For my drive to and from Berlin, Md. last week, I stopped at the library and grabbed the first thing I saw, the latest Robert B. Parker audiobook starring Spenser. For those of you who don't know this series, he's the wise-cracking, almost superhuman private eye with one name who is surrounded by a cadre of lovable bad guys and cops who all worship him and his girlfriend Susan and help him out on his cases for no reason I've ever been able to figure out. (Sample dialogue: His friend Hawk offers to shoot the bad guy for him, and Spenser says, "No, I have to get even." Hawk replies, "Nothing says even like two to the head.")
Besides all his other great qualities, Spenser is a gourmet cook, although the books never make a big deal about it. He just casually tosses off meals for himself and Susan. I wish he would come to my house. In this one...
...He boils whole wheat linguine and tosses it with zucchini he's sauteed in olive oil with breadcrumbs. (I have to add that he and Susan also share a meal of sweet and sour pork at P. F. Chang's in the book.)
Anyway, that's an unusual meal for a hard-boiled PI to be cooking. I decided this morning to see what Spenser was eating in the first book of the series, the Godwulf Manuscript, which was published in 1973. Don't say I never do any serious reporting for this blog.
What a difference. He makes a meal for himself (this was before he met Susan) of hash and eggs, then in a later chapter a Spanish omelet. Then for a girl:
"I put on a pot of rice to cook and got four boneless chicken breasts out of the meat keeper. I cooked them with wine and butter and cream and mushrooms. While they cooked I tossed a salad and made a dressing with lime juice and mint, olive oil, honey and wine vinegar. There were two bottles of Rhine wine in the refrigerator for which I'd originally had other plans, but I could buy some more tomorrow."
I guess he wasn't worrying about his cholesterol back then. The only problem with this exercise is that by going back I was reminded once again how formulaic this series has become after dozens of novels, and how energetic and fun the early Spenser books were.