When you’re young, there’s nothing more exciting than flinging your food across a room. You know sending a bowl of something stodgy hurtling through the air is going to raise hell, but it often feels too tempting to ignore. Inching a naughty hand towards a suggestively frisbee shaped plate is as transgressive and exhilarating as it gets. Long live the childhood food fight.
It might be cute when you’re five, but adult food combat doesn’t have the same childlike charm as its youthful counterpart. Though there are notable exceptions, such as the Tomatina festival in Spain and the “Battle of the Oranges” in Italy, watching adults attack each other with their lunch usually elicits little more than eye rolling. But, it turns out that particularly pugilistic grownups are more than capable of doing some really serious damage with their dinner.
Take the recent case of James P. Sweeney. The former real estate attorney, normally considered a highly reputable profession, found himself on the wrong side of the law this week after unleashing a pasta-based assault on a fellow diner Michael Cosmos at Connecticutian Italian restaurant, Roma Ristorante. After apparently taking umbrage with something Cosmos had said, Sweeney opted not for a war of words or for fisticuffs at dawn, and instead seized his meal and sent it straight into the face of the offending party.
The bowl, which contained a portion of spaghetti with spicy fra diavolo sauce, found its target. Cosmos was covered in steaming red liquid. But, as is all too often the case with forceful American diplomatic action, there were innocent victims caught in the crossfire. 57-year-old Constance Koulmey, who had until this point been enjoying a quiet meal out, was also struck a glancing blow by the offending il primo. Blinded by sauce, Koulmey stumbled, tripped and collapsed to the floor. Such are the consequences of war.
Unfortunately for the guilty Sweeney, the damage sustained by Koulmey was far from superficial. According to her lawyers, she had “a concussion, blurred vision and radiating back pain”, not to mention an obviously crippling case of pasta traumatic stress disorder. As her medical situation became clearer, Koulmey seized the initiative and took Sweeney to court for negligence and battery.
What followed was a lengthy legal campaign that became almost as hostile as the initial attack. Sweeney’s legal team alleged their client acted in self defense and accused Koulmey of lying about the extent of her injuries. They then insisted that their client “did not order fra diavolo”, to which Koulmey’s attorney Jeremy D’Amico retorted, “But, the two people who had the food thrown on them felt it and were adamant it was hot and spicy, and said it was fra diavolo.” Sauce or no sauce, things were clearly spicing up.
Despite the best efforts of Sweeney’s crack legal squad, D’Amico was able to unearth a bombshell that blew the case wide open. The appearance of the restaurant’s CCTV tape put the final nail in the defendant’s sauce soaked coffin. On the tape, Sweeney can be seen casting his eye left and right, making sure no one is watching, before finally throwing his pasta and inadvertently taking out Koulmey. This would seem to go against the self defence theory.
After reviewing the video evidence, the jury were quick to come to a decision. After a little over three hours of deliberation, they ordered Sweeney to pay Koulsen $85,049 in damages, plus interest, amounting to a little more than $100,000 in total. Despite the disastrous results of his moment of foodie madness, there is a silver lining for Sweeney. He now had the honour of having partially eaten the most expensive pasta bowl of all time.