Hemingway’s Favorite Foods and Drinks for Summer
by Bill Gotti, M3 Food and Wine Editor
May is a special month for Ernest Hemingway lovers. Hemingway revised his final manuscript for “The Sun Also Rises” in May and he also won the Pulitzer Prize for ‘The Old Man and the Sea” in the month of May. So what better way to celebrate this author’s intense and maximalist ventures into food and drink than to experience Papa Hemingway’s taste firsthand. Since it looks like we’re headed for another hot summer, I am going to introduce you to some of his more refreshing and satisfying recipes to help make the season cooler. I should point out that Ernest Hemingway like to drink, but he loved his drinks ice cold, in fact colder than ice cold. He had the habit in Havana of taking metal tennis ball tubes, filling them with water and freezing them as a method of keeping his martinis cold as he made them. There could be books written about Hemingway’s taste and adventure into food and drink, but i am going to throw out just a few doables that you might enjoy in quest of a literary summer.
Let’s start with the oysters. No doubt Hemingway enjoyed a great variety of oysters from Europe and the United States and he had a long-time love affair with oysters, most likely from his early days in France where he discovered the large, very flat slightly green colored Marennes-Oléron oysters which are cultivated further down the French Atlantic coast. Hemingway would savor dozens of these shelled oysters and drink iced cold Sancerre wine (however I prefer a Muscadet). There is a quote about these French oysters from his book “A Moveable Feast” which describes his experience, “As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.” And in a cafe in Paris he also described his love for the Portuguese Crassostrea angulata oysters which are now virtually gone and replaced by the similar Crassostrea gigas or Pacifc Oyster. In another quote he described them, “I closed up the story in the notebook and put it in my inside pocket and I asked the waiter for a dozen “portugueses” and a half – carafe of the dry white wine they had there.“ The Portuguese oysters, originally from Asia are believed to have clung to trading ships coming from the orient in the 1600’s and when the ships settled in the Iberian Coast they reproduced and then were cultivated commercially. If you are inclined to experience Hemingway’s oyster encounters as closely as possible, you can find the Pacific Oyster in the United States as they are produced in this country. You can contact The Seattle Fish Company at https://www.seattlefish.com/seafood-market/pacific-oysters/ The French Marennes-Oléron oysters can be inported from Duke trading Ltd., a fourth generation oyster farm specializing in these beauties, http://www.trade-seafood.com/directory/seafood/aquaculture/duketrading-fr.htm As for the cold white Sancerre wine, I would recommend. Now oysters weren’t the only things that Ernest Hemingway ate with his cold Sancerre wine. He also had a fondness for the Pont-l’Évêque cheese which has been made in the Normandy region of France since the 12th century. Pont-l’Évêque cheese is readily available at cheese shops, but can be ordered at Amazon online if you can’t find it locally.
On the eve of the Running of the Bulls in Spain, Hemingway would eat enormous portions of roasted pork with cold Rioja alta wine, from the celebrated Rioja region of Spain. A bottle of Rioja alta can range in price from $17 to $159, and it’s most likely that Hemingway didn’t spend $159 (or the equivalent in the 1920’s) I would recommend.
Oysters and cheeses aside, Hemingway was a devout carnivore and spent much of his childhood hunting and fishing in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, then later on safaris. Perhaps one of the most interesting of his favorite meals was his own recipe for the hamburger that he devised on his plantation Finca Vigia in Havana, Cuba. He would have food supplies air shipped regularly from the United States with his favorite food ingredients. Here is his own favorite recipe for his Hemingway hamburger –
Here is Hemingway’s favorite recipe for pan-fried hamburgers, as described by food writer Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan in her article in the Paris Review ( https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/09/16/hemingways-hamburger/ ):
1 lb. ground lean beef
2 cloves, minced garlic
2 little green onions, finely chopped
1 heaping teaspoon, India relish
2 tablespoons, capers
1 heaping teaspoon, Spice Islands sage
Spice Islands Beau Monde Seasoning — 1/2 teaspoon
Spice Islands Mei Yen Powder — 1/2 teaspoon
1 egg, beaten in a cup with a fork
About 1/3 cup dry red or white wine
1 tablespoon cooking oil
What to do–
Break up the meat with a fork and scatter the garlic, onion and dry seasonings over it, then mix them into the meat with a fork or your fingers. Let the bowl of meat sit out of the icebox for ten or fifteen minutes while you set the table and make the salad. Add the relish, capers, everything else including wine and let the meat sit, quietly marinating, for another ten minutes if possible. Now make your fat, juicy patties with your hands. The patties should be an inch thick, and soft in texture but not runny. Have the oil in your frying pan hot but not smoking when you drop in the patties and then turn the heat down and fry the burgers about four minutes. Take the pan off the burner and turn the heat high again. Flip the burgers over, put the pan back on the hot fire, then after one minute, turn the heat down again and cook another three minutes. Both sides of the burgers should be crispy brown and the middle pink and juicy.
Spice Islands stopped making Mei Yen Powder several years ago, according to Tan. You can recreate it, she says, by mixing nine parts salt, nine parts sugar and two parts MSG. “If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of Mei Yen Powder,” she writes, “use 2/3 tsp of the dry recipe (above) mixed with 1/8 tsp of soy sauce.”
According to Hemingway’s widow Mary The one-pound of beef was intended for two servings.
What did Hemingway like to drink with his food (and without)? Here are his favorites, and remember Papa Hemingway like everything ice cold. Drink recipes courtesy of Philip Greene, Hemingway researcher and author of “To Have and Have Another” a cocktail lover’s guide to the life and works of Ernest Hemingway.
The Martini – Hemingway Style
1 ¾ oz dry London style gin 1/8 oz French dry vermouth Stir well in a mixing glass with plenty of ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a couple of frozen Spanish cocktail onions, or a chilled garlic onion. In a 1947 letter to his publisher, Charles Scribner, he said, “We have real Gordon’s Gin at 50 bucks a case and real Noilly Prat and have found a way of making ice in the deep-freeze in tennis ball tubes that comes out 15 degrees below zero and with the glasses frozen too makes the coldest martini in the world. Just enough vermouth to cover the bottom of the glass, ounce 3/4 of gin, and the Spanish cocktail onions very crisp and also 15 degrees below zero when they go in the glass.”
E. Henmiway Special (sic) (yes, it was misspelled at the El Floridita bar where Hemingway frequented), the Original “Hemingway Daiquiri”
2 oz white rum (Bacardi) 1 teaspoon grapefruit juice 1 teaspoon maraschino liqueur ½ oz fresh lime juice “Frappe” (chip or crush) some ice, add to shaker, then add remaining ingredients. Shake well, then pour contents of shaker into a chilled cocktail glass.
Green Isaac’s Special
2 oz London Dry Gin 4 oz green coconut water (not milk) Juice of one lime (about 1 oz) 2-4 dashes Angostura Bitters, to taste Shake all ingredients well with ice, transfer contents of shaker into a Collins glass, adding more ice as needed. Garnish with a lime wedge or peel.
Whiskey & Soda
2 oz Whiskey (Scotch, bourbon, rye, up to you) 4 oz seltzer/sparkling water (Hemingway loved Perrier) Fill a Highball glass with ice, add ingredients, stir, serve. Option, garnish with a wedge (or peel) of lemon or lime.
2 oz London Dry Gin 1 oz Rose’s Lime Juice Shake well with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass.
1 ½ oz. gin ½ oz. grapefruit juice ½ oz. fresh lime juice 1 tsp. simple syrup (optional) 1 sprig mint Gerald Murphy instructs (from a letter to Alexander Woolcott): The mint should be put in the shaker first. It should be torn up by hand as it steeps better. The gin should be added then and allowed to stand a minute or two. Then add the grapefruit juice and then the lime juice. Stir vigorously with ice and do not allow to dilute too much, but serve very cold, with a spring of mint in each glass. Serve in a chilled cocktail glass or wineglass.