Thursday, 10 August 2017

Flandry And Bond: Exercise And Food

"He had loathed calisthenics more in every year of his sixty-one. But they had given him a quickly responive body in his youth, and it was still trim and tough beyond anything due to gero treatments."
-Poul Anderson, A Stone In Heaven IN Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (Riverdale, NY, 2012), pp. 1-188 AT Chapter III, p. 29.

"Reluctantly [Bond] proceeded to a quarter of an hour of knee-bends and press-ups and deep-breathing chest-expansions..."
-Ian Fleming, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (London, 1965), Chapter 11, p. 99.

Loathing and reluctance but necessity. Anderson can use "gero treatments" to keep Flandry active over sixty whereas Fleming must revise Bond's fictional biography to keep him under sixty.

"James Bond was not a gourmet." (Chapter 2, p. 23)

I think that Flandry is but can anyone pin this down with a quote?

10 comments:

S.M. Stirling said...

Well, Ian Fleming certainly liked his food... 8-).

The descriptions in some of the Bond books indicate an ambivalence towards fine dining, I think -- which may be a period phenomenon. On the one hand, Fleming liked it; on the other hand, he felt ambiguous about his own appetites.

The era roughly 1914-1955 represented a nadir British cooking, partially as a recoil from Edwardian gourmandizing (the menus are mind-boggling), partly due to the bleakness imposed by the World Wars, the Depression, and the post-war austerity and rationing.

As a side-note, I have a private theory that the abysmal state of ordinary English food (leaving aside abominations like boarding-school fodder, which I suffered myself) was due to premature urbanization and the social structure of British agriculture.

The English became a largely urban people before technology (including social technology like food inspection and pure food legislation) was sufficient to get good foodstuffs from the countryside to the cities.

As late as the 1880's, it was estimated that if "dubious" meat (from animals that had died of disease and so forth) was removed from the marketing chain, the cost of meat would double. Adulterated and rotten food was as common as not anywhere you couldn't personally check on the sources.

(This is why aristocrats in town usually had fresh produce "sent up" from the home farms of their estates rather than buying in the market. They knew what they were getting. And why the remains of the yeoman-farmer class like my father's mother's family were among the best-fed and healthiest people in Britain, far more so than urbanites of much higher cash incomes.)

It wasn't until the period after refrigeration and mass imports that even the basic calorific intake of most British people became satisfactory, much less things like good balance and vitamins. Things like clean fresh milk or good vegetables were scarce and expensive.

And in the countryside, the social class of prosperous land-owning peasants who were the foundation of Continental cuisine -- haut cuisine is a refinement of well-to-do peasant festival food -- were much less common in Britain.

Rural England (and most of Scotland) was dominated by very big farms by European standards, usually rented from a relatively very small landlord class. Most rural people were landless laborers, the poorest-paid class in England and usually unable even to bake their own bread because they didn't have the facilities or fuel for it.

The contrast with France, which urbanized late and had a very strong class of peasant proprietors, is striking.

S.M. Stirling said...

I hate exercise too, but I do it regularly. Needs must.

Paul Shackley said...

I didn't know that there was that much to know about the subject.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling and Paul,

Mr. Stirling, yes, I had some idea of the English agricultural and social situation you described. But not of WHY British food and cuisine used to be so bad. Basically, the English urbanized TOO soon.

Paul, while Anderson did not go into the kind of details about food and cooking that Stirling gives us, he does show Flandry as being a gourmand. Chapter IX of THE PLAGUE OF MASTERS gives us a hint of this: "A rijstaffel, properly made, is a noble dish requiring a couple of hours to eat. Then there was sherbet, with more tea and arrack." So Flandry having good meals and taking the tea to eat them with leisure. And I wonder what a rijstaffel is?

And I certainly knew of how much Flandry loathed calisthenics! I exercise myself, for both reasons of health and vanity.

Sean

S.M. Stirling said...

The word means "rice table". It's a Dutch version of Indonesian food -- more precisely, it's a Dutch -compilation- of regional Indonesian dishes, served with several varieties of rice and the dishes in individually small portions, but lots and lots of them. You eat a bit of the rice, a bit of this, a bit of the rice, a bit of that, and it's quite a feast. Very nice and indicative of the long and fruitful interaction between the Dutch and their east-Asian empire; you can get it in the classic form in any big Dutch city these days.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

Thanks for the explanation of what a "rijstaffel" is. And such a dish would make plenty of sense on a planet settled largely by humans of Malay stock as Unan Besar in THE PLAGUE OF MASTERS. Of course the planet would need to have a climate suitable for rice growing. It also shows why Flandry and Djuanda needed so long to eat it!

Sean

S.M. Stirling said...

Yeah, Unan Besar is very interesting. Though the original settlers (it's a secondary colony from another planet, IIRC) must have been Balinese; they seem to be Hindus.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

I really want to reread some of the Flandry stories, but I'm busy with your THE PROTECTOR'S WAR. (Smiles)

Yes, I knew Unan Besar was not settled directly from Terra, but by people from another colony. I recall Sandra Miesel thinking the religion shown on Unan Besar should have been Islam, not what looks like Hinduism (because Islam is dominant in Malaysia and Indonesia). I would have suggested to her that the Unan Besar colonists may have descended from Balinese who threw off a religion which had been forced on them.

Sean

S.M. Stirling said...

Well, Balinese are Hindu now and show no signs of changing their minds.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Dear Mr. Stirling,

Considering how I dislike Islam as Islam, good for the Balinese! But I had thought all of what is now Indonesia (minus the western part of the island of New Guineau) either converted to Islam or had it forced on them.

Sean