Can I cook like ... James Bond?
The first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, came out in 1953. At the time, rationing had another year yet to run in the United Kingdom, by which time Ian Fleming’s second book, Live and Let Die, was already on shelves.
That scarcity is one reason the literary Bond is such a big eater. His preferred breakfast is bacon and scrambled eggs, so I kick off my morning with a serving of both. I have long been of the opinion that eggs are an ingredient, not a food, and my scrambled eggs do not convince me otherwise: for the full Bond experience, I add milk, chives and butter, and my overall impression is that it’s not so much a breakfast, but the ruined makings of a perfectly good sauce.
I like bacon, but I do not like it enough to willingly wipe down the hob and surrounding area, and clean out the grill pan after cooking it. Yes, I can make a bacon sandwich at home – but I’ve decided nothing tastes as good as a grease-free hob feels.
Of course, for most early Bond readers, big hearty meals were few and far between, and a little extra washing up was a price they’d have been more than willing to pay. That’s why food is the real star of those first novels. In Casino Royale, more time is spent describing Bond’s meals than how he looks.
But the problem with recreating these dishes at home is that Fleming’s idea of a good meal was any two ingredients that cost more than a few coupons in a ration book: steak and pineapple, which is what I have to try next. Rather like Bond in Thunderball, my “stomach crawled with the ants of fear” at the prospect.
Fleming never makes it clear if the pineapple should be cooked or not, so I cook a chunk and have a chunk raw, and let me tell you: it makes no difference. Either way, you are eating two foods connected only by three things: they were hard to come by in 1953, Bond ate them both in a single meal, and they should never share the same plate.
I decide to drown my sorrows in the only appropriate way: a vodka martini, shaken, not stirred. You don’t have to be chafing under rationing to enjoy that, at least.