Passing the Soup Before Passing Out

Erlanger, Baba and Daren Pierce. The Compleat Martini Cook Book. Illus. Elizabeth Fraser. New York: Random Thoughts, 1957.

My mother barely drinks at all, and while my father does, it’s in a decidedly unglamorous cans-of-bud-lite and jugs-or-sometimes-even-boxes-of-red-wine kind of way. Either because, or perhaps in spite of my upbringing, I’ve always liked the idea of serious, yet controlled, drinking, the kind done by ad men and literary types in movies from the 1950s and 60s. Hence my fondness for the The Compleat Martini Cook Book. Clearly a farce (the authors report being “shoved” from their “Newport nest” at the tender age of 34), the book nonetheless includes some fairly edible-seeming recipes, arranged in order of how many martinis should be drunk before attempting to cook them. The instructions take into account the sobriety of the chef, suggesting, sensibly, that knives should probably be avoided after four or five drinks. I chose the recipe below because it includes pickled beets (yum!) and because I LOVE the illustration. I think it perfectly captures that green, yet languid, state that can be reached after a night of hard drinking:

In keeping with the book’s boozy, breezy tone, the authors made a few mistakes. But such funny mistakes! I have to admit, I’ve never been so charmed by errata. They forgot to list peas as an ingredient in “Mrs. Joseph Erlanger Peas Wild or Tame;” they left a spoon sitting in the “Cartier Chowder;” and they forgot to list the tuna in the “Tuna Princess.” The mistakes sound suspiciously like mistakes a tipsy cook would make, and the skeptic in me wonders if the errata were more a joke than honest omissions. Either way, they made me laugh:

Baba Erlanger (real name: Jane Trahey) and Daren Pierce went on to one more glorious collaboration: Son of the Martini Cookbook, which I will write about another day.

3 comments to Passing the Soup Before Passing Out

  • this is a book that should be republished and promoted heavily at Christmas. It is an amazingly funny book for big people – preferable with a glass in one’s hand and stuffed like an olive into the stocking.

  • I got a copy of Son of the Martini Cookbook on a recent trip to New York and its now one of my most treasured possessions! It’s lovely to read about someone else having come across it. I was actually trying to find out more about the writers and publisher (Clovis Press in the case of this edition), but I can find nothing! Have you ever come across them or any leads? I’m even sort of vaguely wondering about seeing if anyone would publish a new edition or another sequel… I feel like a drunk detective.

  • Linda martini

    I have a copy of this book that my father gave to my sister. She passed away 6 years ago in October and this was given to me from her estate by her stepdaughters. Only because there was a sticky note in the cookbook to my sister from my dad. He shared that he had had it for 40 years and that was at least 15 years ago. All my friends and family love this book. The illustrations are amazing. I am taking to my mothers sisters birthday party tomorrow who will be 100 years old. I think they will all get a hoot out of this cookbook. I actually have made several meals from this and they were good. k
    Is it still available to purchase. Linda martini.

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