Saturday, July 02, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Kafka's Soup by Mark Crick

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to have dinner with Franz Kafka, Jane Austen or Raymond Chandler, this is your chance to find out.

Literary ventriloquist Mark Crick presents 14 recipes in the voices of famous writers, from Homer to Irvine Welsh.

Guaranteed to delight lovers of food and books, these witty pastiches will keep you so entertained in the kitchen that you'll be sorry when your guests arrive.
I first heard about this book on a podcast series all about books and food that I intend to blog about at some point as a Weekend Cooking post, and as soon as I heard about it I was off looking at the library catalogue to see if they had it or not. I ended up having to get it through inter library loan, but it was worth going to the effort because if you want a fun way to spend part of a Saturday afternoon.

The author, or literary ventriloquist if you wish, gives the reader 14 different recipes all in the various different voices of some of the most famous authors. Some of the voices work better than others, but there are several that are laugh out loud funny. Each of the entries is illustrated by the author as well.

A glance at the contents and a brief comment or quote:

Lamb with Dill Sauce a la Raymond Chandler (see below) - The voice on this one was spot on.

Tarragon Eggs a la Jane Austen -"It is a truth universally acknowledged that eggs, kept for too long, go off."

Quick Miso Soup a la Franz Kafka - "K's feeling that he was an outsider at his own dinner party was not unfamiliar."

Rich Chocolate Cake a la Irvine Welsh - "A Quality Fuckin Cook Up" - I think this was my favourite - included so much from people sniffing sugar to a coffin in the flat.

Tiramisu a la Marcel Proust - "This time I closed my eyes and sipped deeply of the draught, realising that what I sought dwelt not in the cappuccino but within myself."

Coq Au Vin a la Gabriel Garcia Marquez - A man facing execution is to have this as his final meal.

Mushroom Risotto a la John Steinbeck - 'The porcini lay dry and wrinkled, each slice twisted by thirst and the colour of parched earth."

Bone Stuff Poussins a la Marquis de Sade - lots of fleshy white birds and innuendo in this one. It was interesting because the setting of this story was undoubtedly modern, but the language stayed what I imagine is true to de Sade's writing.

Clafoutis Grandmere a la Virginia Wolfe - "Looking back at the cherries, that would not be pitted, red polka dots on white, so bright and jolly, their little core of hardness invisible,...."

Fenkata a la Homer - "Odysseus bound the mighty creature's feet and slung him over his shoulder to carry back to the Achaians' camp on the beach of the grey sea, beneath the bows of the wooden ships."

Vietnamese Chicken a la Graham Greene - "A recipe has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses at what point the cooking instructions become necessary, after the butcher has done his work and before care of the dish passes to the seasoning whims of the guests."

Sole a la Dieppoise a la Jorge Luis Borges - War time espionage whilst eating fish?

Cheese on Toast a la Harold Pinter - Mozzarella on ciabatta? I'm not eating that!

Onion Tart a la Geoffrey Chaucer - "Culinary are our metamorphoses, From ingredients chaos, creators we."

Apparently there are 3 more recipes in the paperback version of the book including a recipe for Christmas Pudding a la Charles Dickens which I think would be fun! As to actually cooking from the recipes, I guess it is possible, but you have to sort through all the prose. Even if you don't want to cook from it, this is a really fun, quick read.

Lamb with dill sauce a la Raymond Chandler

1kg lean leg of lamb, cut into large chunks
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, cut into sticks
1 tbsp crushed dill seeds, or 3-4 sprigs fresh dill
1 bay leaf
12 peppercorns
1/2 tsp salt
850ml chicken stock
50g butter
1 tbsp plain floor
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp cream
2 tsp lemon juice

I sipped on my whisky sour, ground out my cigarette on the chopping board and watched a bug trying to crawl out of the basin. I needed a table at Maxim's, a hundred bucks and a gorgeous blonde; what I had was a leg of lamb and no clues.

I took hold of the joint. It felt cold and damp, like a coroner's handshake. I took out a knife and cut the lamb into pieces. Feeling the blade in my hand I sliced an onion, and before I knew what I was doing a carrot lay in pieces on the slab. None of them moved.

I threw the lot into a pan with a bunch of dill stalks, a bay leaf, a handful of peppercorns and a pinch of salt. They had it coming to them, so I covered them with chicken stock and turned up the heat. I wanted them to boil slowly, just about as slowly as anything can boil.

An hour and a half and a half-pint of bourbon later they weren't so tough and neither was I. I separated the meat from the vegetables and covered it to keep it moist. The knife was still in my hand but I couldn't hear any sirens.

In this town the grease always rises to the top, so I strained the juice and skimmed off the fat. I added more water and put it back on the heat.

It was time to deal with the butter and flour, so I mixed them together into a paste and added it to the stock. There wasn't a whisk, so using my blackjack I beat out any lumps until the paste was smooth. It started to boil, so I let it simmer for two minutes.

I roughed up the egg yolk and cream and mixed in some of the hot sauce before putting the lot back into the pan. I put the squeeze on a lemon and it soon juiced. It was easy. It was much too easy, but I knew if I let the sauce boil the yolk was gonna scramble.

By now I was ready to pour the sauce over the meat and serve, but I wasn't hungry. The blonde hadn't showed. She was smarter than I thought. I went outside to poison myself, with cigarettes and whisky.

 Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.


  1. This sounds truely fascinating. What an interesting concept for a book and subject.

  2. This sounds like a great read, have to check it out! The bits you shared are excellent.

  3. Ha! This sounds brilliant! I'll have to try and track it down.

  4. I have never heard of this book, but I sure want to read it! Fantastic!

  5. love that
    sounds like a fascinating book.

  6. What an interesting idea for a cookbook!

  7. I'm so glad you posted the excerpts -- it was hard to imagine what exactly the book would be like, but now I get it. It's so witty and unique; I will definitely see if my library has this :)

  8. What a great idea for a book!

  9. I read this one a few years ago. It's one that I liked the concept of more than the book itself. Here's a link to the review I posted
    morsie reads: some recent reading

  10. Oh this does sound excellent! I love books that are subtly quirky, and the stories that this one tells in addition to the recipes really get my attention. I will have to see if my library has it! Thanks for the great and thorough review!

  11. What a cool sounding cookbook! And a great sounding recipe too!

  12. OMG!! I am laughing so hard -- love, love, love this recipe. I love the quotes in the list too. I **must** own this. This is so much fun. What a great find.

  13. It sounds wonderful. I must keep my eye out for this one. Thanks for sharing!

  14. What a great book idea for those of us who love both books and food. Loved this post, Marg.

  15. My daughter was sneaking a sip of my red wine yesterday while I was telling her we were having chicken for dinner. She then said we should cook the chicken in the wine. Then I told her about Coq au Vin. She was amazed that I knew such a thing existed, and told me I know just about everything.

  16. Heather, aren't us mums marvellous!

    Thanks Margot and Vicki. Glad you enjoyed it.

    Linda and Sharon, it was a lot of fun, as well as being a really quick read.

    Beth, I hope you find it!

    Zibilee and The Book Girl, I hope that the library does have it! I would love to get hold of the paperback version, but there doesn't seem to be a copy of it in the library system in my state.

    Karen, I will be over to check out your review shortly.

    Caite, Col and Chris, Caspette and Carol it was definitely a clever idea.

    Michelle, I got it from the library, so you might be able to find it there too.

    Ellie, apparently he has done another way about DIY.