In an article in The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik reflects on his cooking experiences with recipes taken from the pages of novels. “Cooking is to our literature what sex was to the writing of the sixties and seventies, the thing worth stopping the story for to share, so to speak, with the reader,” he writes.
Gopnik connects the manner of cooking to the style and meaning of the writing. Quillblog especially enjoyed his thoughts on shell beans as cooked by Robert B. Parker’s main character, Spenser, in School Days:
The beans alone establish Spenser’s credibility as a cook. “I shelled the beans from their long, red-and-cream pods and dropped them in boiling water and turned down the heat and let them simmer,” he tells us. A devotion to shell beans, I have noticed, divides even amateur cooks from non-cooks more absolutely than any other food, and they are, into the bargain, a perfect model of writing. Like sentences, shell beans are a great deal more trouble to produce than anyone who isn’t producing them knows. You have to shell the beans, slipping open the pods with your thumbnail and then tugging the beautiful little prismatic buttons from their moorings—a process that, like writing, always takes much longer than you think it will. And then even the best shell beans, cleaned and simmered, are like sentences in that nobody actually appreciates them as much as they deserve to be appreciated.
Gopnik goes on to discuss cooking scenes as opportunities for reflection for the characters, and expresses his doubt that deep thought is possible, either for the characters or ourselves, while making some of the more complicated dishes such as bouillabaisse in Ian McEwan’s Saturday.