A longer version of this collection is available from lulu.com as "A Victor Canning Sampler" for £5.
You’ve got to be observant to be an author. You mustn’t miss anything. One might almost describe it as being a detective. A laugh from a man in the street, a car whizzing by in the night … they all suggest ideas to me. I don’t like to boast, of course, that’s foreign to my nature, but I suppose I’m about as observant as anyone.
(Fly away Paul, p. 197. Spoken by the young writer Michael Stormry, who embodies some features of Canning himself.)
Well, I must be moving, I’ve got to correct George’s latest sermon. He always relies on me to see that there are verbs in all his sentences. I found one the other day of a hundred and fifty words—worthy of Carlyle—without a verb.
(Mercy Lane, p. 99)
“My father,” retorted Miles with dignity, “was very fond of poetry and he once gave me a shilling for every ten verses that I learned of the Ancient Mariner. The fifteen shillings were spent long ago, but I still have the verses.”
(Sanctuary from the Dragon, Chapter 7)
"It wasn't really your fault! A worn-out excuse. I suppose you'll have the teleologoical impudence to ascribe the origin of your plight to Adam and Eve? In my young day, when we started to do a thing we did it, and if we couldn't do it we didn't moan that it was not our fault." As he finished speaking Matthew ... had the impression that perhaps he had used the word teleological, taken from a sententious Times leader that morning, incorrectly.
(Matthew Silverman, p. 19)
It was pleasant to sit in the front of the bus and pick out people from the mass and then to weave stories from the cut of their clothes, the expression on their faces and the way they looked into the shop windows.
(Everyman's England, Ch. 9)
“Man is a Flux. The Body is the Spirit’s Habitation. The Spirit is Man’s link with the Great Mystery.” His voice was the kind which could impart capital letters to words and leave no doubt about it. With him some nouns became personalities of impressive importance.
(Fountain Inn, p. 28)
“What are you looking in the dictionary for?”
“I’m looking for a word—the word ‘moribund’ that Mr. Brown used. It’s a thing I always do. Whenever I hear a new word I always look it up. I call it going on with my education, though I do think there’s quite a lot of words that seem only another way of saying something very simple.”
(Fountain Inn, p. 28)
I went up Shaftesbury Avenue trying to recall how Keats’s line went on from “beaded bubbles winking at the brim …” I didn’t have much success. I’d always been on the mathematical side. An engineer, not a literary man. Long ago, when Tom Ross-Piper and I had been working our way through France to Spain, I remembered we’d had an argument about poetry as we lay in some woods all day, waiting for night and the chance to hop a train. I’d maintained that there was true poetry in mathematics, that figures, not words, could best express man’s dreams. Tom hadn’t agreed and we’d never finished the argument, for he had been shot dead four days later and I had come on alone.
(The Hidden Face, Chapter X)
A book is a bird—just open its wings and you are away, clear of regulations and permits, heading for foreign parts, adventures, thrills and excitement.
(Preface to The Python Project)
Blasphemy and lewdness lie in the intent not in the sound, and a thing so alive and protean as language can absorb and refine over the years a spate of blasphemies and obscenities.
(The Great Affair, p. 15. In spite of this assertion, Canning's work contains hardly any of the 'four-letter words' which are now commonplace in fiction. Bugger and arse occur, and there is this interesting passage from a late novel:
And, more amusing too, she had a way of using the word “bugger” as though it were no swear word at all. He’d got used to it by now, but he knew that it put his father off sometimes. If a rabbit ran across their path she would say, “See that little bugger, Pete. He’d better keep out of my father’s way.”
The Boy on Platform One, p. 107)
"When we first met I didn’t know what a split infinitive was, and, too, I used to say that things wouldn’t notice … Poor Harry. He was very patient and loving, but he was very hard to know—really. … Maybe you’re like that, I think. Patient and loving—when you want—and hard to really know well.”
He said, “You’ve just done it.”
She nodded. “Split an infinitive. I know. But Harry said there wasn’t a damned reason why you shouldn’t if you wanted emphasis.”
(Firecrest, p. 21)
There was, thought Bernard, with the Duke and Felixson an almost childish preoccupation with warfare metaphors. Bombs, guns, ammunition, explosions. Frankly, in as much as he allowed himself any political feelings—and a reason why he disliked this job as much as Warboys—he thought that the last people to be trusted with subversive arms were types like the Duke and Felixson. In their own coverts if a guest handled a gun carelessly he was never invited again. Their skins and the skins of their friends were precious. But in political life they would happily light up their cigars while they sat on powder kegs.
(Mask of Memory, Chapter 5)
Tragedy and comedy sometimes share the same bed. Both are restless sleepers.
(The Doomsday Carrier, p. 198)
Although there are no incontrovertible facts about King Arthur, the renown of his life and deeds in the Dark Ages was lodged for over six hundred years in folk memory. And folks, being what they are, invariably alter and embroider a good story. William of Malmesbury, Geoffrey of Monmouth and then Sir Thomas Malory were landed with the result. Lesser as well as better writers have followed them. Acknowledging that I come in the first of those two categories, I feel no shame in entering the lists poorly armed but securely mounted on a horse I have ridden for years called Imagination.
(Postscript to The Crimson Chalice)
He did not understand why men should quarrel about one woman and only want one particular woman to do the housework when there were so many to pick from. Love was, as yet, something he connected with his aunt’s tales of God and the Angels. God was love, he knew that, and wondered how a person like God could manage to be love. It was, to him, like saying that God was cheese or butter.
(Two Men Fought, Chapter 3. The bedtime thoughts of ten-year-old Stephen Cornelly.)
Hilda saw in his reluctance a shyness which she was ever seeking to overcome; that was her tragedy and, as are most tragedies, it was the outcome primarily of ignorance.
(Two Men Fought, Chapter 5)
And the baronetcy goes to my great-nephew, a decent enough fellow who has the worm of religion in his mind and will probably turn this place over to a bunch of monks, with a handsome endowment, and so make sure that the heavenly gates will swing open for him as he rides up on a cloud top. Not that I’m against religion. Just against most of the people who come poncing and preaching in under its umbrella and to hell with those left out in the rain.
(Vanishing Point, Chapter 3)
She remembered her father saying, “It’s easy for people only in want turning to God. But that’s only putting your snout into the Sunday pig-trough. If only an empty belly or a worried conscience turns you to God then what more can you expect than a dusty answer?”
(Birds of a Feather, p. 20)
If patriotism really means a love of one's country, then it is time the Englishman began to take an acute interest in the preservation of the amenities and beauties of England. Until that time flag-waving means little more than a strained arm and the achievement of a draught. When I see less litter about the countryside I shall know that as a race we are becoming truly patriotic.
(Daily Mail article, 29 February 1936)
Trust was the greatest hazard in this business. There were very few men who stuck literally to the letter of their contract. Ritchie knew him, knew he had retired; yet with a little prompting he opened up, basing his action on trust. This was the oldest and the most dangerous problem; one worked with human material, and human beings would insist on being fallible in their judgements. Trust no one, report only to X, a man like Ritchie could understand that. But Ritchie, like everyone else, could not live without trust. That every man had his price was obvious and to a very large extent this could be handled, but every man also had his friends. There was no sure guard against that.
(The Limbo Line, p. 23)
“He didn’t have any use for the Royal Family or the Church. You should have heard him about the Archbishop of Canterbury!”
“What about England? You know, being British and patriotism?”
“You should ask that! He used to go up in the air about the way things were. He used to say patriotism was a disease. That the world should grow up and forget about nationalities.”
(Firecrest, p. 59)
“Death had come to [the tiercel], as it does to so many of his kind, through the slow poisons of man, spread over and leached out of the land, moving along the long chain of change in the bodies of insects, vermin, and birds, finally to reach and destroy the fierce heart and proud strength of the prince of birds.”
(The Painted Tent, Chapter 12.)
But since one swallow does not make a summer, the successful plague-carrying test on Charlie had to be confirmed and reconfirmed to make it safe for men and women to be used as carriers, so another chimpanzee took his place. Everyone was happy, particularly the apes in dark suits who might one day for political or military reasons decide to use the silent weapon of plague to avoid the open and honest brutality of the sword.
(The Doomsday Carrier, p. 212)
“It’s pleasant to have a cheque for eighty pounds in one’s pocket. I wonder what I shall do with it?”
“If you are wise, boy, you’ll put it in the bank and save it for a rainy day.”
“Bank, aunt? But it’s been lying in the bank for donkey’s years. It’s time it saw daylight for awhile. Don’t you know, aunt, that it’s the duty of every citizen to put money into circulation? Creates prosperity for a country that way.”
(Polycarp's Progress, p. 15)
This was the third day of his holidays and he should be lazing in a deckchair on Margate front, with a Guards’ band playing ‘Humperdinck’ agreeably in the distance, and pretty girls in scarlet costumes splashing about in the surf.
(Mr. Finchley Discovers his England, p. 52)
… whistling a shrill tune which he stoutly imagined to be Schubert’s Marche Militaire,
(Polycarp's Progress, p. 20)
Vagabondage is somewhat similar to good music; most people welcome it when they discover it for themselves, but tell them that they must like good music, that it is a woeful betrayal of their cultural pretensions not to like it, and they immediately hate it.
(Polycarp's Progress, p. 176)
I am content to lie on my back watching the clouds, and if organ music can lift the soul to ecstasy then I find music enough in the sounds of the countryside.
(Daily Mail article, 29 February 1936)
... he would sing, and they would join in the chorus of his songs, or sometimes keep him company throughout the song. Michael was a great singer. In Portmenhick it was said that his talent came from his mother who had been Welsh. Michael himself said that it was no more than any man could do if he cared to open his mouth and use his lungs, and he would demonstrate by singing a note and holding it for as long as it took a boy to run up to the coastguard station and back to the quay. Mostly the men sang hymns and their sonorous cadences and low, rolling voices filled the slaty-cliffed cove with re-echoing loveliness as the sound of the “Old Hundredth” went dying out to sea to lose itself among the wailing gulls about the Sarth.
(Two Men Fought, chapter 4)
Margaret Sinclair was a modern young woman … and her love of music was catholic enough to enable her to enjoy both Gershwin and Bach.
(Fly away Paul, p. 52)
When Manston said he must be off to the ballet ... his friend gave him a stricken look and said, ‘Good God, must you ? How awful for you.’
(The Limbo Line, p. 15)
The room was suddenly and gently touched by the sound of music. She lay back and closed her eyes, feeling the slow caress of violins gently wrap itself about her, knowing with a deep gratitude that some kind fate must be working for her that he should bring her to life with one of her favourite Schubert pieces.
(Birdcage, p. 26. Though not stated, I would guess the music in question to be the Unfinished Symphony.)
But luck is a thing it’s never wise to talk about. It’s a shy bird. You can only wait for it. It won’t be enticed.
(Panthers' Moon, p. 121.)
The train moved off and she settled down to her paper, shaking the pages out dexterously as she skipped from one feature to another. Around her other papers were shaken and patted and thick bands of tobacco smoke rose above each white folio like the gentle expiration of a sleepy volcano.
(Fountain Inn, p. 11)
He pulled out his cigar case and prepared to smoke. Hard work gave you the privilege of being the only person allowed to smoke in an office of over a hundred and twenty people.
(Fountain Inn, p. 25)
As they sat in the electric train that was taking them to Ealing Broadway he pulled out a pipe and pouch.
“Why, I didn’t know you smoked,” said Grace, who had never seen him with pipe or cigarette before.
“It is a habit in which I take pleasure, but of which I do not altogether approve,” answered George. “I have not so much money that I can afford to burn more than a very little of it. I smoke only on Sundays. Do you mind?”
(Fountain Inn, p. 80)
As he slid into the driving seat he had a lighted cigarette in his mouth. Adjusting his driving safety belt, he grinned and said, “Let that be a lesson to you in dealing with addicts. There is so often guile behind their courtesy. And don’t think I’m surrendering my cigarette lighter.”
Crane smiled. “For a beginning I think you’ve done pretty good, sir. That’s the first since London. You could perhaps enter it in the game book—one Piccadilly Number One, low flying, snap shot …”
(Birds of a Feather, p. 86)
I have included a great many references to food and meals with the aim of creating a suitable set of menus for a Victor Canning celebration. It would obviously have to include kippers for breakfast and omelette Baron de Barante for lunch.
Mr. Finchley found himself burdened with a large plate holding a piece of cold beef. He deposited it on the table. A loaf of bread followed. Butter, lettuce, onions, a jar of mixed pickles, cheese; and then Wally stepped back.
‘You’ll find plates and stuff over there.’ He pointed to another cupboard and, leaving Mr. Finchley to discover them, he scuttled from the kitchen.
Mr. Finchley was surprised to find himself setting the table as though it were his normal manner to eat with a thief every evening. He even found time between the cupboard and the table to feel a little proud of his adventure.
Wally returned, nursing three bottles. ‘India pale ale!’ he remarked laconically, and fetched a couple of glasses.
(Mr. Finchley Discovers his England, Page 15)
When they returned Mara had cooked the evening meal, light bread fresh-baked in the embers, fried potatoes, and brown cutlets of fish.
(Mr. Finchley Discovers his England, Page 52)
They had been wakened early, and the four of them had breakfasted, under the porter’s eye, in a small messroom. It was a poor meal. Bread and butter and tea.
(Mr. Finchley Discovers his England, Page 107)
At that moment Polycarp’s one desire was symbolised by the word sausages. He sat on the wall, and thought of the ways sausages had been served to him in the past. The dishes passed slowly before him, bringing a saliva to his empty mouth. Sausages in rich brown gravy and surrounded by flocculent clouds of creamy mashed potatoes; sausages neatly encased in tender layers of flaky pastry; sausages mired in pleasant depths of batter; sausages whose skins were golden brown from trial by fire; cold sausages with the white fat gleaming icily on their rounded flanks and sentinelled by pickled onions and gherkins; sausages ensconced in the ripped carcasses of long rolls, and eaten inch by inch, anointed at each inch by liberal libations of French mustard; sausages in the friendly aromatic company of liver, kidneys, and onions ; sausages spiced with tomatoes and sage—the ghosts of the sausages he had eaten rose tantalisingly before him and passed in fleshly review. Polycarp lit a cigarette, and groaned as he thought that the nearest sausage was a good five miles away. He had to choose between breaking his blister or breaking his fast, to choose either the pangs of hunger or the pains of a broken blister; it was a situation that Polycarp resented.
(Polycarp’s Progress, page 12)
... his wife made pasties as long, so Michael used to say, as whale-boats and as broad as battleships, yet there never was one of her pasties which he had been unable to eat.
(Two Men Fought, Chapter 4)
...after the ceremony they returned to Tredeagles Farm where Bessie had spread a table that catered for all tastes; cornish pasties, cold meats, ham, tongue, beef, sausages stuffed with sage and parsley, cold fowl and duck; cakes of her own baking, saffron cakes, seed cakes, currant cake, potato cake, bread pudding, and a monstrous, elegant pillar of white sugaring that was the wedding cake and which had come all the way from the best shop in Truro; seeing the slender fragility of the creation it was a wonder how it had withstood the journey.
(Two Men Fought, Chapter Ten)
Of all the expensive meals he had eaten and had been forced to eat in London, Paul remembered very little, but of that one shilling and sixpenny business man’s lunch he never forgot one single detail. The crême fermière was hot, silky and well-flavoured, and he forgave it for being a potato masquerade; the fried fillet of cod with chipped potatoes and tomato sauce was fragrant with juices that excited and stimulated the palate; his enjoyment of the baroness pudding was heightened a hundredfold by the fact that he ate it as himself and not as the ghost of a celebrity, and the cigarette and coffee which soothed the meal into quiescent and comfortable disintegration completed a metamorphosis in Paul’s mind. He was himself again.
(Fly away Paul, p. 45)
The supper was at once a triumph and a boast. It was now August and the garden had given its best for the occasion. The centre of the table was graced by an enormous rabbit pie, which was served with new potatoes, French beans and young peas and portions of the Stigand Marvel, which, having won its race, had been ceremoniously plucked that morning and baked with a filling of herbs. For a salad there were lettuces, beetroots cool and crimson in vinegar, red and white radishes and thin daggers of young carrots, and for desert came stewed plums from the tree in the vegetable garden with a dressing of cream.
(Sanctuary from the Dragon, p. 173)
He disengaged the haddock from the boy’s hand and tossed it away up the alley to await some marauding cat and led the boy across the road to a small café which displayed a board on which was announced boldly:
Plat du Jour—Choucroute GarnieHe took the boy inside and ordered him the meal of the day, and no word was spoken until the proprietor brought the steaming plate of cabbage and sausage.
… the soup plates were removed by the imperturbable Jean and Mr. Finchley found himself with a plateful of crisp, beautifully fried potatoes. For a time he left these on his plate, listening to the rattle of talk, waiting for the fish or meat which would accompany them. Then he noticed that no one else was allowing conversation to interrupt their eating, so he ate his potatoes. … and Mr. Finchley recovered himself to find a helping of braised cod on his plate and his potatoes gone. He applied himself to the fish, … Mr. Finchley laughed and turned resolutely to the helping of leeks in lukewarm oil which had been placed on his plate, the same plate he had used for fish, … “Have some of this chicory and endive salad. You’ll like it.” … He was glad to see the coffee served, though its excellence was lost upon him …
(Mr. Finchley Goes to Paris, Page 54/55)
"I always say that sausages is delicate things. Most people will try to go cooking them in a rush and bustin’ their jackets, but not Grace—she’s got a proper sausage touch, and that’s a compliment coming from a butcher."
(Fountain Inn, p. 78)
Grace and her mother had conspired for a long time over the supper. It was a strategic meal in many ways and Grace wanted nothing wrong. There was an enormous tongue-and-veal pie studded with half-eggs—this the present of Mr. Pilchard—a ham, a dish of cold sausages and a bowl of salad, a plain English salad; and about the table stood a bottle of sweet pickle, mayonnaise cream and all the other touches which complete the joy of a cold supper on a summer night.
(Fountain Inn, p. 180)
He was eating kippers and reading The Times obituary notices.
"Too early for a formal call," he said, looking at them over his paper. "What do you want?"
"The kipper smells good," Helen wrinkled her nose.
"Shall I ask Marie to bring some more?"
"No, we'll enjoy the smell. It's almost the best part of a kipper."
(Fountain Inn, p. 199)
I was there a month, a month of nothing but kippers and water. Kippers fried, kippers boiled, kippers baked in coconut leaves, kippers grilled, and even kippers raw, but I never got tired of ’em, and when I got taken off by a small trading schooner the captain he was Dutch had a native girl on board as wife and cook and she dished me up with kippers for me first meal. And I ate ’em. Never troubled me—except that from that day I’ve always had a most tremendous thirst, never got rid of it since.” He turned the kipper and reached to the side of the fireplace where a bottle of beer was standing.
(Mr. Finchley Takes the Road, Page 49)
“It’s Sunday tomorrow,” said Mr. Finchley suddenly. “Back in my caravan I’ve got a leg of mutton and fresh vegetables—I was going to cook them and have a real Sunday lunch.
(Mr. Finchley Takes the Road, Page 76)
Mr. Finchley put all his art and instinctive skill into that lunch. It began with a soup. Tinned julienne soup. Then followed lamb cutlets, three for Marshall and two for Mr. Finchley. With the cutlets were new potatoes, succulent and the colour of old ivory, and fried tomatoes. How Mr. Finchley manipulated all the dishes on his one primus he afterwards could not remember. He only knew that he worked like a trojan, warming plates, keeping the dishes hot and manoeuvring things so that it should all come to the table fresh and appetising. With the soup and meat they drank cider, rough cider which he had stopped at the pub to buy, and then, after they had cleared up a tin of peaches and a shillingsworth of raw cream, he brought the meal to a triumphant climax by producing coffee, cigarettes and, the crown of all, a glass of brandy each from the store which his wife had laid in for medicinal purposes.
(Mr. Finchley Takes the Road, page 90)
Inside the house Mr. Finchley, Robert and the three men were eating. They had made a table from the packing-cases and they were all tucking into the food appreciatively. There was corned beef, pickles, vegetable salad, new bread, cheese and a large bowl of tinned peaches. Cutlery, china and food came from the caravan.
Turk poured thick tinned milk over his peaches and raised his head.
(Mr. Finchley Takes the Road, Page 193)
Anton knew more about food than perhaps any other man in the world, and when I ordered an omelette Baron de Barante, then saddle of lamb and a bottle of Musigny, I looked to him for approval. There was only misery in his eyes and he sighed like a wind tunnel. Then for himself he ordered a bowl of clear soup and some toast.
(Short story: Cook Wanted)
I found eggs and bacon and cooked myself supper, and I did myself fried bread of a crispness unknown to any prison cook. … Close at hand was the whisky bottle and a glass. It was Glenlivet—Ross-Piper seldom drank any other—and I paid it the compliment of taking it slowly.
(The Hidden Face, Ch. 2)
What, I wondered, would the Wine and Food Society, or Monsieur Brillat-Savarin have recommended as the right meal to mark the end of a two-year prison diet? I had an omelette du Baron de Barante, full of pieces of fresh cèpes and shredded shrimps, then saddle of lamb with a bottle of Musigny, and finished off with a piece of Camembert, which was at the right stage of deliquescence, and coffee.
(The Hidden Face, Ch. 10)
… I walked in through the kitchen where Mrs. Meld was cooking kippers for her husband's supper.
"Evening, Mr. Carver. Off somewhere?"
"A whiff of sea air, Mrs. Meld," I said. "The fancy just took me."
"And why not, seeing as you're single and fancy free. Have a kipper first."
… If only I'd know then that I would have been a happier man if I'd stayed and shared Mrs. Meld's kippers.
(The Whip Hand, Chapter 1— Never refuse a kipper)
She drank two large martinis, and then we had smoked salmon and sole Normande; then she had a large Neapolitan ice, while I waited for coffee and drank the last of the bottle of Le Montrachet 1958, which was one of the dearest Burgundies they had on their list. It was Stebelson’s money, anyway.
(The Whip Hand, Chapter 2)
I decanted a bottle of Chateau Latour and smacked out a steak wafer-thin for the Diane. There were a dozen roses in a brass bowl on the table and my best wine glasses. … I had it all planned: a few drinks, a few easy records, and summer evening talk while I did the steak Diane, and then, after we’d eaten, some honest talking. I was as happy as a sandboy at the prospect of seeing her again. Wilkins should have seen me. I liked cooking, too—when I could keep it simple and well out of the Robert Carrier class.
(The Whip Hand, Chapter 3)
We had avocado pears, Scotch salmon with a cucumber salad, and a bottle of Pouilly-Fuisse to go with it, then Cona coffee and a glass of Remy Martin.
(The Whip Hand, Chapter 12)
“The real difference between the French and the Portuguese sardine,” he was saying, “is in the preparation before canning. The French always oven-grill theirs in olive oil before canning. The Portuguese just steam-cook theirs and then pack ’em in oil. There’s no doubt about the superiority of the French. They use a lighter type of olive oil, too. This old boy I knew in Fleet Street had a vintage sardine cellar. Laid ’em down in cases. Turned the cases over every six months to get an even spread of oil. Nineteen fifty-nine was the great vintage year. And of ’em all, the French Rodel sardine is the king. Costs you something like eight bob for a tin. Marie Elizabeth, that’s Portuguese, costs less than two bob. Main thing is, there isn’t a sardine fit to eat unless it’s been in the can for at least twelve months.”
(Python Project, p. 146)
She said, ‘… You’d do better with your sister in Honiton. You’d eat free.’
‘It’s a point. Devonshire cream and cider, great rashers of bacon, fried eggs, chitterlings, black puddings, roast pork, boiled beef and dumplings … Yes, I need feeding up.’
(The Melting Man, page 2)
‘... You have company?’
I said, ‘She’s just served me with poulet sauté aux olives de Provence.’
He said, ‘Did she serve the chicken on top of the hot sauce, or pour it over the bird?’
(The Melting Man, page 277)
‘... We shall all be happy.’
‘Except Miss Julia,’ I said. ‘If you keep me on the line after she brings in the omelette soufflée aux liqueurs, which she is now making.’
He gave a deep sigh, and said. ‘In the village of Inxent in northern France there is an inn where they make it perfectly. If she does not bring it to the table frothing and on the point of spilling over the dish, do not marry her.’
It came to the table, as he had said it should, filling the room with the aroma of fresh eggs, sizzling butter and the warm, heartening smell of liqueurs. There were many times in the next two weeks when I knew that I would marry her, and then there were days when I wasn’t sure, and in the end I agreed with Meredith, Kissing don’t last: cookery do! But who wants to spend his life just eating?
(The Melting Man, p. 279)
She lit a cigarette, relaxed, and took a sip of the Grand Marnier. Take that, for instance. She knew now how to select and order things. Names which not long ago had meant nothing to her. Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Drambuie, and white wine with fish, red with meat, sole bonne femme and tournedos Rossini.
At her flat he borrowed an apron and cooked. She liked the apron touch. He was neat and precise in everything he did. They started with hors d’oeuvre, black olives and little strips of pimento, and then fillet steak poivré with asparagus tips followed by a piece of brie which was absolutely à point.
(Vanishing Point, Chapter 4)
The minestrone came, and the spaghetti bolognese … dish after dish . .. lobster with a shrimp sauce … roasted song birds … an enormous pasticcio di carne di vitello … and the wine flowed, Orvieto, Chianti, and Asti Spumante. Laughter and banter filled the room, and Crillon began to feel that he was a drowning man slowly being sucked towards the whirlpool centre of the family, to be swallowed up for ever in its vortex …
(Vanishing Point, Chapter 6)
“So, enjoy your fillet of plaice bonne femme and roast guinea fowl.”
“Served in burgundy sauce?”
“Of course. And since you once did me a very good turn I’ve told them to let you have a bottle of vintage Chateau St-Bonnet any time you ask for it. Which I imagine you will some time when you are dining à deux?”
… It was not enough to eat to live—stolen turnips and a snared rabbit would provide that—but fine food came from the gods—one of the consolations to man for the lack of life eternal. When I die (he used to muse in his more unsober moments) let it be after a good dinner of, say, Parma ham with melon, skip the soup, fillet of halibut Bercy … ah, that white wine and parsley sauce … skip the entree and go straight to a sirloin steak au poivre with green peas and French fried potatoes and then, perhaps, a meringue Chantilly and skip the cheese for fresh fruit … Chateau Latour with the steak, to be preceded by a Bourgogne Aligote with the halibut … lovely … (Table Number Seven, p. 70-71)
He saw her now begin to make the motions to rise from the breakfast table—she had a good appetite, which pleased him … cornflakes, two fried eggs and a rasher of bacon, toast and marmalade and coffee (women who toyed with food would do the same thing with men).
(Table Number Seven, p. 85)