It amused me recently when I looked around and saw how much popular fiction writing was linked to food, specifically the preparation, cooking and consumption of very specific types of foods by our favorite characters. Along with the food, there was also drinking, lots and lots of drinking.
Following this thread of logic, it should be no surprise American over-eating has become the chosen cause of First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) Michelle Obama. The Writing Loft decided to don its investigative apron, check out the spice rack and delve into this literary stew.
Spenser, the formidable Boston detective created by the late mystery writer Robert Parker, was a gourmet at heart. Despite his constant search for the perfect beer (He seemed to finally settle on Belgian Blue Moon Ale), the investigator with a heart was always on the lookout for a decent restaurant, which could be the perfect hot dog stand in Glouster or five-star restaurant often selected by his main squeeze Susan Silverman in downtown Boston.
But Spenser always seemed to be able to come home after a hard day of sleuthing and whip up a restaurant quality meal with little more than Ritz crackers and mayonnaise. A little of this and a dash of that, saute for five minutes and pour over pasta or fresh greens (who just HAPPENS to always have fresh greens available?) and serve. He made it seem so easy while he let the perfectly matched wine breathe.
I read once that someone in Japan published a book of Spenser’s recipes. Alas, I’ve never been able to find it. If anyone out there has seen it, send along the name of the book, the publisher and any other details.
Phillip R. Craig, author of the mystery series featuring fisherman sleuth J.W. Jackson, offered up three recipes using lobsters, croissants, and Champagne in Dead in Vineyard Sand.
Craig, also recently deceased, offered actual recipes in the back of his books, in essence a two-fer deal, mystery/cookbook, for his readers.
The Jackson series, always based on Martha’s Vineyard, was the ultimate beach read, too!
New York City socialite investigator Stone Barrington (gotta love that name), created by author Stuart Woods, holds court on a regular basis in the famous upper East Side restaurant Elaine’s. From his corner table, Barrington assesses his cases and mingles effortlessly with New York’s high society engaged in low-class activities. Elaine’s is one of those “be seen” in eateries. The food is top end, but “making the scene” is more important.
Barrington does enjoy the finer things of life. With that in mind, Woods shared his recipe for the perfect Vodka Gimlet on his website.
He suggests you pour six ounces from a 750 ml bottle of vodka, believing the poured off booze will be used in an appropriately by a reader, and fill the empty spot in the bottle with Rose’s Sweetened Lime Juice and a tiny bit of water. Then, shake the bottle and place it in the freezer over night. Woods further suggests an excellent martini can be made by using 5 ounces of vermouth in a 750 ml bottle of gin.
Good stuff to know.
There was always a lot of drinking and eating in Ernest Hemingway’s work. In For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway’s character Robert Jordan drinks absinthe while fighting with the loyalists in Spain. Hem turns to absinthe again in Death in the Afternoon where it is mixed with Champagne. In his book A Moveable Feast, Hemingway describes the joy of eating oysters in Paris.
Go deeper into the early years of Hemingway’s career and you’ll uncover a piece he wrote for the Toronto Star. In “Camping Out: When you Camp Out, Do it Right,” the future Pulitzer Prize winner describes frying a freshly caught trout.
Some years ago I spent a rainy afternoon in a lodge in the Tobeatic Wilderness area of Nova Scotia with a Cajun from New Orleans learning the proper etiquette of drinking Havana Club Rum from Cuba, a favorite of Hemingway’s.
All this gorging of food and drinking of booze runs through everyday literature. And readers are recruited to the topic early in life. A lot of the interest might have started with Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss!