The Hemingway Cookbook.
Are you looking for a way to celebrate the Hemingway centennial but can't afford to travel to Oak Park, Boston, Ketchum, or Bimini? Then look no farther. Craig Boreth has created the perfect celebration package with The Hemingway Cookbook. The book is a delicious collection of recipes, Hemingway quotations, biographical information, and photographs. On 21 July, invite over a table-full of your most fun-loving friends and treat them to the kind of birthday celebration that Hemingway would have loved.
I have given two dinner parties using a Hemingway theme and recipes that are included in this book. This is a sure-fire way to create a memorable event. For the most part, the recipes are straightforward and have readily available ingredients. Although a few will run up your cholesterol count with their use of cream, butter, or lard, most are surprisingly healthy fare, using plenty of fruit, vegetables and lean meat.
Many great writers have occasionally written well about food and drink. Thomas Wolfe, for example, struck gold when he described eating at the Gant's in Look Homeward, Angel. But few great writers have consistently written well about food and drink. M.F.K. Fisher is an example of a fine writer who built a career on her ability write about life and travel while incorporating culinary themes.
Ernest Hemingway had a life-long love affair with both words and food. His ability to mix the two together, calling on an incredible depth of life experience that related to eating and drinking, made possible much of Hemingway's most enjoyable and memorable writing. Yet with the exception of Susan Beegel's article "Hemingway Gastronomique: A Guide to Food and Drink in A Moveable Feast" (The Hemingway Review 4.1 [Fall 1984] and more recently Samuel J. Rogal's index, For Whom the Dinner Bell Tolls: The Role and Function of Food and Drink in the Prose of Ernest Hemingway, little scholarship has focused on this issue.
The Hemingway Cookbook combines all of the major elements of a memorable book about Hemingway. It includes historical research, much of it done in the field, and interviews with Hemingway friends and acquaintances. Boreth not only interviews the usual friends, such as A.E. Hotchner, but, more importantly, he seeks out people like Juanita Balleguer, now in her nineties, who continues to run La Pepica in Valencia. Sra. Balleguer cooked many meals for Hemingway when he was in Spain working on The Dangerous Summer. The book includes her recipes for several of his favorite dishes.
You are also taken to places that Hemingway wrote about, places where he lived and visited. The Hemingway Cookbook includes extensive quotations from selected Hemingway correspondence, books, and short stories. Boreth's selection of pictures to illustrate the book is superb. Going beyond the standard collection at the Kennedy Library, he visited many locations and includes his own photos of places such as the Hostel Burguete where Hemingway stayed in the early 1920s, and where Jake and friends stayed in The Sun Also Rises.
As a cookbook, this volume stands up with the best of them. The recipes are well-researched with easy-to-understand instructions. Most ingredients are readily available. For the few ingredients you can't buy at your local market, such as eland or wild strawberries, Boreth lists more common substitutes. Another welcome feature is the effort to explain various dishes that may not be familiar to the reader. For example, you will learn the difference between a Parisienne brioche and a Nanterre brioche. Had I read this book thirty years ago, I would have saved myself considerable embarrassment at Chez Francoise in Washington, D.C. in my first effort to eat escargots.
An equally attractive feature, from the standpoint of entertaining, is the inclusion of menus. Invite some friends over for a weekend lunch and replicate Hemingway's lunch at the Brasserie Lipp from A Moveable Feast, with pommes l'huile (potatoes in oil), cervelas (sausages) with mustard sauce, and beer. Or, for a memorable dinner party, replicate the meal that the Colonel and Renata enjoyed at the Gritti Palace in Across the River and Into the Trees. lobster salad, scaloppine with Marsala, cauliflower braised with butter, and artichokes vinaigrette. The wines are Capri bianco and Valpolicella.
Even the best of books have a few shortcomings and this one is no exception. I haven't the slightest idea of the significance of adding two corks to the boiling water in the recipe for octopus vinaigrette. Also, the book includes a recipe for roast duckling from The Harry's Bar Cookbook that seems not to be a recipe that Hemingway would have relished. The Harry's Bar recipe cooks the duck for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. But Hemingway's duck hunting friends in Ketchum talk about the bloody forty minute ducks that Hemingway (and only Hemingway) preferred. In this instance, I'll take the duck cooked by Harry's Bar. And, speaking of Idaho, I would have loved to see the recipe for a Hemingway favorite--the pickled trout served at Dutch Charlie's south of Hailey.
It is also awkward that the individual recipes used to create some of the menus serve different numbers of people. In other words, you will find a menu where some of the recipes are for four servings, while others are for a different number.
But these are small concerns. Dishes I have prepared from the book include the marinated tuna with onions, gazpacho, sangria, Boise's avocado, Mount Everest Special, sweet and sour sauce, mango chutney, picadillo, eland picatta (with real eland), and the Biffi's fruit cup. The gazpacho is the best I have tasted. Boise's avocado has become a regular feature at our house, as has Mary Hemingway's recipe for sweet and sour sauce to use in stir frying.
I'll share the results of a taste test conducted at one of my dinner parties. Boreth includes a recipe for a dish called The Mount Everest Special. According to A.E. Hotchner, this sandwich containing sliced onion and peanut butter was a Hemingway favorite. In "Big Two Hearted River," Nick Adams has a favorite sandwich that is simply sliced onion between two pieces of bread. The overwhelming feeling of our testers was that Nick Adams had infinitely better taste in sandwiches than Hemingway. But Nick isn't going to get any culinary awards, either. His sandwich reads much better than it eats.
The concluding sections of the book are well-researched chapters on "The Hemingway Wine Cellar" (an excellent explanation of the various wines in Hemingway's writings), and "The Hemingway Bar" (with numerous drink recipes). And then comes the piece de resistance, the epilogue titled "An After Dinner Treat." This is a reprint of the Hemingway fable,"The Good Lion," written in Venice in 1950 for a young nephew of Adriana Ivancich.
The greatest challenge this book presents is whether to place it on the shelf next to your volumes of Hemingway, Baker, and Reynolds, or to keep it in the kitchen next to cookbooks by Claiborne, Beard, and Child. Craig Boreth has given us a true Hemingway feast.
--Martin L. Peterson, University of Idaho