Sunday, 25 February 2018

The origin of scrambled eggs 'James Bond'

James Bond’s fondness for scrambled eggs is well-known to readers of the novels, and in the short story ‘007 in New York’, Bond is even given his own scrambled eggs recipe. But what’s the origin of this recipe? Was it Ian Fleming’s invention or was someone else responsible for it? Atticus, the Sunday Times column that Fleming wrote between 1953 and 1957, has the answer.
Scrambled eggs 'James Bond'

In the short story, we learn that Bond had a particular recipe for scrambled eggs, which he had instructed the kitchen staff of New York’s Plaza Hotel to make on a previous visit. ‘Scrambled eggs “James Bond”’, given in full as a footnote to the story, is for ‘four individualists’ and requires 12 eggs, 5-6 ounces of butter, and some finely chopped herbs. It also includes the notable instruction to whisk butter into the eggs when the eggs are ‘slightly still more moist than you would wish for eating.’  

The short story, along with the recipe, first appeared in the Sunday Herald Tribune on 29th September 1963. However, the recipe had previously been published in 1961 in a collection of favourite recipes of the famous, Celebrity Cooking for You. Ian Fleming’s scrambled eggs recipe was essentially the same as that which appeared in ‘007 in New York’, but suggested that cream could be used instead of the final piece of butter. 

But the celebrity cookbook was not the first time that the recipe had appeared in print. Fleming’s Atticus column of 25th December 1955 included a small piece about scrambled eggs under the heading ‘Oeufs Attique’. Fleming began: ‘I suppose that the “Chef of the Year” is Mr Bartolemo Calderoni of May Fair Hotel [in London], for he was chosen to cook this year’s banquet for the International Academy of Chefs.’ Fleming continued: ‘Since, I dare say, that 90 per cent of the adult population believe that their scrambled eggs are better than mine, I made it my duty to obtain from this supreme authority his final five-star word on the vital subject.’

The result, Mr Calderoni’s recipe for scrambled eggs, duly appeared below that piece. There are slight differences between this recipe and later versions. For instance, the recipe is for two, so the quantities are halved, and the recipe suggests that it’s not worth using fewer eggs as too much egg sticks to the saucepan (a tip that would survive to the celebrity cookbook, but not ‘007 in New York’). There is also no mention of herbs. However, much of the recipe is more or less identical to those published subsequently, including the instruction to add butter ‘while the eggs are slightly more moist than you would wish to eat them.’ 

Thus, scrambled eggs ‘James Bond’ is really scrambled eggs ‘Bartolemo Calderoni’. Ann Fleming recorded in her letters that Ian liked his omelettes very baveuse – moist and runny – so it’s no wonder that he was so taken with Bartolemo Calderoni’s recipe. 

The recipe demonstrates once again that Atticus is a rich source for information on the Bond books, with many of the ideas and memes that appear in the novels having their origins in Fleming’s Sunday Times column.

Amory, M (ed.), 1985 The Letters of Ann Fleming, Collins Harvill, London
Chancellor, H, 2005 James Bond: The Man and his World, John Murray, London 

Gilbert, J, 2012 Ian Fleming: The Bibliography, Queen Ann Press, London

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