I’m living in Chelsea, round the corner from a Waitrose supermarket. The food and drink they sell are perfectly decent but they publish a free tabloid titled “Weekend” which makes me want to kill.
The current issue has Elton John on the front, and inside there’s an advertorial from Sipsmith for “Hot Gin.” Hot water seems to be the main ingredient. I mean, really?
Elsewhere in the paper there’s a Heston Blumenthal-inspired recipe for a gimlet but this ain't no ordinary gimlet. It's one of these, the one on the far right I imagine:
And this is how you'd make it if you were of unsound mind:
Of course this isn't really a gimlet, and I balked at the nonsense about butter and cider, but I can think of one gimlet-fetishist who’d have reached for his roscoe at the very idea. I mean Raymond Chandler of course.
And it so happens that Chandler lived, briefly, in Chelsea in 1958, not half a mile away from where I am, in Swan Walk. Hold that thought.
The best thing about my local branch of Waitrose is that they sell oysters – 79 pence each, which isn’t bad, but if you get there at the end of the day and there are just a few left, fewer than 6 I assume, then they knock down the price. Last night I got three at 32 pence each. They looked like this:
Oysters appear here and there in Chandler, usually as similes or occasionally as an adjective – somebody wears an oyster-white raincoat, someone has oyster-white luggage.
I do like this from “Red Wind” which is about the implement rather than the bivalve - “She jumped as if she had been stuck with an oyster fork. Then she tried to smile. It wasn't very successful.”
And there’s this from “Blackmailers Don’t Shoot,” Chandler’s first published detective story (1933):
“Mardonne came out from behind the desk. He moved jerkily, like a marionette. His eyes were as dead as stale oysters. Saliva drooled down his chin.”
Almost enough to put you off your oysters, but somehow not quite.