I mention this because someone asked me today about something they read in a novel by Clive Cussler. I should mention that I am not a big reader of popular fiction in any genre, so when asked I could not claim familiarity with this particular work by Mr. Cussler. The patron asked if the tavern in a particular Cussler novel, a tavern set in the county seat of our neck of the woods, which is what prompted this question in the first place, actually existed, and did it actually serve the menu suggested by Mr. Cussler. I had to tell the patron that the menu was probably a bit of literary and gastronomic license on Mr. Cussler’s part, given that I had never heard of any tavern in our little slice of heaven actually serving up the roasted, broiled, boiled, fricasseed, deep-fried, sautéed, caramelized and otherwise specially prepared miscellaneous body parts of non-paying customers in a secret sauce with a side order of French fries and a large Pepsi to the general public.
This bit of news deflated the patron considerably; I couldn’t tell if this was because she wanted to patronize this fictional tavern or because she was one of those decent citizens who use their public libraries to live vicarious lives of sin and licentiousness and didn’t like my shooting a hole in her decadent fantasies. I felt bad about this, and I promised her that I would look into the matter and see if Mr. Cussler had based his fictional tavern on an actual incident. That brightened her right up and she left telling me she would call in the morning to see what I had found out. I will check the local history files, of course; if you’re going to do this you might as well do it right, but frankly, I am not holding out any hope for this search. I do wonder, though, if the ethnicity of the person served has any bearing on the menu; if, for example, there is not enough available chicken for General Tso’s chicken, would General Tso do as a substitute, or would you have to get an enlisted man to serve, and would he be a volunteer or would conscription be necessary in this case?