In Christopher Morley’s novel The Haunted Bookshop (1919), the diminutive Brooklyn bookseller Roger Mifflin finds himself, one cold November evening, caught up in a whirlwind of international espionage. German spies, amorous advertising men, and pouting flaxen-haired heiresses revolve in and out of Morley’s novel, which provides an antic glimpse into New York life during the 1920s.
In one of the novel’s more delightful moments, Roger Mifflin prepares dinner for a young advertising man come wandering into his shop. The meal, which Mifflin christens “Eggs Samuel Butler,” echoes those simple wartime repasts of only a year or two before. And as the two men enjoy Mifflin’s culinary creation, they discuss how literature could help prevent another such world catastrophe. Mifflin believes that peace can only come about once Thomas Hardy’s The Dynasts becomes required reading. In reference to an upcoming peace conference, Mifflin proposes that “if every delegate to the Peace Conference could be made to read it [The Dynasts] before the sessions begin, there will be no more wars.” Mifflin even goes so far as to hypothesize that “if enough thoughtful Germans had read The Dynasts before July, 1914, there would have been no war.”
Whether Hardy’s novel could have prevented the Great War is up for debate, but there is no question that Eggs Samuel Butler is a tasty dish. “The apotheosis of hen fruit,” as Mifflin calls his invention, Eggs Samuel Butler is quite simple to prepare. Intended “for the notebook of housewives,” the recipe is generously provided for the reader, which is as follows: “A pyramid, based upon toast, whereof the chief masonries are a flake of bacon, an egg poached to firmness, a wreath of mushrooms, a cap-sheaf of red peppers; the whole dribbled with a warm pink sauce of which the inventor retains the secret.” A more exact version of the recipe can be found below. Mifflin suggests serving Eggs Samuel Butler with a nice “California catawba,” and finishing the meal with a dessert of “apple sauce, gingerbread, and coffee.”
Eggs Samuel Butler
8 slices of toast
4 eggs, poached
1 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 red peppers, diced
1/2 pound bacon, cooked until crisp
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Fry the mushrooms in olive oil and butter in a large pan. Add the red peppers and cook until soft. In separate pan fry the bacon until crisp. Poach eggs. On each plate, place two slices of toast. Place three or four slices of bacon on each slice of toast, then an egg, mushrooms and top with the red peppers. Serve covered with a hollandaise sauce favored with paprika, if desired.