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Barmecide's Feast

A feast where there is nothing to eat; any illusion. Barmecide asked Schacabac, a poor, starving wretch, to dinner, and set before him an empty plate. “How do you like your soup?” asked the merchant. “Excellently well,” replied Schacabac. “Did you ever see whiter bread?” “Never, honourable sir,” was the civil answer. Wine was then brought in, and Schacabac was pressed to drink, but excused himself by saying he was always quarrelsome in his cups. Being over-persuaded, he fell foul of his host, and was provided with food to his heart's content. (Arabian Nights: Barber's Sixth Brother.)

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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More on Barmecide's Feast from Infoplease:

  • Barmecide's Feast - Barmecide's Feast A feast where there is nothing to eat; any illusion. Barmecide asked ...
  • Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: B - Definitions, origins, and illustrative excerpts for words, phases, and literary allusions starting with "B"

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