Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Food in fiction: an occasional series.

The expensive French restaurants in New York are nearly all east of Fifth Avenue. In most of them, depending on what wine he drinks and whether or not he orders cognac with his coffee, a man and his date can spend the equivalent of the U.S. legal weekly minimum wage in an evening, or the price of a case of good Scotch or a TV set or the complete recorded works of Beethoven or a ticket to a political fund-raising ball. It is possible that in the last instance, the restaurant dinner is the better bargain; but the price is still rather steep. And for this reason, and for the benefit of impoverished lovers of French cooking and for bona-fide Frenchmen stuck in New York in average-paying jobs, the unfashionable area on the West Side has seen a mushrooming of moderately priced French restaurants. Some of them approach a good Paris bistro; others are only slightly better than the restaurants on Second and Third avenues that cater to the skid-row derelicts, with the day's bargains chalked on the windows - 'Stewed Pigs Heart and Beans, 95 cents'. The difference is in the language - 'Coeur de porc à la mode d'Angers garni' - written in purple ink on a menu, and third-rate Algerian wine, transported in tankers and tank trucks to Burgundy communes and there bottled and labeled. Though still far below the condottiere of the East Side in imaginative price inflation, the West Side restaurateur of this sort still gathers in his six hundred percent profit.
Steve Bowman has been fired from his newspaper job for drinking instead of investigating. He is subsequently and mysteriously offered $25,000 to search for the son of Jethro Parker, the man who owns the town and everything in it; double if he succeeds. Resisting the urge to drink the retainer, Bowman hits the trail accompanied by gourmet meals, willing accomplices, guns, Nazis, betrayal, Etienne, Solange ... and Ann Hathaway.

To Hell For Half-a-Crown
James Cross
Constable, London 1967

Kitchen Hand's summary: The other side of the Summer of Love


Dr. Alice said...

I just checked and the LA public library has this. I will give it a go.

paul kennedy said...

It has overtones of The Big Sleep with a retired magnate sending the hero to search for a prodigal son. And plenty of murders. I'm surprised it is still in a public library. The ones here have chucked out practically everything pre-1990 that isn't regarded as 'literature' or at least edgy fiction.

Dr. Alice said...

The downtown LA public library has hidden treasures. They are usually in storage stacks instead of on the shelves, but readers can still request them.