Commander James Bond is the invention of Ian Fleming, who was—according to the note at the beginning of our Penguin Books 2002 reprint of Casino Royale—during the Second World War, Personal Assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence at the Admiralty, where he rose to the rank of Commander, and his wartime experiences provided him with first-hand knowledge of secret operations. So Commander James Bond is an idealized projection of Commander Ian Fleming. That idealization means there are lots of preposterous adventures and available women and super-villains who like to explain everything to Bond right before they attempt to murder him in a variety of innovative and elaborate ways, but it also means there’s a whole other level of daydreaming going on, and that level is at the height of the dinner table. James Bond liked to live high, and he was kind of a ‘splain-y blowhard about it.
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 trouble.”
We have to figure this is the one part of all these bullshit spy stories that’s completely accurate, so in the interest of Culinary Vicariousness, we have explored and present to you the Strictly Gustatory Adventures of James Bond.
Bond liked to make a good breakfast. After a cold shower, he sat at the writing-table in front of the window. He looked out at the beautiful day and consumed half a pint of iced orange juice, three scrambled eggs and bacon and a double portion of coffee without sugar. He lit his first cigarette, a Balkan and Turkish mixture made for him by Morlands of Grosvenor Street, and watched the small waves lick the long seashore and the fishing-fleet from Dieppe string out towards the June heat-haze followed by a paper-chase of herring-gulls.
Later, as Bond was finishing his first straight whiskey “on the rocks” and was contemplating the paté de foie gras and cold langouste which the waiter had laid out for him, the telephone rang.
Bond shook himself, then he picked up his knife and selected the thickest of the pieces of hot toast.
He dipped the knife into the glass of very hot water which stood beside the pot of Strasbourg porcelain and reminded himself to tip the waiter double for this particular meal.
“A dry martini,” he said. “One. In a deep champagne goblet.”
“Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold. Then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?”
He watched carefully as the deep glass became frosted with the pale golden drink, slightly aerated by the bruising of the shaker. He reached for it and took a long sip.
“Excellent,” he said to the barman, “but if you can get a vodka made with grain instead of potatoes, you will find it better.”
“A small carafe of vodka, very cold,” ordered Bond.
The trouble always is,” he explained to Vesper, “not how to get enough caviar, but how to get enough toast with it.”
“Now,” he turned back to the menu,” I myself will accompany Mademoiselle with the caviar, but then I would like a very small tournedos, underdone, with sauce Béarnaise and a couer d’artichaut. While Mademoiselle is enjoying the strawberries, I will have half an avocado pear with a little French dressing. Do you approve?
“If you agree,” said Bond, “I would prefer to drink champagne with you tonight. It is a cheerful wine and it suits the occasion—I hope,” he added.
With his finger on the page, Bond turned to the sommelier: “The Taittinger 45?”
“A fine wine, monsieur,” said the sommelier, “but if Monsieur will permit,” he pointed with his pencil, “the Blanc de Blanc Brut 1943 of the same marque is without equal.”
She finished her story just as the waiters arrived with the caviar, a mound of hot toast, and small dishes containing finely chopped onion and grated hard-boiled egg, the white in one dish and the yolk in another.
Bond drank some champagne and continued.
Bond sat back and lit a cigarette. On a small table beside him half a bottle of Clicquot and a glass had materialized. Without asking who the benefactor was, Bond filled the glass to the brim and drank it down in two long draughts.
For a few minutes they discussed the game over a bottle of champagne.
They were given a corner table near the door. Bond ordered a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and scrambled eggs and bacon.
“Of course, my dear boy, how thoughtless of me.” Le Chiffre poured some coffee into the other glass…
He laid the handle of the carpet-beater down on the floor between his thick legs and rose from his chair. He went behind Bond and taking a handful of his soaking hair in one hand, he wrenched Bond’s head sharply back. He poured the coffee down Bond’s throat in small mouthfuls so that he would not choke. Then he released his head so that it fell forward again on his chest. He went back to his chair and picked up the carpet-beater.
Le Chiffre took a glass of coffee and poured some into Bond’s mouth and threw the rest in his face. Bond’s eyes slowly opened.
The proprietor was pleased when they both showed their delight. He said that dinner would be at seven-thirty and that Madame la patronne was preparing broiled lobsters with melted butter.
The champagne which Bond had ordered on their arrival stood on a plated wine-cooler beside the table and Bond poured out two full glasses. Vesper busied herself with a delicious home-made liver paté and helped them both to the crisp French bread and the thick square of deep yellow butter set in chips of ice.
When the lobster had come and gone and the second bottle of champagne was half-empty and they had just ladled thick cream over their fraises des bois, Vesper gave a deep sigh of contentment.
When they had had their coffee and Bond was sipping his brandy, Vesper picked up her bag and came and stood behind him.
Further installments of this series may be found here