On the Spenser series

Spenser and the Art of the Family Table

By Lyndsay Faye

“Scotch and soda,” I said, “lemon chicken, and thou.”

–Spenser to Susan, Hundred-Dollar Baby

Robert B. Parker’s iconic Boston private detective Spenser is a true gourmet not only in that he creates and appreciates fine food, but in that he understands the fundamental principle of eating: food is about love. Having worked in restaurants from suburban chains to Park Avenue flagships, immersed in the culture that accompanies food enthusiasm, it has become clear to me that gastronomes exist in many incarnations, and some of them fail to follow this precept.

The chef de cuisine of BLT Steak (a talented fellow who was selected by Laurent Tourondel and remains the creator of the best Chinese five-spice rubbed duck breast I’ve ever eaten) once remarked to me that there is a difference between people who collect experiences at trendy restaurants for trophies, consuming delicacies like sea urchin and bone marrow simply for bragging rights, and people who instead want the shared communion of a memorable meal (at which sea urchin and bone marrow could certainly appear). “Foodies” are frequently charged with pretension and elitism, and often rightfully so, but in my opinion exclusivity is the exact antithesis of truly fine dining. When food is about love, then food matters, and loving food is elevated from a hobby some might call absurdly self-indulgent to a lifestyle that celebrates our time on the planet and with each other. Without doubt, Spenser falls into the latter category, and his attitude toward food thus becomes one of  …

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