If you're Raymond Chandler, you take a more robust approach to the gastronomic arts: "Feeling the blade in my hand I sliced an onion, and before I knew what I was doing a carrot lay in pieces on the slab. None of them moved... They had it coming to them."
Written and illustrated by Mark Crick, Kafka's Soup is a history of world literature in 14 recipes. The preparation of each dish is described in the style of a famous writer, from Fenkata à la Homer - "Sing now, goddess, of the hunger of Peleus' son, Achilles" - to Rich Chocolate Cake à la Irvine Welsh - "Ah pour on the sugar, watching the white grains dissolve intae the golden brown liquid. They're dissolving cleanly; it's good fuckin shite."
Crick, a London-based photographer, has also illustrated his book in the style of artists such as Warhol, De Chirico, Hogarth and Henry Moore. Marvellously, the recipes actually work, but the real joy of this little book is Crick's ear for literary parody.
Graham Greene, preparing Vietnamese chicken for an unnamed female visitor, dabs glumly at a spreading stain on his white shirt-front as the twilight congeals. Jane Austen's tarragon eggs go forth into the world in search of a socially advantageous match. For Marcel Proust, the scent of amaretto revives the elusive memory of a long-forgotten recipe for tiramisu.
Harold Pinter rustles up cheese on toast beneath a flickering fluorescent light, but (a nice satirical touch) the Nobel Laureate's snack turns out to be a fancy Islington concoction involving ciabatta, mozzarella and extra-virgin olive oil. And for the woman preparing mushroom risotto as per John Steinbeck: "It wasn't meat and pototoes, but at least her family would eat tonight."
The pièce de resistance is perhaps Virginia Woolf's Clafoutis Grandmère, a French cherry tart. A beautifully sustained stream of consciousness spirals away from the bowl of unpitted cherries, "so bright and jolly, their little core of hardness invisible", to meditate on demons, angels and the inexorable passing of time.
Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel García Márquez and the Marquis de Sade ("Now, my chicks... how about a little stuffing?") all take their turn at the hob before the literary banquet is brought to a conclusion by Chaucer, who offers his "receipt" for onion tart: "Trimme the edges neat with a cooke's knyfe/ Then bake it blynde at gasse mark fyve."
Crick has chosen his literary ingredients carefully and marinaded them in irony, adding a sprinkling of bathos and anachronism. The resulting confection is irresistibly moreish, and would make as imaginative and entertaining a Christmas stocking-filler as you're likely to find.Reuse content