even less, from either of them.
But Herb's main gastronomic passion was Asian food. He had happily branched out from Chinese food and knocked back sushi and other Japanese, Thai, Korean, you name it, mostly the hotter the better. Not that he was narrow-minded about what he ate. Restaurateurs all over town recognized him - although a few would confuse him with Joe. Two bald guys with glasses; why not? Vince Bommarito of Tony's, when told of his death, said, "I knew something was wrong when we didn't see them New Year's Eve."
He believed in the healing qualities of food, not in a nutritional sense but in a spiritual sense. About two months before Joe and I were to be married, Joe became frighteningly ill and I didn't leave the hospital for a number of days. Herb, by then a widower like Joe, was beside himself. Finally, when things stabilized, he insisted on taking me to get something to eat. "It's the only thing I know to do," he explained. It was, of course, Chinese food.
Herb was the best man when we married in a room at Jewish Hospital, and Joe Rosenblum, the rabbi who married us and who shared football seats with Joe and Herb, will give his eulogy Sunday. Our wedding present from him was one of his photographs.It was of Cardinals quarterback Charley Johnson in the November 15, 1964, game known as the mud bowl. Joe, needless to say, was delighted.
Herb remarried a couple of years later, and his wife Diane, aka The Lovely Mrs. Hand, and I became good friends. The four of us shared numberless meals, both Asian and non-, and traded lots of stories. He was always a pleasure to cook for. He was a great photographer, to be sure. But he was a better feinschmecker.