We had this thread on the Old Forum. REH was a bit of an adventurous gourmand for his time and place. He also wasn't afraid of a beer or the hard stuff now n' then. Here's Russell E. Burke's excellent resource:
Robert E. Howard to H.P. Lovecraft, ca. November 1932
"But I'm not narrow in my tastes. I'm a big eater and I get a real kick out of gorging. Any kind of meat -- fish, fowl, beef, turtle, pork; practically any kind of fruit; I'm not much of a vegetarian. Milk -- I see people coaxing children to drink milk, and I can't understand their dislike for it. I always drank it in huge quantities, and believe its one reason I was always so healthy. Cheese -- give me limburger cheese, German sausage and beer and I'm content -- yes, and a bit of what they call 'smear-cake' -- a rather unsavory name, for what we call cottage- or cream-cheese. Mexican dishes I enjoy, but they don't agree with me much. However I generally wrestle with them every time I go to the Border. Tamales, enchiladas, tacos, chili con carne to a lesser extent, barbecued goat-meat, tortillas, Spanish-cooked rice, frijoles -- they play the devil with a white man's digestion, but they have a tang you seldom find in Anglo-Saxon cookery."
Post by trescuinge on Mar 13, 2017 20:59:38 GMT -5
Interesting stuff, Deuce. REH shows his Irish heritage in his love of dairy. I myself will take cheese over sugar any day. I wonder if his mixed feelings about Mexican food may be evidence of a change in eating habits. Most Texans I have met carry a bottle of hot sauce around in their back pocket and can't pass up an enchilada.
Robert E. Howard writes about good food and good beer and the eating and drinking habits of the Celts, Danes and Turanians.
Excerpt from a letter to HP Lovecraft (9 August, 1932)
'After I left the drug store and entered less strenuous pursuits, I felt no need of liquor, and did not touch it for years. When I did drink again, I had grown into manhood, in size at least; I was accepted as a worthy companion by men who would have formerly scorned me for my youth and literary leanings. They drank and so did I. It was part of our fellowship. I think in the last analysis, that is why I drink, and why most men drink. It is part of the social life of men, varying according to their occupations and social status. Right now there's nothing I enjoy better than to make one of a congenial crowd of five or six jovial souls, and sit around drinking beer, eating limburger cheese sandwiches, and throwing the bull till we all get completely soused. My distaste for whiskey does'nt include beer. My ancestors scorned that beverage, but to me nothing can compare to a foaming stein of the real stuff, so cold that it cuts your throat as it goes down. I don't know where I got my liking for it. The Irish don't drink it much, and it was practically unknown among the higher classes of the Old South. Maybe its because of my thin strain of Danish blood! Or perhaps because of the Germanic tinge of my environments.
I do not like to get drunk on beer. I drink it because of the taste. But when I am drunk, I am not a picture to either amuse or disgust. I inherited the ability to handle my liquor, at least something like a gentlemen. I am neither maudlin or quarrelsome, nor supersensitive. I do not cause any disturbance nor tell my troubles to strangers. Nor do I weave and stagger. When I can not walk a straight line, I can not walk at all. At my best I am a jovial companion, neither smart nor witty, but friendly at least; at my worst I am merely moody and taciturn, desiring only solitude in which to brood over the melancholy images which haunt a gloomy mind.
I reckon your right about the Latin trend moderating the Norman instincts. I dont know what moderated the Celt. So far as I can learn, the Irish were never gluttonous eaters, though great drinkers. The same applies to Highland Scotch. Well, when it comes to eating I'm all Dane. Give me good beer and good food, and plenty of both, and the ruling classes will have no revolt out of me. (This confounded type-writer is jumping spaces)
The Mongols and Tatars were great eaters and drinkers, and especially in their more nomadic stages. Easily seen why; they lived a strenuous active outdoor life, and then food was not always handy. When they had plenty, it was their instinct to gobble as much as possible, against the times when they may go hungry. I hardly see how the Mongols of the Gobi managed to live, when their food consisted almost entirely of meat and milk - cheese and butter perhaps, and fermented mare's milk. They apparently had no grain, vegetables or fruit of any sort. At least not when they were penned in the wastes outside the Great Wall by the power of the Chinese. I'm all for the nomads when it came to wasting China. They'd had nothing but abuse from the Chinese for ages.
That reminds me - that business about Turanian drunkeness - that some of the readers took exception to my making Tamerlane a drinking man. I expected to be attacked on other scores - on Bayazid's suicide, which of course never took place - about my version of Timour's death - more particular I expected to be denounced because of the weapon my character used in that slaying. There were firearms in the world then, and had been for some time, but they were of the matchlock order. I doubt if there were any flint-lock weapons in Asia in 1405. But the readers pounced on the point I least expected - the matter of Muhammadan drunkards. They maintained that according to the Koran, Moslems never drank. Wright admitted in the souk that the Koran forbade liquor, but went on to quote a long extract from Clivijo's memoirs to prove that Timour and his Tatars drank to excess.'
REH celebrating a particularly raucous St. Paddy's Day:
"We had purchased our whiskey and intended to celebrate Saint Patrick’s in a fitting manner, after seeing a whimsical movie called The Invisible Man from a story by Wells, I believe, but the sandstorm was followed by a biting blizzard, with driving sleet and lightning and thunder, so we postponed the merry-making. Next morning broke clear and cold, though, and we spent the morning hauling a load of hay to Vinson’s ranch, some miles east of Brownwood, among the sleet-frosted hills, and feeding his cattle which had suffered from the cold wave.
After dinner we set out for San Angelo, which lies 105 miles west of Brownwood, amidst rich and limitless plains, where 85% of the nation’s mohair is produced, which is to say 85% of the world’s supply. It is a prosperous town, wide and spacious like most new western cities, with free and easy ways. At that time Callahan County was still dry, and Brown County is always dry. So to us thirsty hillbillies this lush city of the smiling plains was a veritable oasis in the desert. We saw a movie and leg-show, and then plunged into the occupation of liquoring up properly, according to the usual traditions of hillmen in a rich plains town. Vinson didn’t hit the bottle with his usual vigor. And after all, I didn’t drink a great deal, myself, six or seven bottles of lager, bock and ale, and perhaps half a pint of whiskey, not enough of either to induce a real bat; but whether it was mixing the drinks, or the fact that a long time had passed since I had indulged, anyway, the fact remains that I got on a roaring drunk, the biggest I’d been on in years. In fact, it had been years since I’d been soused.
On the way back to Brownwood I enlivened our progress by bellowing “Wearin’ of the Green”, “The Shan Van Vocht”, “The Risin’ of the Moon” and other belligerent Gaelic chants in a voice that has been compared to a fog horn, and criticizing English policies in the same voice — which caused no conflicts, since most people in West Texas are either Germans or Scotch-Irish. We hit Brownwood some time before midnight and I couldn’t have hit the floor with a Stetson hat, though I could still walk in a straight line, as I triumphantly demonstrated. My legs seldom get out of control, regardless of how my head is swimming. Altogether, my activities of those three days remain a high spot in my life. It was a most enjoyable drunk. The only thing that would have made it even more perfect would have been that we were able to pick up a couple of warm dames. There’s nothing to make a drunk a success like a dame with ball-bearing hips and a broad mind."
-- Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, July 1934, Collected letters: Vol. 2
And speaking of mountain-dew, again we have big business devouring the small-scale producer. Why did the revenue men go into the hills and hunt down men who were merely seeking to augment their fearfully barren lives with a little hard money on the side? To protect the big liquor corporations! Why, the white liquor made by Southern mountaineers was generally far superior to anything the bar-keep shoved across the bar, but the makers seldom had the money to buy any sort of license to manufacture or sell whiskey. Not infrequently the best customers the moonshiners had were owners of the saloons. The mountain-men would raft their produce down to the river towns -- corn, a little cotton maybe, coon and possum and wolf and bear skins -- an innocent looking cargo, and certainly no room on a flat raft to conceal contraband. But beneath the raft, fastened firmly to the bottom, were kegs and barrels of good white corn liquor. By day the “upper” cargo was unloaded and sold, and late that night the “lower” cargo was slipped ashore to the saloons on the river bank. The liquor was carefully concealed, allowed to age a few months, colored, bottled and sold across the bar as labeled Bourbon, Haig & Haig, Scotch, or what have you! And at about three hundred percent profit for the saloon man. But the customers weren’t cheated; it was good, pure whiskey, not to be compared for an instant with the muck modern bootleggers make.
-- Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, October 1930 (CLREH 2.135)
For Howard Days 2017, Bobby Derie printed up The Robert E. Howard Bar Guide - one part an alcoholic history of our favorite Prohibition-era Texan writer, and one part a discussion of the different drinks REH mentions in his letters and fiction, supplemented with period recipes culled from contemporary cocktail guides and excerpts from the local newspaper. An exhaustive and well-done chapbook. Quite fun to read if you have any interest in this particular topic.
I thought I'd let those so inclined get a jump on whipping up a Howardian Thanksgiving menu. This is from a Howard letter to Lovecraft, circa December, 1932:
"You struck a responsive chord in me when you mentioned turkey dinner. Thanksgiving! Baked turkey, with dressing made of biscuit and cornbread crumbs, sage, onions, eggs, celery salt and what not; hot biscuits and fresh butter yellow as gold; rich gravy; fruit cakes containing citron, candied pineapple and cherries, currents, raisins, dates, spices, pecans, almonds, walnuts; pea salad; pumpkin pie, apple pie, mince pie with pecans; rich creamy milk, chocolate, or tea -- my Southern ancestors were quite correct in adopting the old New England holiday."
"Personally, I did about as usual [for Christmas]— ate too much rich food, drank a good deal of whiskey, and shot a few holes in the air, by way of celebration. But it was all mighty tame. I can remember Christmases when liquor flowed and gunpowder was burnt in appropriate quantities — but that’s neither here nor there."
-- Robert E. Howard to August Derleth December 1932