Salt Fish and Ackee

In Dr. No, in the morning following their night at The Joy Boat, James Bond and Quarrel reconvene at Bond’s hotel, the Blue Hills.

‘Yes, come on in, Quarrel. We’ve got a busy day. Had some breakfast?’
‘Yes, tank you, cap’n. Salt fish an’ ackee an’ a tot of rum.’
‘Good God,’ said Bond. ‘That’s tough stuff to start the day on.’
‘Mos’ refreshin’,’ said Quarrel stolidly.

SaltFish and Ackee is Jamaica’s National Dish.

The Ackee fruit was originally native to West Africa, and was introduced to Jamaica where it has become the national fruit of the country. The fruit grows on evergreen trees, in pods which ripen from green to red, and then split open when completely ripe. Even then, care must be taken to separate the yellow aril from the black seeds.

The Salt Fish and Ackee dish is a common breakfast meal, as the edible part of the Ackee fruit when cooked, has the texture and even the taste, of scrambled eggs.

In addition to the Salt fish, onion and various colorful peppers are usually a part of the dish.

During my trip to Goldeneye, I was sure to eat Salt fish and Ackee each morning for breakfast.

It is traditionally served with those fried dumplings, which complement the dish very well.

I did not have the “tot of rum” with breakfast, however. Instead I stuck with the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee.

Fugu Poison

In Dr No, once M and Sir James Molony have ended their back and forth over the health and prospects of James Bond, M queries as to the type of poison that had nearly killed Bond.

By the way, did you ever discover what the stuff was that Russian woman put into him?”

“Got the answer yesterday.” Sir James Molony also was glad the subject had been changed. The old man was as raw as the weather. Was there any chance that he had got his message across into what he described to himself as M’s thick skull? “Taken us three months. It was a bright chap at the School of Tropical Medicine who came up with it. The drug was fugu poison. The Japanese use it for committing suicide. It comes from the sex organs of the Japanese globe-fish. Trust the Russians to use something no one’s ever heard of. They might just as well have used curare. It has much the same effect-paralysis of the central nervous system. Fugu’s scientific name is Tetrodotoxin. It’s terrible stuff and very quick. One shot of it like your man got and in a matter of seconds the motor and respiratory muscles are paralysed. At first the chap sees double and then he can’t keep his eyes open. Next he can’t swallow. His head falls and he can’t raise it. Dies of respiratory paralysis.”

“Lucky he got away with it.”

“Miracle. Thanks entirely to that Frenchman who was with him. Got your man on the floor and gave him artificial respiration as if he was drowning. Somehow kept his lungs going until the doctor came. Luckily the doctor had worked in South America. Diagnosed curare and treated him accordingly. But it was a chance in a million.”

The globe-fish, or puffer fish is a member of the species of fish of the family Tetraodontidae. These fish have the ability to inflate themselves to a globe several times their normal size by swallowing water or air when threatened. The skin, liver and sex organs of the fish contain Tetrodotoxin.

fugu-fish

Tetrodotoxin is said to be 10,000 times more lethal than cyanide. As Sir James mentions, the poison interferes with the transmission of signals from nerves to muscles and causes an increasing paralysis of the muscles of the body. Bond was saved because  Rene Mathis gave him artificial respiration, and the Doctor on site thought Bond’s symptoms were similar to curare and treated as such.

Interestingly, eight years after his experience with Rosa Klebb (according to Griswold, that meeting took place on August 19th, 1954) while James Bond is on assignment in Japan for the events of You Only Live Twice where he has a dinner with Tiger Tanaka, who announces to Bond that they will be dining on Fugu fish.

‘Fugu is the Japanese blow-fish. In the water, it looks like a brown owl, but when captured it blows itself up into a ball covered with wounding spines. We sometimes dry the skins and put candles inside and use them as lanterns. But the flesh is particularly delicious. It is the staple food of the sumo wrestlers because it is supposed to be very strength-giving. The fish is also very popular with suicides and murderers because its liver and sex glands contain a poison which brings death instantaneously.’

If Bond recalls that he nearly died from Fugu poisoning, he doesn’t mention it to Tiger, and gamely goes ahead with the meal.

A very beautiful white porcelain dish as big as a bicycle wheel was brought forward with much ceremony. On it were arranged, in the pattern of a huge flower, petal upon petal of a very thinly sliced and rather transparent white fish. Bond followed Tiger’s example and set to with his chopsticks. He was proud of the fact that he had reached Black Belt standard with these instruments-the ability to eat an underdone fried egg with them.

The fish tasted of nothing, not even of fish. But it was very pleasant on the palate and Bond was effusive in his compliments because Tiger, smacking his lips over each morsel, obviously expected it of him. There followed various side-dishes containing other parts of the fish, and more sake, but this time containing raw fugu fins.

As Tiger tells Bond, every fugu restaurant has to be manned by experts and be registered with the State because of the risk of poison. Even today that remains the case.

According to Griswold, this meal took place on October 2nd, 1962. Are we to believe that Bond didn’t know what was in the spike in Rosa’s shoe, that he forgot about it, or that because of the seriousness of this assignment, he went ahead and participated in the meal?

Deep Yellow Jersey Butter

Jersey-Salted-Butter

An entire blog post devoted to a large pat of deep yellow Jersey butter on thick whole wheat toast?

That’s what we do here at Fleming’s Bond.

Ian Fleming wouldn’t just have James Bond spreading butter (and jam or honey) on his toast. It needs to be more descriptive and indicate an ambition to a higher standard of living from his star agent.

The Jersey is a reference to a breed of cattle. (Nothing to do with New Jersey!) The Jersey cattle breed was originally bred on the channel island of Jersey, but has been a top export of the island since the 1700’s.

The cream from Jersey cows produces the best butter because of its higher fat content milk (4.84% butterfat and 3.95% protein), plus the fact that their fat is dispersed in larger globules than milk from other types of cows and tends to churn into butter more easily.

This cream is deep ivory to gold when it is from pastured cows because the plants they eat have higher beta carotene, which colors the cream more than grain.

Look at the contrast here.

jersey-butter

On the left is regular butter you’d buy at the store. On the right is butter churned from cream that came from Jersey cows. The difference in color is certainly striking. The taste…

….you should probably try it for yourself. On thick whole wheat toast.

De Bry in New Oxford Street

An essential part of the James Bond breakfast at home as laid out in From Russia With Love is the coffee.

It consisted of very strong coffee, from De Bry in New Oxford Street, brewed in an American Chemex, of which he drank two large cups, black and without sugar.

De Bry was a Paris chocolatier and confectionery which had a store in London in Ian Fleming’s day. They supplied coffees as well, which Bond was partial to. We learn in other books that Bond enjoyed Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. Perhaps De Bry imported it. Unfortunately the location went out of business many years ago.

In looking through various publications in an effort to get a feel for the kind of shop it was, I found a few references to De Bry and it’s offerings.

London Night and Day, 1951: A guide to Where The Other Books Don’t Take you.

PROSPECTING FOR A RESTAURANT in Soho by peeping through windows? Look in at Maison Bertaux, 28, Greek Street. Open 9.30 to 6.0. Will do equally well for coffee in the morning. For that matter, to your horror maybe, you can have coffee in the afternoon. Salon de Thé au premier, in pink, concealed lightning and gilt mirrors. Seats a very tight 28, with no room for coat hangers. Cakes at 6d. each, a cup of coffee at the same price. Shop and pay desk are on the ground floor. Owned by that excellent firm, De Bry, which has one branch in New Oxford Street, and another one at Marble Arch.

During World War II, supplies from Paris were cut off, resulting in a chocolate shortage.

In the London papers, the confectioner De Bry de Paris, located at 64 New Oxford Street, ran an advertisement saying that their supply of chocolates had dwindled: “Therefore the many, who in the past delighted in the enjoyment of the De Bry quality, must of necessity be reduced to the fortunate few who can obtain them.”

In the Diary Of Virginia Woolf Volume 5,  she references a conversation about the war with “the woman at de Bry (Coffee Merchants, New Oxford Street)”

From The Journal of Taste, 1910:

Chocolates and sweets of exquisite flavour and quality, with jams, cocoa, and chocolate powder, etc., formed the exhibit of M. A. E. Marious de Bry of 64, New Oxford Street, whose manufactures we would specially commend to our reader’ attention.

Royal Blue Book: Fashionable Directory and Parliamentary Guide  – January 1, 1906

de-bry-new-oxford

Eggs From French Marans Hens

Each morning while at home, James Bond prefers to eat the same breakfast. As usual, Ian Fleming spares no detail in relating this specific item in From Russia With Love:

The single egg, in the dark blue egg cup with a gold ring around the top, was boiled for three and a third minutes.

It was a very fresh, speckled brown egg from French Marans hens owned by some friend of May in the country. (Bond disliked white eggs and, faddish as he was in many small things, it amused him to maintain that there was such a thing as the perfect boiled egg.)

This goes along with his specific coffee made in the specific coffeemaker, with the specific toast and the three specific spreads that he has while at home.

Marans hens, a medium-sized, dual-purpose breed of poultry, known for their dark eggs, originated in Marans, France and were imported to the United Kingdom in the 1930’s. There are nine recognized colors in the French Marans standard.

All Marans lay dark brown eggs, some varieties with the speckled specified by Fleming, as this one:

egg-maran

 

Bond’s mania for dark brown eggs is repeated in the short story 007 in New York, when it is noted:

(Bond had once had a small apartment in New York. He had tried everywhere to buy brown eggs until finally some grocery clerk had told him, ‘We don’t stock ’em, mister. People think they’re dirty.’)

Uneducated Americans. Sigh.

 

 

Norwegian Heather Honey From Fortnum’s

The third jar of spread on James Bond’s breakfast table for his thick whole wheat toast with a large pat of deep yellow Jersey butter is “Norwegian Heather Honey From Fortnum’s.” In fact, this particular morning, it is the honey with which Bond chooses to finish up his breakfast with.

Unlike the first two jars, which were specific product brands, it would appear here that Fleming is, rather than going for a brand placement, giving the name of the store in order to give the product it’s appropriate lustre.

Fortnum & Mason is a famous London department store and iconic symbol which was established in 1707.  Originally founded as a grocery store, it’s reputation was built on the high quality of its goods.

Obviously honey was among those goods.

Fortnum & Mason pots

Fortnum’s sold, (and sells) a variety of honey, and no doubt during its history Norwegian Heather Honey was among them.

Heather Honey comes from the Ling Heather plant, which is common both in Scotland and Norway. As for the taste:

Ling Heather honey is reddish/orange to dark amber. It has a slightly bitter, tangy, pungent, smoky, mildly sweet taste that persists for a long time. It has a strong distinctive woody, warm, floral, fresh fruit aroma reminiscent of heather flowers. – HoneyTraveler.com

It seems a worthy addition to the Bond breakfast table.

As for Fleming putting these particular products on his hero’s table, some point to his “gentle reader” William Plomer as the source of the specific products on the table, as Fleming had admired Plomer’s tastes and asked him for suggestions.

Fortnum and Mason,  181 Piccadilly, London.
Fortnum and Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London.

 

A layout showing the store's departments in the 1950's.
A layout showing the store’s departments in the 1950’s.

Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade

coopers

The second spread that James Bond keeps at his breakfast table for use on his thick whole wheat toast is Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade. Like the Tiptree ‘Little Scarlet’ Strawberry jam, this was a well known, rather high-end product, that is still produced today.

Frank Cooper (1844-1927) inherited his father’s grocery store in 1867. It is said that in 1874, his 24-year-old wife, Sarah-Jane produced 76 lbs of marmalade from her own recipe. It proved so popular that the manufacture of it became the main family business. The company holds a Royal Warrant, providing goods to the royal family.

This is a dark, thick coarse cut marmalade using Seville oranges from Spain with a strong taste of the bitter oranges. It is said to be best when spread generously on thick toast, just as Bond does in From Russia With Love. The bitter orange taste with the coarse pieces of rind is said to be a perfect contrast to the sweetness of melted “deep yellow Jersey butter” on hot toast.

Coopers-Vintage-Oxford-Marmalade

Just another example of the impeccable product placement employed by Ian Fleming, using a well-known, high end product which would both humanize Bond and show him as a man of taste.

Cooper's Jam Factory.
Cooper’s Jam Factory.

Tiptree ‘Little Scarlet’ Strawberry Jam

From Russia With Love introduces us to James Bond’s home routine. This is where we first learn about his very particular breakfast habits when at home between assignments abroad.

He has his strong coffee, his boiled egg, and toast. On the toast is a “large pat of deep yellow Jersey butter” and one of three other toppings which he keeps at hand.

One of which is Tiptree ‘Little Scarlet’ Strawberry Jam.

Tiptree_Scarlet_Strawberry_Conserve

This unique product is made by the famous Wilkin & Sons Ltd in the town of Tiptree in Essex. The ‘Little Scarlet’ strawberries are grown on site, and made into the Conserve immediately, as they explain:

Little Scarlet is a very special strawberry, an anachronism (lovely word!) in today’s world. Today, strawberries are quite unlike the tiny, intensely flavoured fruit of two hundred years ago, whereas Little Scarlet strawberry never changed. Grown only at Tiptree, the fruit is difficult to grow, an unpredictable cropper that dislikes extremes of weather and won’t keep once picked. The upside is that Tiptree’s Little Scarlet conserve (James Bond’s preserve of choice) is made only from our own fresh fruit, within hours of it being picked.

Why do we persist in growing much of our own fruit, when there are usually cheaper imported varieties available? We think that the British climate (generally speaking of course!) means slower ripening fruit which imparts a better flavour. We also reckon that we prefer to do things ourselves anyway, it means we can grow the varieties we want, look after them as we choose and pick them when we think they’re at the peak of their perfection.

They go on to relate that the Little Scarlet jam is generally the most expensive jam they make.

This fits in well with Ian Fleming and his crafting of James Bond as a man who knows exactly what he likes, and will settle for nothing less. The other spreads are similarly fine products as well, as we will discuss soon.

Glorifried Ham-N-Eggs

“He had a typical American meal at an eating house called ‘Gloryfried Ham-N-Eggs’ (‘The Eggs We Serve Tomorrow Are Still in the Hens’) on Lexington Avenue and then took a cab downtown to police headquarters, where he was due to meet Leiter and Dexter at 2.30.” (‘Live and Let Die,’ Ian Fleming, Pan Books Ltd., London, 1963, p. 34)

Apparently Lexington Ave in New York did once house an establishment by this name:

glorifried

An interesting website called The Bondologist mentions this passage from Live and Let Die:

James Bond novels that were edited, censored and banned

Another example of the many edits made to LIVE AND LET DIE concerns Fleming’s description of American cuisine. In the fourth chapter of the novel, ‘The Big Switchboard,’ Bond enjoys a meal in the British edition:

“He had a typical American meal at an eating house called ‘Gloryfried Ham-N-Eggs’ (‘The Eggs We Serve Tomorrow Are Still in the Hens’) on Lexington Avenue and then took a cab downtown to police headquarters, where he was due to meet Leiter and Dexter at 2.30.” (‘Live and Let Die,’ Ian Fleming, Pan Books Ltd., London, 1963, p. 34)

In the American edition the passage appeared slightly differently:

“He had a typical American meal at a restaurant called ‘Glorifried Ham-N-Eggs’ (‘The Eggs We Serve Tomorrow Are Still on the Farm Today’) on Lexington Avenue and then took a cab downtown to police headquarters, where he was due to meet Leiter and Dexter at two-thirty.” (‘Live and Let Die,’ Ian Fleming, Berkley Books, New York, 1985, p. 30)

In the American version the clever marketing ploy of combining ‘glorified’ with ‘fried’ to make ‘gloryfried’ is changed to ‘glorifried,’ it is described as a ‘restaurant’ and not an ‘eating house’ and the eggs are now advertised as being ‘on the Farm Today’ instead of still being in the hens. The time that Bond was due to meet Felix Leiter and Captain Dexter is also changed from figures in the British edition to words in the American edition. These cultural changes in the American edition were made because clearly the American editors were not nearly as amazed as Fleming – ‘the Englishman abroad’ – was by the different nature of American cuisine and culture. Perhaps they thought such references would be patronising for the American readership, as it would be instantly more familiar to them. It is perhaps ironic that the change was made to the slogan of the American ‘eating house,’ as Fleming, being the brilliant journalistic observer of other countries and cultures that he was, would surely have copied it verbatim from just such a place into his notebook for later use.

I think this might be the other New York location, but might be representative of Bond’s experience:

glorifried-ham-n-eggs