The McGee Martini
Travis didn't fuss over food.
Get the coffee going, and when the eyes are open enough, scramble some eggs, maybe throwing in some cheddar and mild onion, and make plenty of buttered toast. For midday visitors, build enough sandwiches and offer bloody marys for salad. Come dinnertime, filet this morning's catch, find a can of peas, and while those are on the stove slice some tomato and lettuce. Take it up on the deck and watch a watery sunset.
When he had a woman who needed cheering up, he'd trundle her off to a dependable steakhouse with a good cocktail lounge.
He got carried away food-wise once, for a special new friend in THE EMPTY COPPER SEA, p.178. "I saw a deli... I can get one of those big wicker hamper things, and a big cooler. I'll set up a picnic like she never saw before, from shrimp to champagne." Then Meyer said: "...When you start hauling great quantities of food to a female person, it means you really care. It always has. I think it is some primal instinct. The hunter bringing spoils to the cave."
When Travis needed a cool one he favored South-of-the-border brews like Carta Blanca. For colder weather fortification, an Irish ale such as Harp or Guinness did just fine.
His usual at-home drink was Plymouth gin, until in 1974 the inevitable happened. Here is how he tells it in THE DREADFUL LEMON SKY, p.32. "I...broke out the very last bottle of the Plymouth gin which had been bottled in the United Kingdom. All the others were bottled in the U.S. Gin People, it isn't the same. It's still a pretty good gin, but it is not a superb, stingingly dry, and lovely gin. ...There is something self-destructive about Western technology and distribution. Whenever any consumer object is so excellent that it attracts a devoted following, some of the slide rule and computer types come in on their twinkle toes and take over the store, and in a trice they figure out just how far they can cut quality and still increase the market penetration... Thus the very good things of the world go down the drain, from honest turkey to honest eggs to honest tomatoes. And gin."
When the proper version of Plymouth gin disappeared, he switched to Boodles.
With the right bartender and an appropriate companion, he might order The McGee Special. Here it is, from PALE GRAY FOR GUILT, p.21.
"...a familiar face was working the quiet and elegant bar, and he remembered The Drink, and seemed so pleased with himself in remembering, that we each had one, sitting and watching the deftness with silent and respectful attention. Two ample old-fashioned glasses, side by side, filled to the two thirds line with cracked ice. A big, unmeasured slosh of dry sherry into each glass. Then swiftly, the strainer placed across the top of one and then the other, as with a delicate snap of the wrist he dumped the sherry down the drain. Then fill to the ice level with Plymouth gin, rub the lemon peel around the inside of the rim, pinch some little floating beads of citrus oil on the surface of the drink, throw away the peel, present with small tidy bow and flourish to the folk. 'Two McGees,' said he."
When the urge came upon Meyer he would create a pot of his famous tears-and-gasps-inducing house specialty. It was said to be never the same twice, and not for the faint of palate. Since MacDonald gave us neither a recipe nor helpful hints, we'll have to make some reasonable assumptions, just as Meyer himself would do in other situations when there were knowledge gaps to be plugged with logical guesses.
There are many versions of Proper Chili, depending on which fanatic is holding forth. Meyer's chili philosophy would probably favor the relaxed and practical approach - concoct something plentiful and tasty from cheap available ingredients. Never mind those chili-competition semi-pros with their theological arguments over The Current Culinarily Correct Ingredients, such as: "are beans permissible?", "are tomatoes taboo?", or, "must the meat be hand cut instead of ground?" and so on.
We are not sure how Chili Con Carne originated, but of the several theories, here is the one that would probably sound right to Meyer. On those long-ago cattle drives to the distant railhead, there would be a chuckwagon with a Mexican cook. They'd select one of the animals and butcher it to feed the crew. Then they would eat their way through the carcass day after day. As the better parts were consumed, the remainder got covered with herbs and spices to keep the flies off and prevent mold. Nearing the end of the trail, there would be just funny little ends of meat left, and of course dried beans and onions and chiles, and all of this went into the pot to make the final meals.
Here is the sort of recipe Meyer might have carried around in his head, ready to be put to use in the galley of his cabin cruiser. First, get out a big pot with a lid. It ought to be heavy cast-iron for both browning and simmering, and ideally the iron should be porcelain-coated. The coating prevents rust while the chili rests overnight, as all good chilis should, to mellow the flavors. If there is room on the galley stove for a second pot, you can cook your own beans and add them whenever they're done, otherwise canned ones will have to do. Now for the formula (all measurements are casual).
3-3-3-3 CHILI (serves 9-12)
Brown in oil or baconfat
3 lbs. ground or chopped meat (any kind)
3 largish onions, chopped
After cooking, refrigerate overnight, remove hardened fat, and reheat.
Before serving, stir in and cook 2 minutes longer:
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (optional)
Chili is good with toasted garlic bread or warm tortillas. It's even better with guacamole accompanied by veggie dippers and corn chips.
WARNING: Do not use kidney beans or tomato soup! These are the trademark of the school cafeteria cook! Also, for the customers who don't think it's fiery enough, set out Mexican hot sauce, not tabasco.