Eggs, according to Elizabeth Hale, whose article in Winter Gastronomica describes a multitude of egg dishes enjoyed by the agent in Ian Fleming’s series. Apparently Bond eats eggs in every one of the novels and several of the short stories: omelets, scrambles, fancier dishes with French names; alone, with his housekeeper, at the chalet of his enemy, with rich friends. He even cooks eggs for himself and others: Hale cites a scene from the short story “007 in New York” that includes an actual recipe for scrambled eggs that serves four (accompanied by pink champagne and low music). Hale’s article draws out numerous implications of the various eggs, but this particular scene reminded me of an oft-cited recipe from Brillat-Savarin’s Physiognomy of Taste, in which he describes the careful preparation of a tuna omelet that should only be served to the best company, who will eat it slowly and thoughtfully. In other words: the ingredients are simple, but the preparation requires skill, sensitivity, timing. This suits the James Bond of novels, a man of taste and appetite: it’s part of the wish-fulfillment perfection of his over-the-top masculine prowess to serve eggs with as much sophistication as he handles a spy chase.
But it’s hard for me to imagine James Bond as I know him–primarily as portrayed by Daniel Craig in the 21st century adaptations–cooking a soft, creamy omelet for the enjoyment of others. I read about Bond’s eggs just after seeing Skyfall, so I was struck by the short story’s savoring, whisking, serving. . . and eating! I wasn’t making a study of it, but I don’t think James Bond eats in Skyfall. Or Quantum of Solace, as far as I can remember. He drinks his signature cocktails, clear and shimmering as jet fuel, but we don’t see him put food into his body.
I am curious about this. My first thought was that the new Bond’s absent meals reflects the disordered way we are encouraged to think of eating–that is to say, casting food as something detrimental to the athletic body, softening and weighing it down rather than fueling its strength and ability. Don’t get me wrong; I love Daniel Craig as James Bond. His Bond is a smart machine, tough and fast and calculating. (Not blank: we can see human depths of observation and thought in his weathered face, but we don’t get to know what they are until he pulls the trigger or dodges the runaway train.) But perhaps the scenes of eating were left out to reinforce the depiction of Bond as a killing machine (the way we like our spies these days–see also Bourne, Nighthawk, etc.).
But fishing around for stills or videos of Bond eating in the last few movies, I was reminded that he dines more than once with Vesper in Casino Royale.
The first time, Bond has just ordered dinner on the train when Vesper flounces into seat across from him, introduces herself as the money handler for the casino trick, and matches his show-offy demonstration of face-reading by predicting how he treats women, and why she won’t fall for it. “How’s the lamb?” she then asks. “Skewered.” he replies, “One sympathizes.”
The second time they dine together, they skirt around the topics of her past love and their present attraction.
It was strange, after the last two films, to go back in time and see this looser, more vulnerable Bond who talks with his mouth full and, well, eats. This Bond is not a machine, yet; he still needs sustenance. . . of various sorts. So perhaps these dinner scenes haven’t made a reappearance because the last two films have focused on portraying a hardened, self-protecting Bond who doesn’t need anyone to feed him (like the housekeeper of the novels) or dine with him, for goodness’ sake. Eating is interrelation, and this Bond doesn’t feel too safe with breaking bread with anyone.
But I’m no Bond scholar, or even a dedicated fan; I’d be interested to hear from someone more into the series than I am.