Writing Portfolio


James Bond's scrambled eggs

There’s a little-known short story by Ian Fleming whose title never has, and probably never will, be used as a title for a Bond film. It’s called ‘007 in New York’ and for many years it was unpublished in Britain. It was written for the American version of a travelogue that Fleming wrote; he was so negative about New York that his publishers persuaded him to add a little something involving James Bond visiting said city in order to avoid antagonising his readers in the US.

It is less than ten pages long. The main plot, such as there is one, is about a mission concerning a woman who used to work for MI6 and whose boyfriend works at the UN; unbeknown to her, he’s actually a KGB agent who’s on the verge of being found out by the FBI. Bond has travelled incognito to New York to warn her (this probably forms the basis of the final scene in Quantum of Solace where Bond meets a Canadian agent whose boyfriend is the ex-lover of Vesper Lynd; by warning her of the man’s intentions, he saves her from a similar fate).

A lot of the story concerns food. Bond arrives feeling a bit queasy due to his having consumed “the BOAC version of ‘An English Country House Breakfast’” on the flight, and after some consideration he decides to have lunch at the Edwardian Room at the Plaza rather than the Oyster Bar at Grand Central (“the best meal in New York – oyster stew with cream, crackers and Miller High Life”). The former is a place where his friend Felix Leiter knows the head waiter, and on a previous visit Bond had instructed the staff on how to make his particular version of scrambled eggs which he intends to have with smoked salmon.

Oddly, he’s prepared to order this despite his poor airline breakfast having presumably contained eggs of some description, and his evident belief that eggs in New York are of poor quality compared to those back home; “one could never tell with American food. As long as they got their steaks and sea-food right, the rest could go to hell … flavour had gone from all American food except the Italian” – one wonders just how scathing Fleming had been about New York in the first place if this is what he was like when he trying to avoid annoying the locals!

That said, the Bond of the books is, like his creator, very partial to scrambled eggs; he eats them in most of the novels. What’s notable about ‘007 in New York’ is that it includes what was apparently Fleming’s favourite scrambled egg recipe.

Why not have a go? The recipe is for four “individualists” and calls for a dozen eggs, so that’s three per person, and between five and six ounces of butter – after dividing that by four and measuring it out, I noted that that’s more than double (maybe even triple) the amount of butter that I’d usually use for scrambled eggs.

Admittedly, when I do scrambled eggs it’s usually because that’s what happens when omelette-making doesn’t quite go according to plan. Wondering about Fleming’s egg-scrambling technique, I consulted the oracle – Delia Smith (in this instance, volume one of How to Cook) – and was mildly surprised to find that, while going for two eggs per person and considerably less butter, Delia’s method is more or less identical – melt some (between half and two-thirds) of the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, turn the heat down, add eggs, stir continuously until the eggs aren’t quite ready, then take off the heat, add the rest of the butter and keep stirring. I tend not to add any butter at the later stage, and it’s been a while since I took the eggs off the heat to finish them, if I ever did.

But I did so this time, following the Fleming recipe to the extent of adding some finely-chopped chives (since we have chives in the garden) although I didn’t go for his serving recommendation. He reckoned that the result should be served “on hot buttered toast in individual copper dishes (for appearance only) with pink champagne (Taittinger) and low music.” Hot buttered toast I could do, but I have neither copper dishes nor pink bubbly, so I just had mine on a plate with some coffee.

It was, of course, delicious (anything with that amount of butter would be), although a little on the wet side. Proper egg-scrambling is truly an art that has to be mastered. In terms of quantities, though, I reckon I’ll stick with Delia in future.

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