Iris Murdoch’s four minute feasts

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“For lunch, I may say, I ate and greatly enjoyed the following: anchovy paste on hot buttered toast, then baked beans and kidney beans with chopped celery, tomatoes, lemon juice and olive oil. (Really good olive oil is essential, the kind with a taste, I have brought a supply from London.) Green peppers would have been a happy addition only the village shop (about two miles pleasant walk) could not provide them … Then bananas and cream with white sugar. (Bananas should be cut, never mashed, and the cream should be thin.) Then hard water-biscuits with New Zealand butter and Wensleydale cheese. Of course I never touch foreign cheeses. Our cheeses are the best in the world. With this feast I drank most of a bottle of Muscadet out of my modest ‘cellar’. I ate and drank slowly as one should (cook fast, eat slowly) and without distractions such as (thank heavens) conversation or reading. Indeed eating is so pleasant one should even try to suppress thought.” 

Extract from: The Sea, the sea

In the first few pages of Iris Murdoch’s 1978 Booker Prize winning novel The Sea, the sea, the novel’s narrator,  Charles Arrowby, an egotistical actor and director, interrupts a description of his new seaside home, where he hopes to complete his memoirs, with description of lunch. Other  accounts of his often eccentric meals follow, a majority of which involve the “liberal use of the tin opener”. Indeed his quick fix menus — tinned macaroni cheese, cold boiled corgettes, apples stewed in tea — are thought to be modelled on the culinary delights served up by Murdoch and her husband, the critic John Bayley, in their famously undomesticated North Oxford home. When a contemporary declared the recipes from The Sea, the Sea to be revolting, Murdoch replied, “But this is what John and I eat all the time.” Like her fictional creation Charles Arrowby, Murdoch was firmly of the opinion that the “active time of preparation” of any meal should be no more than four minutes.


Bananas in Cream

  • 2 bananas
  • 5 tbsp double cream
  • 2 tsp sugar

Peel and slice the bananas, dividing the pieces between two small bowls. Pour half the cream and one teaspoon of sugar over each bowl. Serve.