Sammy Davis Jr.'s Favorite Dish Was A Childhood Classic

Comfort food is an apt name. Like a culinary hug, certain dishes – generally those high in fat and sugar, which can reduce stress — connect with people, filling them with warmth and possibly even flooding them with memories. When legendary entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. asked for his favorite dish, it wasn't a gourmet affair, though his money and fame could have easily afforded him that. Rather, he explained to The Evening Independent in 1966, humble and hearty spaghetti and meatballs transported the Candy Man back to his childhood in the best way possible.

Born in Harlem in 1925, Samuel George Davis Jr. was the son of parents that separated when he was young. After an infancy spent living with his grandmother, young Davis joined his father, an entertainer, on the road. This itinerant lifestyle shaped the course of Davis's life and exposed him to an unusual breadth of experiences for a child of his age. Food proved a simple, stable, and satisfying comfort for the singer as he moved from town to town performing for audiences with his father. The compensation for their performances was often meager and frequently supplemented with lodging and food. Spaghetti, being a cheap way to feed hungry entertainers, was often on the menu. One can't help but wonder how Davis would have rated Tasting Table's top recipe for spaghetti and meatballs.

Sammy Davis Jr. had a slew of food and drink favorites

Many conjectured that Davis's association with Frank Sinatra as part of the Rat Pack must have influenced his love of spaghetti and meatballs. But he pushed back at this assumption, noting that his tastes always skewed towards unfussy foods in spite of his means. At the finest restaurants of Rome, Davis noted that he could always find spaghetti and meatballs.

Outside of this classic Italian-American dish, Davis was fond of other comforting dishes, especially one cooked for him by his grandmother, Rosa B. Davis. Though he lived with her in Harlem, southern food was a staple, as many African-Americans had migrated north looking for work and escape from the danger of the South's racism, taking with them their family recipes. Davis was fond of his grandmother's ham hocks and greens, and traditionally had fried chicken and black-eyed peas on Sundays with his wife and children.

It should come as no surprise that the Rat Packer was fond of a cocktail from time to time, having a favorite in that field, too, but with a surprising twist. Highballs were popular in the 1960s and easy to make, combining whiskey and club soda for a refreshing tipple. Davis, though, had a unique approach, using ginger ale rather than club soda and opting for Suntory Japanese whiskey — a product he would go on to endorse — along with a lemon twist for garnish.