In Charlie Higson’s terrific new story, On His Majesty’s Secret Service, James Bond is on a mission to thwart a plot by one Æthelstan of Wessex to disrupt the coronation of King Charles III. The book is (relatively) slim, but perfectly formed. All the elements that make a cracking Bond adventure are there: M’s briefing, the locations, brutal violence, the mad villain, the mysterious women, Bond’s reflectons on life and death, and of course the food.
There has been much media discussion about whether Higson’s Bond is ‘woke’, and among the evidence cited is the description in the book of Bond’s diet. Having eschewed the heavy, nutionally unbalanced meals, Bond now enjoys lighter meals that pack a healthy punch of fibre, fruit, and vegetables, and he consumes fermented foods like kimchi, a cabbage dish from Korea.
The issue of Bond’s ‘wokeness’ is of course nonsense. Much of Bond’s views on healthy eating are informed by an article in the New Scientist, and reading them I was reminded of the passages in Thunderball (1961) where M expounds the benefits of the ‘nature cure’ and, later, Bond admits how much more energetic and vital he’s feeling after a stay at the ‘Scrubs’ or Shrublands health farm. While many of the ideas that formed the basis of the nature cure (set out by the likes of Alan Moyle) have not stood the test of time, the link between good health and a balanced diet is long established, and clearly Bond was as open to this in 1961 as he is in 2023. In any case, what one may consider the traditional Bond diet has not totally disappeared: Bond still has a breakfast of scrambled eggs.
I present below a recipe for kimchi. The dish is usually quite red in colour, but this can vary depending on the chilli product one uses. I used a chilli relish, with the result that the dish retains much of the greenness of the cabbage. Still, it’s very tasty, whatever its colour.
- ½ Chinese cabbage (if unavailable, use alternative, e.g. sweetheart cabbage)
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp white rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp chilli sauce, paste or relish
- 1 spring onion
- 2 radishes
- 1 tsp grated garlic (1-2 cloves)
- 1 tsp grated ginger (1-2cm piece)
Chop and shred the cabbage (creating straw-like pieces approx. 1-2 inches long). Rinse and pat-dry the cabbage, then place it in a bowl. Mix in the salt, then put a plate or other suitable item on top to press the cabbage. Allow the cabbage to stand for about an hour.
In the meantime, peel and grate the garlic and ginger, grate the radishes, then slice the spring onion, again creating thin, one-inch long pieces.
After an hour, transfer the cabbage to a colander and throughly rinse to remove the salt. Drain, then squeeze the remaining water out by hand. Rinse the bowl out, then return the cabbage to the bowl. Add the fish sauce, chilli sauce, sugar, spring onion, radishes, garlic and ginger to the cabbage and mix well. Spoon the mixture into a sterilised jar (a jam jar will do), put the lid on, and allow the jar to stand at room temperature for between 1 and 5 days, by which time it’s ready to eat.