Food in Fiction

Squab) with foie gras and cepes
Squab) with foie gras and cepes

I read about food a good deal and love the books of people like Elizabeth David and Anthony Bourdain. Those writers talk food with passion and inspiration. I’ve been thinking about food in fiction and realized that I can think of few novels I’ve read that feature food in any significant way.

There was Portnoy’s Complaint, in which the horny protagonist used raw liver in a wholly new way to me!

Ian Fleming used it in the Bond novels as a crude way to display Bonds supposed good taste. However it tended to major on obviously excessive and expensive consumption. Expense taking precedence over any real worth. Caviar and Bollinger feature a good deal. Len Deighton’s Harry Palmer displayed a certain usefulness with the pans and could do a good omelette. Deighten choose to make him a kind of educated working class hero to Bonds upper class officer type and the choice of food was a great tool in showing that contrast.

I use food in my novels too, all of them feature it. It’s used to give characters depth and in particular it’s used to give men credentials beyond their fists and fighting skills.  Food can be a great tool as a wooing aid. Seduction can start with a good meal and if that meal is prepared with care and love by the man and precedes a bout of heterosexual excess in bed or on rug before a fire, that leaves the heroine panting for more, more food and loving – then we have a hero that’s got dimension and depth. Sensuality extends to appreciation of more than one kind of skin. I like a hero that knows his way round a woman’s curves as well as he knows his wines and cheeses. He can wield a knife to fillet a salmon, joint a chicken or the baddy with equal dexterity.

Somehow, good food self prepared rather, than simply bought is more meaningful. My Daniel cooking up a Provencal rabbit and truffle stew before a night of excess with Bonny, is sexier than Bond buying Beluga.

(The image: Hostellerie Jérôme at La Turbie on the Cote-D-Azure serve this: Pigeon(Squab) with foie gras and cepes. I’ve tried to reproduce dish’s like this often.) 

Here is a passage from the novel Grip that features that establishment: (This work is available free as taster right now. Any ebook format can be downloaded on Smashwords at:

Next day they had planned a short excursion down the coast for lunch at the two-star Hostellerie Jérôme in the village of La Turbe. Daniel made pilgrimage to this place every time they came to the area and always had the same dish when it was on the menu. It was seasonal and only rarely appeared before the end of September. This singular choice was very unusual for him as he made a point of giving menus a very thorough workout. This particular house speciality had hooked him completely and he tried in vain many times to reproduce it at home. Perhaps that untypical failure tasked him and made him come back for another careful attempt to understand the subtleties of the dish, which was: Lapin aux truffles. Rabbit with truffles seems simple enough but there were depths to this dish that delighted him more than any other he had experienced in a restaurant. As he was about to read the menu, Bonny rather unkindly teased him by saying, “Why waste your time with that when you know you are having dead fluffy bunny with expensive fungus as usual? Listen DD, why not let me loose on garçon. and I will see if I can sweet talk them into letting you go into the kitchen to see their mystery. Put yourself out of your own misery. I’m getting sad listening to you cussing over the pots as you try to reproduce this brilliant buggered-bunny banquet.”

When he had finished laughing, Daniel agreed and Bonny wafted over to the chief-waiter with her charm motor in overdrive. She came back five minutes later looking very serious. After keeping them waiting while she finished her aperitif she said, “OK, that was like pulling teeth but you are on. I have to come with you to translate and let the chefs ogle my glories and I had to swear ten oaths to the great Gallic God Larouse that you are not in the business and bent on robbing their famed speciality.”

“Praise be to the sainted Larouse, your French and the glories that are your titties, Bonny-Ann. I shall give praise and anoint the glories in humble and craven thanks later at a sanctified place of worship.”

Lauren nearly choked on her amuse-buche laughing at this exchange. Soon they were all having trouble keeping their laughter to socially tolerable levels as the giggle infection spread.

As they drove down to Menton after, Bonny played back the Dictaphone Lauren had given her to record recipe notes and Daniel sighed and hummed his satisfaction but typically thorough in his concern for gastronomic perfection said, “Where the hell am I going to get my hands on carefully farmed rabbit back home? Maybe I’ll get a few and a hutch.”

“Like hell you will. The children would adopt them and never speak to you again when you blatter their bunnies to death and they’d turn veggie on the spot.”

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