Cooked to death


A typescript found in the Haining Archive, and possibly published, contains potted accounts of many examples of horrible or ridiculous deaths involving food. Here are a few of them:

A Gruelling Fate

Few cooks have suffered a more bizarre fate than Richard Rosse, a well-known London chef in the sixteenth century. In the year 1530 he was appointed to the household of the Bishop of Rochester and appears to have satisfied his master until the autumn. Then, says an account of his life published in Remarkable Trials and Notorious Characters ( 1850):

     It was declared that he had poisoned some gruel being made for the Bishop and imprisoned in Smithfield. Here he was boiled to death.

Cheesed off with Life

The grocery store run by Luigi Ferrara and his wife in Montmartre, Paris, was well patronised and successful. However, by 1978 the marriage of Luigi and Madame Ferrara was far from sweetness and light, and climaxed in May when the husband was arrested and charged with murder. The means of death made headlines throughout the nation, as Le Populaire reported:

  1. Ferrara has been charged with stabbing his wife to death with a wedge of hard Parmesan cheese.

Relative Soup

In the years immediately after the Second World War many families in Germany were extremely short of food. One such family were the Wallishausers, who lived at Hechingen, but who managed to sustain themselves thanks to food parcels sent by relatives in America. In March 1946, among the contents of the latest parcel, the family found a can containing an odourless grey powder which they took to be instant soup—according to a report in The National Enquirer. The story continued:

Frau Wallishauser added some semolina to the powder and served it to her family. They all agreed it was the best soup they had tasted since before the war. The following day the Wallishausers received a letter from their relatives in the States. It told them that the little can actually contained the ashes of their grandmother. She had just died—and her last wish had been to be buried in her native soil…


Vegemite is an Australian spread rather similar to the popular British favourite, Marmite. It featured in a fatal accident suffered in 1967 by a young Sydney man, Paul Maldwyn Cook. A report in the Sydney Morning Herald said that the body of the storeman packer had been found in the Merrylands district of Sydney:

The police state that the 21-year old man died accidentally as a result of injecting himself with Vegemite. [R.M.H.]

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