Moonraker Chapter Five
I call this “The food chapter”. Might be my favorite in the whole book.
At eight o’clock James Bond and M head into the “beautiful white and gold Regency dining-room of Blades.” They’re given menus, but M tells Bond that he can order anything he likes without having to consult the menu. M orders first.
‘Any of that Beluga caviar left, Porterfield?’
‘Yes sir. There was a new delivery last week.’
‘Well,’ said M. ‘Caviar for me. Devilled kidney and a slice of your excellent bacon. Peas and new potatoes. Strawberries in kirsch. What about you, James?’
‘I’ve got a mania for really good smoked salmon,’ said Bond.
Then he pointed down the menu. ‘Lamb cutlets. The same vegetables as you, as it’s May. Asparagus with Béarnaise sauce sounds wonderful. And perhaps a slice of pineapple.’
In between all that food, we learn that it is May. If we’re in 1952 as some sources claim, then the calendar looks like what we see to the left. Today is Monday, so it’s either the 5th, 12th, 19th or 26th. A site referenced in an earlier entry places today as the 26th. As we go along further, we’ll try to pick up further clues.
But the food…Devilled Kidney? The steward, who obviously knows M, makes a further suggestion.
‘You wouldn’t care for a marrow bone after the strawberries, sir? We got half a dozen in today from the country and I ‘d specially kept one in case you came in.’
Marrow bone…I don’t think I’ve ever seen one, though they are supposed to be a delicacy.
Now for the drinks. The steward turns to the wine-waiter.
‘Ah Grimley, some vodka, please.’ He turned to Bond. ‘Not the stuff you had in your cocktail. This is real pre-war Wolfschmidt from Riga. Like some with your smoked salmon?’
‘Very much,’ said Bond.
‘Then what?’ asked M. ‘Champagne? Personally I’m going to have a half-bottle of claret. The Mouton Rothschild ‘34, please Grimley. But don’t pay any attention to me, James. I’m an old man. Champagne’s no good for me. We’ve got some good champagnes, haven’t we Grimley? None of that stuff you’re always telling me about I’m afraid, James. Don’t often see it in England. Taittinger, wasn’t it?’
Bond agrees that he would like champagne tonight. He asks for a suggestion, and is pointed towards the Dom Perignon ‘46.
After the champagne;
A waitress appeared and put racks of fresh toast on the table and silver dish of Jersey butter. As she bent over the table, her black skirt brushed Bond’s arm and he looked up into two pert, sparkling eyes under a soft fringe of hair. The eyes held his for a fraction of a second and then she whisked away.
There’s our James.
‘It’s a trick the Russians taught me that time you attached me to the Embassy in Moscow,’ apologized Bond. ‘There’s often quite a lot of fusel oil on the surface of this stuff –at least there used to be when it was badly distilled. Poisonous. In Russia, where you get a lot of bath-tub liquor, it’s an understood thing to sprinkle a little pepper in your glass. It takes the fusel oil to the bottom. I got to like the taste and now it’s a habit. But I shouldn’t have insulted the club Wolfschmidt,’ he added with a grin.
As they are talking they hear the bray of Drax’s laughter from the far end of the room. M asks Bond what he thinks of Drax. Before answering, Bond has some more of their meal.
Bond helped himself to another slice of smoked salmon from the silver dish beside him. It had the delicate glutinous texture only achieved by Highland curers — very different from the desiccated products of Scandinavia. He rolled a wafer-thin slice of brown bread-and-butter into a cylinder and contemplated it thoughtfully.
Bond believes Drax to be a bit of a bully with a crooked streak in him, regardless of what he is going for England at the moment. Bond then tips some Benzedrine into his champagne, as he explains to M, it will help him keep his wits about him that night, and perhaps make him a bit overconfident, which he thinks will help with his plan.
Bond looks around the room, observing the paintings and other details. As he does so, Drax approaches the table along with Meyer, talking a little trash. M gets a good line in response to Drax: ‘You go along and stack the cards.’ After leave, M asks Bond if there is a need for any final plans. Bond explains that they will be trying to play a normal game, but requests to sit on Drax’s left. He then gives this final word:
‘When the time comes, I shall take a white handkerchief out of my coat pocket. That will mean you are about to be dealt a Yarborough. Would you please leave the bidding of that hand to me?’
Terms and references from the reading:
Strawberries with kirsch
Béarnaise Sauce – with recipe!
Pics of Roasted Marrow Bones
Mouton Rothschild claret wine
Benzedrine – A drug with a euphoric stimulant effect.
Mrs Fitzherbert by Romney.
Yarborough, a hand in the game of Contract bridge which contains no ten, jack, queen, king, or ace cards.