Today's entry appears on the Guardian newspaper's books blog, here, and is about recipes in novels – where do they come from, do they add anything, and can you follow them? Could you learn to cook via your favourite books?
William Boyd’s new Bond novel, Solo, is getting some stick for including a recipe for salad dressing. As one reviewer on the Guardian books site, Christopher Philip Howe, put it:
And it was a recipe that finally killed the book for me. Not for a cocktail, but for a salad dressing, of all things. Boyd describes the ingredients in the narrative but then inserts a footnote setting it out again in detail. The note is completely out of place, unnecessary and, for a third person narrative, self-indulgent.
While David Mitchell in the Observer made much merry with the idea:
I worry that this takes Bond's already slightly grating clothes, cocktail and wine fastidiousness a stage too far. He's now getting all prissy about his salad dressing. He should be shooting men and shagging women – and then maybe shooting the women afterwards.
William Boyd himself seems quite pleased with the gambit – he’s been boasting that it is his own recipe – and it is true that Bond was always fussy about his food. There was that first breakfast in Casino Royale… ‘half a pint of iced orange juice, three scrambled eggs and bacon, and a double portion of coffee without sugar.’
So – recipes in novels, good idea or bad idea?...
Read on at the Guardian Books Blog here
Harriet Vane - did she poison the omelette?
Several of the authors and books mentioned have appeared on the blog in the past: Virginia Woolf, Mary McCarthy’s The Group, Nora Ephron and Dorothy L Sayers. And we have had The Pauper’s Cookbook here, and French restaurant workers here. Sally Jay Gorce fails the dinner party test, and an entry on a cookbook contains my favourite line from a recipe ever:
Add the flour, salt, paprika and mushrooms, stir, and let it cook five minutes while you light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink.
Earlier this year after reading Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews I wrote a post about recipies and menus in that spy thriller and The Monte Cristo Cover-Up also published as It Can’t Always be Caviar by Johannes Mario Simmel. I concluded the spies of those books ate well.ReplyDelete
I am glad to see that you agree with me Bill - I think there's a way-above-average correlation between food & recipes on the one hand, and crime and spy novels and thrillers on the other!Delete
Moira - Food is such an important part of our lives isn't it? Little wonder that we see it so often in novels. And you've given some great ideas for places to look for recipes. Interestingly, although the stereotypical crime fiction cop eats terrible food - mostly catch-as-catch-can meals - there are plenty of cops who also eat well. Donna Leon's Guido Brunetti, Andrea Camilleri's Salvo Montalbano and Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache (most of the time) to name a few.ReplyDelete
Yes, I hadn't thought of that: there's a real divide between the fast-food devotees, and the gourmets. Excellent point as ever Margot!Delete
Great post again,Moira. I had forgotten about Deighton, I probably haven't read enough of him. Didn't he actually pen a cookbook? I have the Simmel book Bill mentions, but haven't read it yet.ReplyDelete
Yes he did do a cookbook - aimed at men, and with comic strip illustrations I believe, it sounds interesting, someone should reprint it.Delete
I suppose it is not surprising that food and recipes feature so much in books... we all love food and some of us like to cook. But I often don't pay that much attention. However in the Nero Wolfe books by Stout, you can't miss Wolfe's obsession with food, experimentation with recipes, and use of food and cooking to handle stress. Did he include recipes in the books ever? Or just in a separately printed cookbook? I cannot remember.ReplyDelete
And both of your posts are interesting and entertaining.
Thank you so much Tracy. I remember that Nero Wolfe was quite the gourmet, but I'm not sure how detailed the descriptions were. Was there an actual cookbook?Delete
Oh yes, definitely. I had a copy once but...no longer. The Nero Wolfe Cookbook. Most of the recipes were beyond the effort I would make, but I do remember that he made scrambled eggs in a double boiler, just the way I like them, and the way I learned to do it in 8th grade home economics class. It had the recipe for Saucisse Minuit from Too Many Cooks.Delete
Fascinating, I must hunt that down some time.Delete