Luxury food appears throughout the novels, but its inclusion is about the setting and use of it, rather than Bond’s fine and expensive tastes. This was a point that Fleming was keen for readers to understand, and it annoyed him when they didn’t.
Much of the luxury food Bond eats was out of the reach of many when the novels were written, and what it includes might surprise you. American food appears often, given the time Bond spends in the US, and, while he is no fan of it, the hamburger he dines on was just such a “luxury” at the time of the books’ publication. It’s hard to imagine, but the easy, ready abundance of cheap meat in America was pure escapism for readers dreaming of such indulgence. Set against the grey backdrop of 1950s Britain, still feeling the effects of the Second World War with rationing not long ended, such dishes a world away would seem quite special. The same can be said of the avocados, Caribbean fruits, and the meal Bond and M. share closer to home at the latter’s London club, Blades, in Moonraker. On this occasion, between them they dine on lamb cutlets, bone marrow, pineapple, smoked salmon and asparagus with hollandaise, all washed down with a number of rare and expensive wines and liquors. While a more expensive, though not overly extravagant meal than a hamburger, the ingredients are readily available today.
Of course this isn’t to say that Bond doesn’t dine on foods that we would more readily describe as luxurious, both then and now. Caviar, steak tartare, foie gras, soft shell crabs with tartar sauce, dressed crab, stone crab, lobster, and tournedos are all dined on at least once in the books. Usually he eats them in the company of women he is wooing and in grand surroundings. This glamorousness brings life and excitement to the world of high-rolling casinos and jet-set travel. It all reflected Fleming’s world, helped to lift the spirits of his readers, and played a huge role in the popularity of the novels.
Throughout the novels there are times when Bond eats some very humble dishes too, such as a gypsy ragout, and herring with cream and onions. The first of these Bond dines on in Turkey in less than salubrious surroundings during From Russia With Love. The herring is eaten, along with tinned foods, while Bond is in Berlin and keeping lookout for a defector over the Wall in the short story The Living Daylights. Other dishes are humble yet luxurious in their richness: eggs benedict and rognons de veau (veal kidneys). This modest food brings character and contrast between the luxury of the West and the poor, stark and cold worlds of post-war Britain and Cold War Berlin and the like.
Luxury food or the lack thereof features throughout the books, but often what was once was the height of luxury because of its lack of availability isn’t so to the same degree today. That said, foie gras is still a luxury and a product that Bond enjoys in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Foie Gras with Red Onion Compote – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
- 2 slices of foie gras
- 2 slices of brioche, about 1cm thick and toasted
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1 red onion, sliced
- 15g butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 dessertspoon of brown sugar
- Balsamic vinegar
To make the compote. melt the butter with the oil in a hot frying pan. Add the red onion and fry on a medium heat until soft.
Once the onion is soft, add the herbs, bay leaf, the sugar and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Mix the sugar through and continue to cook until the onion is caramelised. Then take off the heat and leave to cool.
Once the compote is cool, heat a heavy based frying pan until it is very hot. Season both sides of the foie gras with salt and pepper and then sear for 40 seconds on each side. Place each slice of foie gras on a slice of toasted brioche to rest for a few minutes. Then serve with the compote.
Pair with Bond’s choice of accompanying drink, champagne.
Photo: Quinn Dombrowski