James Bond revels in beautiful women, fast cars and the very best in food and drink
Issue: November 15, 2002
"I take a ridiculous pleasure in what I eat and drink. It comes partly from being a bachelor, but mostly from a habit of taking a lot of trouble over details."
Thus spoke Bond ... James Bond, the suave, sophisticated British secret agent created by Ian Fleming, in Casino Royale. Fleming chronicled Bond's adventures in 12 potboilers, beginning in 1953 with Casino Royale. Agent 007 returns to action this year in the latest—though surely not the last—of 20 films, Die Another Day, starring, in his fourth performance as Bond, Pierce Brosnan.
For most men, Bond's appeal surely owes less to his eating habits than to his way with beautiful women. I suspect more men noticed Ursula Andress (as Honey Ryder), clad only in a wet, white bikini and sheathed knife, rising out of the sea, than noticed Bond's discussion of Dom Pérignon vintages with the title character in the first 007 movie, Dr. No (1962). Yet though Honey and the other "Bond girls"—Pussy Galore, Tiffany Case, Xenia Onatopp, Holly Goodhead and the rest—were drawn largely to his bravery, wit and sheer animal magnetism, Bond was the first male action hero to give connoisseurship a sexual charge.
Indeed, prior to Bond, the merest display of epicureanism in a male character was a sure sign of his untrustworthiness or villainy (e.g., Sidney Greenstreet, Charles Laughton, Walter Slezak, Claude Rains). Being a gourmet was considered effete. Try to imagine Bogart, Gable, Cagney, Cooper or Wayne ordering Taittinger Blanc de Blancs.
Bond changed the rules. He reveled in a love of good food and wine, and his connoisseurship was as much a part of his persona as were his Aston-Martin DB5 and Walther PPK. Indeed, his intimate knowledge of wine and food was crucial to his survival, serving to detect uncouth enemies' intentions and shatter his enemies' maniacal egos.
In the film Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Bond exposes two waiters as assassins when they fail to identify Château Mouton-Rothschild '55 as a claret. In From Russia With Love (1963), 007's suspicions are aroused—alas, too late—when a false British agent orders red wine with fish. In You Only Live Twice (1967), Bond cannot resist strutting his epicureanism, complimenting his Japanese host on his sake, "especially when it's served at exactly 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit."
Bond exercises any opportunity for one-upmanship, even with his superior, M. In Diamonds Are Forever, Bond sips a glass of Sherry and says to M, "Too bad about your liver, sir; this is a very good '51 solera." When M shoots back, "There are no vintages in Sherry, 007," Bond replies, "I was speaking of the original solera on which the Sherry was based—1851." And in Goldfinger (1964), when presented with a "rather disappointing Cognac," Bond sniffs the brandy and slowly observes, "I'd say it was a 30-year-old fine, indifferently blended, sir ... with an overdose of Bon Bois." I once asked a Cognac expert if anyone could possibly identify a Cognac so impeccably. "No," he said, "but whoever wrote the script [it was Paul Dehn and Richard Maibaum] knew exactly what he was writing about."
The hero of Ian Fleming's novels was actually quite different from the cinematic 007s, played variously by Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. Fleming's Bond was neither noble nor idealistic; he endured terrible hangovers and suffered self-doubt. And he was an outright British snob, a connoisseur of food, wine, clothes, cars and casinos. Fleming took pains to detail Bond's gourmet meals (although Noël Coward pronounced Fleming's own cooking—at Fleming's Jamaican residence, Goldeneye—to be inedible), as well as Bond's likes and dislikes. In the novel Diamonds Are Forever (1956), Bond describes the perfect woman as "somebody who can make sauce béarnaise as well as love." He does not care for sushi, and he despises tea, calling it one of the reasons for the downfall of the British Empire. In the
Fleming books, Bond preferred Champagne—particularly Taittinger Blanc de Blancs '45 ("A fad of mine," 007 calls it in Casino Royale)—to red wine, which M prefers. Of course, Fleming created the fad for vodka martinis, "shaken not stirred," that endures to this day.
In the films made by American producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, less attention was paid to 007's tastes, except to show what he wore, drove, drank and ate on-screen. But what he did drink on-screen took on astounding importance with men around the world. There seemed a natural fit between the worldly sophistication of 007 and the swinger's attitude of Playboy, which published several of Fleming's Bond stories. American men suddenly began to study and appreciate fine food and wine as both a personal pleasure and the way to a woman's heart.
In Dr. No (1962), arch-villain Dr. No proudly serves Bond a Dom Pérignon 1955, prompting 007 to counter, "I prefer the '53 myself." Sales of DP soared—and kick-started what has come to be known as "product placement," whereby companies pay high fees to have their products displayed in a movie. By the very next film in the series, From Russia With Love, Bond is conspicuously drinking Taittinger Blanc de Blancs in two different scenes. Starting with Live and Let Die (1973), Bollinger arranged to have 007 drink their brand in at least eight Bond films.
By the time License to Kill (1989) appeared, such promotions had become blatant in Bond films: Timothy Dalton tells room service, "And of course, I'll want a bottle of Bollinger R.D. sent up right away." During the making of For Your Eyes Only (1981), a spokesman for the film told the press, "We don't know what Bond will be drinking this time. We had a little trouble last time getting enough of the right Champagne. Maybe he'll switch to Campari."
One can only imagine, then, what Stolichnaya paid to have Roger Moore hold up a bottle of Stoli to the camera at the end of A View to a Kill (1985); the word is that Bond will switch to Finlandia in Die Another Day. And one wonders what Hennessy forked over to have Bond, in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), tell a St. Bernard that has restored him with brandy after a near fatal avalanche, "Good fellow, but I do wish it had been Hennessy." So important have these product placements in action movies become that companies paid $25 million in fees to have their products featured in this summer's Minority Report, and an astounding $70 million to be in the James Bond spoof, Austin Powers in Goldmember.
Since Fleming's death in 1964, two authorized successors, John Gardner and Raymond Benson, have continued to detail Bond's gourmandism in a series of novels. In the most recent, Benson's The Man With the Red Tattoo (2002), 007 enjoys a JAL airlines executive-class cabin meal of prawn sushi, crabmeat egg roll, whitebait in soy sauce, boiled shrimp with fish roe, fried chicken in ginger sauce, miso soup, Japanese pickles and steamed rice, along with a sweet sake from the Kyoto Prefecture. ("Bond thought it did nicely as an after-dinner drink.") Later, he has an extensive kaiseki dinner with his Tokyo colleague, Tiger Tanaka.
Bond's high-living does take its toll. In the second movie based on the novel Thunderball (1961), Never Say Never Again (1983), M shows concern over 007's physical condition. Citing his furred tongue, high blood pressure and a liver "not palpable," M chastises Bond for his consumption of "too much alcohol, fatty foods and white bread." Bond replies, "I don't eat all that much white bread, sir." Sent off to Shrublands health clinic to purge his body of "free-radical toxins," Bond refuses a meal of "lentil delight" and goat's cheese brought by a beautiful nurse. Then he seduces her by breaking out his secret hamper of beluga caviar, foie gras ("Strasbourg, of course"), quail eggs and vodka.
Not that any of it seems to threaten Bond's longevity (although he did stop smoking cigarettes on-screen—a three-pack-a-day habit in the books—many movies ago). Bond seems to thrive on what he eats and drinks. Truly a man of the world, his stamina never flags, his interest in exotic food and drink adds to his knowledge, and he always seems to have time to dine even though he only has 48 hours in which to find and defuse an atomic bomb.
Fleming summed up Bond's world-weary gourmandism in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. "When travelling abroad, generally by himself, meals were a welcome break in the day, something to look forward to, something to break the tension of fast driving, with its risks taken or avoided, the narrow squeaks, the permanent background of concern for the fitness of his machine." Fast cars, beautiful women, fine food and drink. What more could a man want?
Oh, there is one more thing that makes Bond a male fantasy figure, as enviable now as he was when he first appeared 50 years ago. While on assignment, 007 has an unlimited expense account.
JAMES BOND'S TASTES ACCORDING TO IAN FLEMING Coffee: Beans bought at De Bry on New Oxford Street (taken without sugar)
Eggs: Brown, boiled 3 1/3 minutes, from Marans hens
Butter: From Jersey
Smoked Salmon: Scottish (Bond is of Scottish ancestry)
Honey: Norwegian heather honey from Fortnum & Mason
Marmalade: Frank Cooper's Vintage Oxford marmalade
Jam: Tiptree "Little Scarlet" strawberry
Vodka: Stolichnaya or prewar Wolfschmidt's (with a bit of fresh black pepper)
Bourbon: Old Grand-dad, Walker's De Luxe, I.W. Harper's and Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey
Beer: Löwenbräu, Miller High Life, Red Stripe
Gin: Beefeaters and Gordons
Brandy: Hennessy Three Star
BOND'S FOOD AND Drink MOMENTS ON FILM Dr. No (1962): Drinks a martini made with Smirnoff, as well as Dom Pérignon '55.
From Russia With Love (1963): Drinks Taittinger Blanc de Blancs—twice. Sips Turkish coffee ("medium sweet"). Realizes—too late—that no true British agent would order "Chianti ... the red kind" with fish, as did a double agent who says, "I may not know the right wines but you're the one on your knees."
Goldfinger (1964): Describes the faults of a "rather disappointing Cognac." Sips a mint julep at Goldfinger's plantation. ("Sour mash, not too sweet," Bond insists.)
Thunderball (1965): Has conch chowder, considered to be an aphrodisiac. Drinks Dom Pérignon '55. Has a vodka and Cinzano martini, and a rum Collins.
You Only Live Twice (1967): Has a martini made with Russian vodka and Noilly Prat vermouth. Voices displeasure with Siamese vodka.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969): After being revived with brandy following an avalanche, he tells a St. Bernard that he prefers Hennessey. Drinks Haut-Brion '57, Dom Pérignon '57 and Campari, and eats royal beluga caviar. Diamonds Are Forever (1971): Realizes his waiters are assassins when they fail to recognize a Mouton-Rothschild '55 as a claret.
Live and Let Die (1973): Makes a cappuccino. His first time drinking Bollinger. The Man With the Golden Gun (1974): Drinks Dom Pérignon '64 ("I prefer the '62," he says) and a Thai wine named Phuyuck.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): Orders Bacardi on the rocks for a female Russian spy.
For Your Eyes Only (1981): Orders ouzo at a Greek casino, refuses the offer of a Robola from Cephalonia, erroneously believing it is a retsina! Drinks Dom Pérignon.
Never Say Never Again (1983): Bond sneaks a basket of Absolut vodka, quail eggs, caviar and foie gras into Shrublands health spa. When a water-skiing femme fatale splashes him with water, she purrs, "I've made you all wet," to which Bond replies, "Yes, but my martini is still dry."
A View to a Kill (1985): Dines at Jules Verne restaurant in the Eiffel Tower. Enjoys caviar, Lafite Rothschild '59, Bollinger '75 and Stolichnaya.
The Living Daylights (1987): Drinks Bollinger R.D.
License to Kill (1989): Orders Bollinger R.D.
GoldenEye (1995): Drinks vodka martinis.
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): Drinks vodka in his room.
John and Galina Mariani's latest book is The American-Italian Cookbook (Harvard Common Press)
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