James Bond and grub
Ian Fleming said that his "contribution to the art of thriller-writing
has been to attempt the total stimulation of the reader all the way
through, even to his taste buds".
Bond is famous for his love of food, (and alcoholic drinks of course!)
Fleming lavishly describes the food and drink not widely attainable. He
wanted to appeal to the readers senses, and described the meals in the
novels in great detail, often including his favourite brands. In his
recent book, Simon Winder suggested this appealed to British people who
were still on food rations in the post-war era: "the fetishisation of
food in the period of rationing" Winder said along with lots of
sociologically dubious points. Those people feasting on horse and
stinging nettles apparently loved to read about Bond tucking into six
course dinners. This is probably an exaggeration because even today
most people can enjoy Bond's meals, particularly their surroundings.
And even his description of tea and cakes in some Sussex cafe makes
this writers mouth water - and I've never had stinging
nettles on toast in my life. It doesn't matter who you are or where you
come from, everybody is interested in food.
The film Bond, like his literary counterpart, became something of a
know-it-all when it came to food although he did tend to be less matter
of fact on the subject and more of a show-off. "You must forgive me,'
he said. "I take a ridiculous pleasure in what I eat and drink. It
comes partly from being a bachelor, but mostly from a habit of taking a
lot of trouble over details. It's very pernickety and old-maidish
really, but then when I'm working I generally have to eat my meals
alone and it makes them more interesting when one takes the trouble."
James Bond has a serious interest in food. He is not a complete food
snob. He has acquired tastes and loves to eat. He has an expense
account as he travels the world so he can afford to eat very well; he
is "an independent character who knows what he wants and gets it". He
has learnt to appreciate some of the finer (or more expensive things)
in life, such as caviar, especially with with iced vodka.
For the classless oafs like me who wouldn't know, Caviar is the salted
eggs that come from three types of sturgeon fish: Beluga, Osetra and
Sevruga. Eggs from these three fish can only truly be called caviar.
The idea of eating fish eggs is something that will never tempt me but
007 is a big fan.
Beluga Caviar- Produces the largest eggs which are grey and black in
color and is buttery tasting. Best accompanied by Brut Champagne.
Osetra Caviar- This caviar is dark brown and golden yellow in colour.
It has a nutty flavor and is excellent with canapés and
Sevruga Caviar- Although smaller in size, these eggs are dark grey in
colour like Beluga. To serve, use lemon juice to enhance the
Caviar comes from the Caspian Sea. Bond knows his caviar. "North of the
Caspian!" says George Lazenby in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (the
film!) after sampling the Beluga Caviar. One bite and he knows which
part of the sea it came from. Although he did scoop an unfeasibly large
amount for such a small piece of toast!
James Bond prefers simple local food when abroad. Bond loves scrambled
eggs. Fleming loved scrambled eggs and he gave his fictional alter-ego
a taste for them. James Bond will eat them day or night. The author
gives a recipe for "Scrambled eggs James Bond" in his non-fiction work
The recipe is as follows:
12 fresh eggs
6 oz. butter
salt and pepper
Break eggs into a
bowl. Mix with fork and season with salt and pepper. In a small pan
melt 4 oz of butter. Pour eggs and cook over very low heat, whisking
with a small whisk.
When the eggs are
slightly moist and not quite how done, remove pan from heat. Add
remaining butter and continue whisking for 30 seconds, adding the
herbs. Serve on hot buttered toast in individual copper dishes, with
Bond's breakfast usually includes a single egg boiled for precisely 3
1/3 minutes. Unlike most of his countrymen he prefers strong coffee to
tea although he is fond of marmalade. He buys his Norwegian honey,
Cooper's Vintage Oxford marmalade and Tiptree Little Scarlet strawberry
jam at Fortnums. In the novel Thunderball Bond's M inspired health-kick
(M informs 007 his physical exam reveals a furred tongue, elevated
blood pressure and a liver "not palpable," owing to "too much alcohol,
fatty foods and white bread.") is eventually abandoned - "I can't do my
work on carrot juice" - in favour of a hearty breakfast of eggs and
bacon with industrial strength coffee served by his trusty housekeeper
May. Philip Marlowe enjoyed eggs and strong coffee after wandering into
his apartment at 5 in the morning; it seems that Fleming and Raymond
Chandler felt that real men who have just been beaten to a pulp eat
eggs and five cups of coffee so strong you can spread it on toast
before resuming a case.
Bond's breakfast in Istanbul in From Russia With Love is very
different: "The yoghourt, in a blue china bowl, was deep yellow and
with the consistency of thick cream. The green figs, ready peeled, were
bursting with ripeness, and the Turkish coffee was jet black and with
the burned taste that showed it had been freshly ground". Sounds
In Istanbul Kerim Bay suggests a sardine dish that to Bond "tasted like
any other fried sardines", followed by that staple of drunk Britons at
pub closing time on a friday night; the Doner Kebab! Described as "very
young lamb broiled over charcoal with savoury rice. Lots of onions in
it". Luckily Bond didn't drink ten pints of lager and seven
bacardi-breezers with vodka and red-bull before his kebab.
In Moonraker Bond takes dinner in London with M at his private club,
Blades. Fleming describes his meal with great care in some detail.
"I’ve got a mania for really good smoked salmon," said Bond.
Then he pointed down the menu. "Lamb cutlets. The same vegetables as
you, as it’s May. Asparagus with Béarnaise sauce
sounds wonderful. And perhaps a slice of pineapple."
'Bond helped himself to another slice of smoked salmon from the silver
dish beside him. It had the delicate glutinous texture only achieved by
Highland curers-very different from the desiccated products of
Scandinavia. He rolled a wafer-thin slice of brown bread-and-butter
into a cylinder and contemplated it thoughtfully.' For some reason I'm
always reminded of Nigel Tufnel in This Is Spinal Tap unsuccessfully
attempting to make a sandwich with miniarture bread whenever I read
Bond uses food to help him think and freshen him up for a big-night or
card game. I tend to think that if I ate some of his dinners my main
priority would be two anti-acid tablets and a snooze. Bond's own method
when he felt out of shape was described in Thunderball: "A month ago
there wasn’t a week went by but that on at least one day I
couldn’t eat anything for breakfast but a couple of aspirins
and a prairie oyster" [a classic curative involving an egg yolk,
Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, vinegar and catsup].
On assignment James Bond will eat French langouste, Italian tagliatelle
verdi or American stone crabs and melted butter.
'The meat of the stonecrabs was the tenderest, sweetest shellfish he
had ever tasted. It was perfectly set off by the dry toast and the
slightly burned taste of the melted butter. The champagne seemed to
have the faintest scent of strawberries. It was ice-cold. After each
helping of crab the champagne cleaned the palate for the next. They ate
steadily with absorbtion and hardly exchanged a word until the dish was
Luckily his morning exercise regime and mostly active occupation helps
to work off these calories. The best meal of his life comes in
Goldfinger when he eats stone crabs with melted butter and champagne.
In the book Diamonds Are Forever, Bond tells Tiffany Case that his idea
of a girl is one who can make sauce bernaise as well as love. In
Diamonds Are Forever 007 visits New York and eats lunch at Sardi's
where he has Brizzola. At the 21 Club with Tiffany Case he eats caviar
followed by cutlets with asparagus and mousseline sauce. The next night
Bond eats alone at Voisin's for "two Vodka Martinis, Oeufs Benedict*
and strawberries". In Live And Let Die he visits Harlem with Felix
Leiter and eats Little Neck Clams and Fried Chicken Maryland at Ma
Frazier's on Seventh Avenue.
Classic Oeufs Benedict Recipe*
Few drops of
250 gram Unsalted
butter; to clarify
2 tablespoon Water
teaspoon Lemon juice
and freshly ground pepper
English muffins; split in halfway
4 small Slices
olives; halved and stoned,
; or 4
Poach the eggs: in
a medium pan bring 1l of water to the boil, reduce the heat. The water
should barely tremble. Prepare a bowl of iced water. Break the eggs,
place individually into a cup or small bowl and carefully slide into
the acidulated water. Poach for 2-3 minutes until the white is just
firm. Remove the eggs on a slotted spoon and immediately slip them into
the iced water.
clarify the butter: melt the
butter, leave it to stand for a minute, skim the surface then pour off
the golden oil into a small pan and keep warm. Discard the milk solids
make the Hollandaise sauce:
place the yolks and water in a bowl and whisk together. Now place the
bowl over steaming water in a pan on the stove and whisk the yolk
mixture to 'the ribbon' or until it leaves a trail when it falls from
the whisk. Gradually pour in the warm, clarified butter in a steady
fine stream whisking constantly. Whisk in the lemon juice and season to
taste. Remove the bowl from the heat. In a pan bring a 12cm depth of
water to the boil.
the muffins, place a round
of ham on each and keep warm. Carefully lift the poached eggs out of
the cold water, reheat in the boiling water, drain, dry lightly with
paper and place on the ham. Coat with the Hollandaise sauce, garnish
each with a half olive or piece of truffle and serve immediately.
There are many variations to eggs benedict but most of them are liable
to induce an early heart-attack if you indulge in the dish too often.
Fleming's fondness for high-living and rich foods undoubtedly
contributed to his death at the age of fifty-six.
Noel Coward considered Fleming's own cooking at his Jamaican residence,
Goldeneye, to be inedible so while good food was a big part of his life
and his books he was no Anton Mosimann at home. Some have argued that
our identities are strongly linked to what we eat. Food and eating
occupy a role in a culture that is increasingly fastidious and diverse.
You are what you eat goes the old proverb. If this is the case James
Bond is a bit of a snob. Or perhaps he just has good taste.
Roger Moore's famous quiche in A View To A Kill led to him
becoming spokesman for the British Quiche Council. I grew up wondering
what was in Bond's Café Complet in On Her Majesty's Secret
Service. I'm still wondering. I'll be at The Duck Inn eating Spaghetti
Bolgonese with a bucketful of garlic if anyone knows.
- Jake Speed