Friday, October 07, 2005

action cook

Len Deighton's Action Cookbook - one of NPR's Author's Lowlights
(via As above, kevan)

more at gremolata
The cover shows Deighton stirring a pot of spaghetti while a woman runs her hands suggestively through his hair. He’s got a gun hanging loosely by his side and is looking out at the reader with the kind of knowing glance that’s usually accompanied by a wink.

Comments: action cook

Personally, I preferred the gremolata review; great book, lousy cover.

"While a chapter entitled “Bachelor Foods: (The Quick Cook)” contains two pages on sandwich-making, he also thinks that a vol-au-vent or a Potage Saint Germain should be well within any novice’s grasp. All of the recipes are easy to follow and all, amazingly, work."

This sent me a-hunting through the recipe books for Potage Saint-Germain. Here's a recpe for it:

1 lb dried green split peas; 1 carrot; 1 onion; 1/4 lb bacon trimmings; 2 cloves; 1 bouquet garni; 1/4 lb butter; 1/4 pint cream; 4 pints white stock (chicken or veal).

Soak peas overnight in cold water, bring to the boil in water, skim and drain. Put the chopped vegetables together with the peas, diced bacon and bouquet garni into a saucepan and sweat (saute) slowly for one hour and mix in the stock, bring to the boil, season with sugar and salt. Remove from the heat and add the butter and cream. Serve with fried croutons.

I'd go with the veal stock (much richer than chicken); chopped herbs or a faggot of herbs would be OK substitutes for the bouquet garni. Ham might be preferable to the bacon.

I've been cooking something very similar to this for years, minus the cream. I've even found something a lot like it in tins at the supermarket.
Posted by Gummo Trotsky at October 6, 2005 03:50 PM

Yes - it was mainly the cover and the title that caught my eye. In this related link, (which I forgot to post),essay,68210,10.html
it's explained that:
"It is not a good cookbook. It is a shockingly good cookbook: I can attest that thanks to his "action strips" of cooking instructions in comic-strip form, you and Len can create a fine chicken paprika. How can this be? Hidden within his explanation of dessert trifle is the spymaster's top secret: Deighton was an assistant pastry chef before he turned his attention to pistol silencers and femmes fatales."

I also like recipes in comic book form. I have a great example from England post WW2, with a narrative about a new bride coping with austerity cuisine and unsolicited matronly advice about jerusalem artichokes. Unfortunately, my books aren't here, so can't scan at the moment...

Thanks for the recipe. Might have to subsitute something for bacon ("Not Bacon"?) and - would go for the chicken stock over the veal.
Wonder how that would go in comic book form?
Posted by boynton at October 6, 2005 05:03 PM

"Not Bacon" would have to be something salty and smoked, I think. Eel might be interesting.

Not sure how that would look in a comic book though.

PS - I refuse to get dragged into that old veal stock vs chicken stock controversy again.
Posted by Gummo Trotsky at October 6, 2005 06:11 PM

Yeah but can he sing "Melancholy Baby"?
Posted by Francis Xavier Holden at October 6, 2005 07:55 PM

That Potage Saint Germain looks a bit like my Pea 'n' 'am Soup. Whats the essential difference?
Posted by Francis Xavier Holden at October 6, 2005 08:00 PM

Maybe he can whistle Morricone - looks like Spaghetti Western...

I'm almost up to speed now on the history of this book...from Deighton's columns in The Observer
and the Trivia re Ipcress...
"As Deighton was writing a cooking strip appearing in the London Observer, copies of this strip were plastered on the walls of Harry Palmer's kitchen. One trick the spy used, cracking two eggs together with one-hand, was beyond Caine's ability. Viewers of the film might notice Palmer's hands have dark hairs in that shot and not the blond follicles of Michael Caine--they were the hands of Len Deighton. "
Posted by boynton at October 6, 2005 11:16 PM


I dunno what the essential difference would be. And the recipe I found might not be definitive either. Puzzling, isn't it?

It does suggest an easy cheat when you find yourself stuck for a soup for a dinner party though; a couple of tins of pea 'n ham and 200 mls of cream from the supermarket and bingo: Potage Saint-Germain!
Posted by Gummo Trotsky at October 7, 2005 01:22 PM

So it's a gun that's been missing from my veggie curries. The fawning woman and choosing an impressively large dish I have down pat.
"Add smith & wesson 38 special, pause, glance nonchalantly". "Eat".
Posted by peacay at October 7, 2005 02:17 PM

a gun cook

fire up stove...
walk ten paces
shoot cupboard open...
take out the pasta
pump 5 rounds of spaghetti into saucepan
ponder fwiw

Posted by boynton at October 7, 2005 04:02 PM

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