In the interest of Culinary Vicariousness, we are exploring and presenting to you the Strictly Gustatory Adventures of world-renowned super-spy James Bond, as recorded in the novels of Commander Ian Fleming.
You Only Live Twice
Bond laughed. “All right, Tiger. But first, more saké!
He said to Tiger, “Tell the old bitch she’s a clever old bitch,” accepting the brimming tumbler of hot saké from the apparently adoring hands of Trembling Leaf, and downed it in two tremendous gulps.
He lifted the tumbler, and, obediently, Trembling Leaf filled it from a fresh flagon. Bond downed the saké, handed the tumbler to the girl, and suddenly crashed his right fist down on the lacquer table so that the little boxes of sweetmeats rattled and the porcelain tinkled.
Bond bowed and drank more saké, toasting Tiger.
Bond gazed at the picture of three oranges (no! After an hour he decided they were persimmons) in a blue bowl that faced him and, when the aircraft flattened out at 30,000 feet, ordered the first of the chain of brandies and ginger ales that was to sustain him over the Channel, a leg of the North Sea, the Kattegat, the Arctic Ocean, the Beaufort Sea, the Bering Sea, and the North Pacific, and decided that, whatever happened on this impossible assignment, he would put up no resistance to his old skin being sloughed off him on the other side of the world.
They were both past the eight flask of saké, but Dikko had also laid a foundation of Suntory whisky in the Okura while he’d been waiting for Bond to write out an innocuous cable to Melbourne with the prefix: “Informationwise,” which meant that it was for Mary Goodnight, to announce his arrival and give his current address.
Bond said, “you’re a no-good kangaroo bum, Dikko, but I like eels. As long as they’re not jellied.”
Bond took a deep drink of saké and said, “My dear Tiger, I would hate to put you to the inconvenience of having to remove me from the face of the earth.”
Bond reached for the saké flask. It stood in a jar of warm water being heated over a low flame from a charcoal burner. He filled his glass and drank.
Tiger Tanaka paused and poured more saké for Bond and more Suntory for himself.
Bond was now getting drowsy. It was four o’clock and the horizon of jagged grey porcelain-shingled roof-tops was lightening. He poured down the last of the saké. It had the flat taste of too much.
James Bond wrestled with his chopsticks and slivers of raw octopus and a mound of rice (“You must get accustomed to the specialties of the country, Bondo-san”) and watched the jagged coast-line, interspersed with glittering paddy fields, flash by.
There weren’t many smiles and bows left in him, and he was glad when he was at last left alone in his maddeningly dainty room with the usual dainty pot of tea, dainty cup, and dainty sweetmeat wrapped in rice-paper.
The saké came.
Lacquer boxes of rice, raw quails’ eggs in sauce, and bowls of sliced seaweed were placed in front of them both. Then they were each given a fine oval dish bearing a large lobster whose head and tail had been left as a dainty ornament to the sliced pink flesh in the centre. Bond set to with his chopsticks. He was surprised to find that the flesh was raw.
“It’s their way of death that’s got me a bit puzzled,” said Bond amiably, and he handed his glass to the kneeling waitress for more saké to give him strength to try the seaweed.
Tiger ordered, and they sat down in wonderful Western chairs at a real table while the usual dimpling waitress brought saké.
Tiger looked pleased with himself. “You are about to eat what it was all about—the finest, most succulent beef in the world. Kobe beef, but of a grade you wouldn’t find in the most expensive restaurant in Tokyo.”
Better still, Tiger said unfortunately he had to dine with the chief of police of the prefecture and Bond ordered a pint of Jack Daniels and a double portion of eggs benedict to be brought up to his room.
Meanwhile, Tiger and Bond sat in the first class dining-room and consumed “Hamlets”—ham omelets—and saké.
Bond was offhand. “Not that I can think of. But for God’s sake chuck it, Tiger! None of your Japanese brainwashing! More saké, and answer my question of yesterday.”
Bond said, “Now then Tiger, I’m not going to commit honourable suicide without at least five bottles of saké inside me.”
The fish tasted of nothing, not even of fish.
There followed various side-dishes containing other parts of the fish, and more saké, but this time containing raw fugu fins.
Bond added a pair of black flippers to his equipment, a small supply of pemmican-like meat, benzedrine tablets, a plastic flask of water.
Tiger produced sandwiches and a flask of saké for each of them, and they ate their luncheon as the jagged green coast with its sandy beaches passed slowly by to port.
Bond went outside and ate his bean curd and rice and drank his tea sitting on the spotless doorstep of the little cut-stone and timberland house, while indoors the family chattered like happy sparrows as the women went about their housework.
Later they stopped for a lunch of rice with a few small bits of fish in it and dried seaweed which tasted of salty spinach.
She told him to lie still and brought him warm milk.
In the morning, nothing remained of his aches except the soreness of the hands, and Kissy gave him the rare treat of an egg beaten up in his rice and bean curd and he apologized for his bad manners of the night before.
He took out his single packet of Shinsei and lit up, holding the cigarette between cupped hands and quickly blowing out the match. He dragged the smoke deep down into his lungs.
Back at the house, Kissy went happily about preparing a highly spiced dish of sukiyaki, the national dish of beef stew. This was not only a great treat, for they seldom ate meat, but Kissy didn’t know if her love-potions had any taste and it would be wise not to take any chances. When it was ready, with a trembling hand, she poured the brown powder and the liquid into Bond’s portion and stirred it well.
She watched surreptitiously as Bond devoured every scrap of his portion and wiped his plate with a pinch of rice and then, after warm compliments on her cooking, drank his tea and retired to their room.
Previous installments of this series may be found here.