Food in Detective Stories, Raymond Chandler. The Long Goodbye.

One of the four covers of this Raymond Chandler story, uses the painting by Edward Hopper, “Night Hawks.”This painting reflects that feeling of alienation and loneliness that so many feel even when surrounded by teeming activity and city life. This same loneliness runs through many of Chandler’s novels. But we are looking at food in his stories. Not so easy.

Raymond Chandler’s Private Detective Philip Marlowe, is a complex  character. He was indifferent to good food, though often critical of bad food. His personal indulgences were good coffee and good whiskey. He plays chess with himself, sometimes listens to music, and has conversations about poetry, as in The Long Goodbye, with Amos, Linda Lorings chauffeur. They discussed T.S.Eliot.

So to actually find references to food in any way, was a bit of detective work in itself. Lots of references to cocktails and alcohol generally. Here is a list of what is drunk in “The Long Goodbye” regarded by Chandler as his best work.

Straight Scotch

Bourbon on the rocks


Amontillado Sherry

Rye Whiskey Sour


Pretension Restaurants were dismissed, as in this quote

.……drove over to La Cienaga to Rudy’s Bar-B-Q, gave my name to the master of ceremonies and waited for the big moment on a bar stool with a whisky sour in front of me and Marek Weber’s waltz music in my ears.After a while I got  in past the velvet rope and ate one of Rudy’s ‘world famous’ Salisbury steaks which is hamburger on a slab of burnt wood, ringed with browned-over mashed potato, supported by fried onion rings and one of those mixed-up salads which men will eat with complete docility in restaurants, although they would probably start yelling if their wives tried to feed them one at home.

Rudy’s Bar at the restaurant may have looked like this one.

constatraymond chandler salad

Some of those mixed up salads

Another quote that gives a great description of Los Angeles eating habits is this

I went down to the drugstore and ate a chicken salad sandwich and drank some coffee. The coffee was overstrained and the sandwich was as full of rich flavours as a piece torn off an old shirt. Americans will eat anything if it is toasted and held together with a couple of toothpicks and has lettuce sticking out of it’s sides, preferably a little wilted.

                                      Recipe for a Gimlet.

“A real Gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s lime juice and nothing else.”

from The Long Goodbye.



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