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May 4, 2008

Spenser food



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. 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 1:05 PM | | Comments (10)


I have vague memories of a mystery series with recipes and a woman sleuth. I think it was set in New England (maybe Nantucket?) I'm not a huge mystery fan (except for Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan series), but when I had weeks of mandatory bed rest somehow I just couldn't read all those heavy tomes I'd been planning on reading, so I gobbled up murder mysteries like potato chips (hoping I wasn't imprinting my unborn child!)

Sounds like the Nero Wolfe novels that I loved as much for the food as the mysteries. After a while I tired of them because they too were formulaic.

Ahhhh another Robert Parker fan..I never would have guessed.
Spenser,Hawk, Susan, Sonny Randall
and Jesse Stone//feel like I know them all. EL ever read any of John McDonalds Travis McGee series??

Yes. I think I read all of them. EL

Is he the same character from "Spenser for Hire"? I remember that series, maybe 4 or 5 seasons. We used to quote Hawk loudly,("Spencer!! Down!!") referring to when they were being shot at... inevitably at the end of each episode.

Yes. I never saw it. EL

Spenser fans! Yea!! What stuns me is that Spenser leads a life of erratic - to say the least - hours - and yet, he has all of this food in his refrigerator to just put together as a gourmet meal!

I think it's been more like 10 or 15 season since Spencer for hire was on.

"Spenser for Hire" ran 1985-1988, starring Robert Urich and Avery Brooks who went on to claim his place in the Star Trek universe.

LOVED Travis McGee; owned em all! When I was far younger and too easily impressed, I wanted to have his children...even though living on the Busted Flush prob'ly would've made me seasick! :-)

Spenser rocks!! I've read every book in the (lengthy) series, and there's always at least one good recipe (or beer reccomendation, or martini recipe) in each book. The TV adaptation was, alas, pretty bad. Some characters just don't transition well from print to screen.

I believe Robert Parker once doubled as a restaurant critic, perhaps Boston Magazine. So, if you want to try your hand at a mystery....

The Mystery of the Missing Review. Nah, no one would believe the ending: Chef's 4 month contract ended.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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