Everybody knows how James Bond likes his martinis prepared. What’s less certain is how the cinematic super-spy prefers his meals. In order to find out, fans used to have to delve into the fine print of Ian Fleming’s long-running series of novels. This information has since been declassified, though, with extreme prejudice.
Photographer Henry Hargreaves is known for using food to tell a story, and his latest series tells a story about James Bond. Specifically, it tells the story of the globe-trotting agent’s culinary appetites—as distinct from his carnal ones and his bloodthirst. “Dying To Eat” brings to sumptuous visual life the vast array of meals Bond dined on mostly in the book series, which fans could previously only imagine. Interestingly, the meals reveal more about this inscrutable man than most of his films do.
It all started when Hargreaves met with a fellow food artist, Charlotte Omnès on an unrelated project for the Food Network. While we were talking, Omnès mentioned her ravenous interest in the James Bond novels. She’d read several and, as a culinary professional, she was struck by how much detail Fleming put in his prose about the meals, compared to the films where they’re not really mentioned at all. Hargreaves was interested in collaborating on a Bond project right. As it turned out, he had deep 007 roots of his own.
“My grandfather had been in and out of the services since WWII and eventually he finished up as a Queen’s Messenger in the ‘70s and that’s when he met Ian Fleming,” the photographer says. “He was very particular about his clothes, my grandfather–all his shoes and shirts were handmade–and Fleming would ask who his tailors were and where he went to get specific things. Some of those details ended up in the Bond books.”
In order to properly prepare for the project, Hargreaves read a few of the novels, seeking out passages with food references. Then he and Omnès went through each book and earmarked the meals that would be most interesting to replicate. Omnès cooked and did the prop styling. Hargreaves handled lighting and photography. Neither wanted to adhere to any formula, so they put in special consideration for each dish. They took great care to include details that would place each meal in a Bondian context– cufflinks and an unfastened bowtie, for instance, to represent the bedroom.
“The Goldfinger dish was hardest to create,” Hargreaves says. “The recipe called for stone crabs and they are really hard to find . . . and very expensive . . . and it was the wrong season. We called up lots of fisherman who told us they had stone crabs and several times came back with something that wasn’t a stone crab. It took several attempts to finally get it right, and find the right pair of sunglasses to hint at the beach.”
Seeing these meals gives Bond fans a window into the reality in which Bond was conceived—and insight into how he was meant to have lived. Most of his meals are rather rich, for example, which is emblematic of a man who courts danger at every turn, and is aware that each day might be his last.
“There’s that old saying of ‘Show me how you eat and I’ll tell you who you are,” the photographer says. “To us, these meals very much present a no-nonsense British man of the day, with quite conservative leanings. It even says in the book, he’s really conservative at home and more adventurous with eating when abroad. And Fleming has told me stories that food was such a key thing to the readers to put them in the exotic locations, so when Bond went off the grid he’d experiment a bit.”
Hargreaves and Omnès too had the chance to experiment with one of Fleming’s mystery dishes. Some of the items the author mentioned are not real foods. Theories abound as to whether it’s a mistake or a private in-joke that, in Diamonds Are Forever, Bond orders “Brazzola” from Sardi’s, which is a kind of meat that doesn’t exist. So the food artists had to dig deep into their imaginations to approximate what this fictitious steak might look like.
It seems that bringing James Bond’s diet to life requires all the resourcefulness of a secret agent. Have a look at more images of 007’s literary meals in the slides above.