Hemingway in Kenya, 1953
“’Fraid of nothing,” Ernest Hemingway’s mother recorded his saying when he was a toddler. Hemingway sought out wars in Italy, Spain, China, and France. He followed the bulls in Spain and hunted lion in Africa. He survived car crack-ups and plane crashes. He drank prodigiously, married four times, won Pulitzer and Nobel prizes, and died, like his father, a suicide. Irving Howe described the Hemingway hero as a man “who is defeated but finds a remnant of dignity in confrontation of defeat.” Howe might have added that
the Hemingway hero, like Hemingway, was always hungry, that while this hero or his creator was locating that “remnant of dignity,” he was also longing for his next meal
“He is to food what D.H. Lawrence is to sex,” another critic noted, about Hemingway. In “Big Two-Hearted River,” Part I, written early in his career, Hemingway dawdles lovingly over preparation of a campfire meal.
Nick was hungry. He did not believe he had ever been hungrier. He opened and emptied a can of pork and beans and a can of spaghetti into the frying pan....
Nick put the frying pan on the grill over the flames. He was hungrier. The beans and spaghetti warmed. Nick stirred them and mixed them together. They began to bubble, making little bubbles that rose with difficulty to the surface. There was a good smell. Nick got out a bottle of tomato catchup and cut four slices of bread. The little bubbles were coming faster now. Nick sat down beside the fire and lifted the frying pan off. He poured about half the contents out into the tin plate. It spread slowly on the plate. Nick knew it was too hot. He poured on some tomato catchup. ... Across the river in the swamp, in the almost dark, he saw a mist rising. He looked at the tent once more. All right. He took a full spoonful from the plate. “Chrise,” Nick said, “Geezus Chrise.”
Hemingway’s mother Grace trained as a singer. She’d hoped to be an opera diva. She cut short her career and married Clarence Hemingway, a general practitioner in her Oak Park, Illinois, hometown, a suburb west of Chicago. The couple had six children; Ernest was second, born July 21, 1899. During his first year, Ernest slept with his mother and “lunched,” she noted in his baby book,“all through the night.”
Grace’s mother discouraged her learning to cook. “There is no use any woman getting into the kitchen if she can help it,” she’d said. Grace gave voice lessons and used her earnings to pay household help. She rarely prepared meals and had in her repertoire only meat loaf, chocolate cake, Devonshire cream, fruit cake, and an English tea cake.
Dr. Hemingway was an accomplished cook, or, as Hemingway biographer Carlos Barker puts it, “was obliged to do most of the cooking.” During house calls he frequently telephoned his home to ask a maid or child to take a gooseberry pie or sheet of peach turnovers from the oven. He canned the fruits and vegetables he grew at home in Oak Park and at the family’s Michigan summer home. He paid the children to pick wild berries, from which he made jams and jellies. He did the marketing and when he didn’t cook, gave directions to the cook.
Ernest’s older sister Marcelline Hemingway Sanford in At the Hemingways wrote that Dr. Hemingway took an interest, unusual for that time, in what they ate. “Years before the word vitamins came into use, my father had theories about food. While we were still nursing babies he fed us fresh vegetables, orange pieces and juice, cut up tomatoes, and shredded meat in gravy. Mother wrote down in my baby book how annoyed she was that my father brought the new baby to her to nurse ‘with onion on his breath.’”
That young Ernest was stubborn and difficult is a commonplace of his siblings’ memories. In April 1951, Hemingway wrote from his home in Cuba to his publisher Charles Scribner, “When I was a small kid I would only eat meat and fish. They couldn’t get me to eat vegetables no matter how much they whipped me.”
Christmas in Oak Park was a major event. Early in October, Dr. Hemingway began curing beef in the fruit cellar. Every day he went to the cellar and rubbed salt and saltpeter on the meat. In December, he’d make “hockies,” boiled, spiced pork hocks that he’d set in the back yard in bowls to cure and freeze. Then, just before Christmas Eve he would bake, then freeze in the back yard, mince pies. On Christmas Eve, Dr. Hemingway would open his preserved fruits and vegetables, serve hockies, pickles, mince pies, and cut the oven- roasted beef so thin the slices curled. (Peter Griffin: Along with Youth: Hemingway, The Early Years )
All six children were taught to cook out-of-doors. Carlos Baker writes that they learned “how to build fires and cook in the open, how to dress fish and fowl for the frying pan or oven.” Baker adds that Hemingway “shared his father’s plea- sure in good eating, especially of fish and game. Even his liking for onions dated back to the time when his father had pointed out that wild onions, stripped clean of clinging loam, made an excellent filling for sandwiches.” Hemingway’s favorite sandwich was peanut butter with a thick onion slice.
When the family moved each June from Oak Park to their upper Michigan summer place, Dr. Hemingway ordered provisions sent by freight — barrels of gingersnaps, flour, hams, and rashers of bacon.
Hemingway graduated from high school in 1917. He served as a cub reporter for the
Kansas City Star until early 1918, when he joined the American Field Services’ Ambulance Corps, which sent him to Italy, where he was wounded. Hospitalized in Italy, he adjusted to hospital tedium by anticipating meals, like the breakfast of Italian sausage, fried eggs and potatoes, bitter Italian coffee, and hard rolls. “Ernest,” writes Peter Griffin,“ate his breakfast slowly and, as Dr. Hemingway had always encouraged him to do, chewed his food carefully and well.”
At the Red Cross hospital dark-haired Agnes von Kurowsky was Hemingway’s nurse. He fell in love. When Hemingway left Italy, he expected that Agnes would return to the States and marry him.
Back home in January 1919, recuperating from his wounds, Hemingway gob- bled lobster sandwiches his sisters carried upstairs to him at lunchtime. And when Agnes wrote from Italy that she was marrying another man, Hemingway’s famous appetite slackened. It was also, at this time, that he began to work hard at his writing.
That fall, after quarreling with his parents, Hemingway moved to Chicago and shared housing with friends, one of whom recalled (in Leicester Hemingway’s My Brother, Ernest Hemingway ) that they ate regularly at a Chicago restaurant called Kitsos.“You could get one of their good steaks, plus French fries and coffee, for 65 cents, and we did, night after night.” Kitsos later served as model for the luncheonette in Hemingway’s “The Killers,” where the narrator loiters over menu selections — roast pork tenderloin with apple sauce and mashed potatoes; chicken croquettes with green peas and cream sauce and mashed potatoes; liver and bacon.
Hemingway met Hadley Richardson in Chicago. Hadley had studied music at Byrn Mawr, hoping to be a pianist. Unlike Ernest’s mother, Hadley could cook. She baked Ernest a chocolate custard.“You put cream on it and eat it cold. It melts in your mouth.” When Hemingway visited Hadley in her St. Louis home, she pre- pared the hearty breakfasts he liked — eggs, sunny-side up, Canadian bacon, toasted homemade bread, juice squeezed from oranges.
Hadley had a trust fund that yielded $2500 a year. Hemingway was 22 when he and Hadley, newly married, sailed for Paris. At first the couple stayed in a hotel and took meals at a restaurant, whose menu, writes Peter Griffin, “was a wonder to Ernest: roast beef, veal cutlet, lamb mutton, thick steaks, all served with the most delicious potatoes he’d ever tasted, and brussels sprouts in cutter, creamed spinach, peas, and salad.... At Ernest’s insistence, Hadley would make a ceremony of preparing salad dressing at their table.”
Soon after Christmas, Grace’s tea cake, first of many she shipped to Hemingway’s households over subsequent years, arrived. Ernest and Hadley had moved into a two-room flat. Ernest rented an attic room in a nearby hotel and began to write. In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway would remember, “After writing a story I was always empty and both sad and happy, as though I had made love.”
I sat down on the bench against the wall with the mirror in the back and a table in front and the waiter asked if I wanted beer. I asked for distingue, the big glass mug that held a liter, and for potato salad. The beer was very cold and wonderful to drink. The pommes a l’huile were firm and marinated and the olive oil delicious. I ground black pepper over the potatoes and moistened the bread in the olive oil. After the first heavy draught of beer I drank and ate very slowly. When the pommes a l’huile were gone I ordered another serving and a cervelas. This was a sausage like a heavy, wide frankfurter split in two and covered with a special mustard sauce.
“I mopped up all the oil and all of the sauce with bread and drank the beer slowly.”
The Hemingways employed a Breton woman who came between 4:00 and 8:00 and “cleans a bit, fills pitchers, fixes the grate fire, washes breakfast dishes, washes or irons a little, and gets a delicious meal,” Hadley wrote her mother-in-law.
The Bretonne gave Hadley lessons in French cooking. Hemingway described a lunch that Hadley, typically, would prepare: “Little radishes, and good foie de veau with mashed potatoes and an endive salad. Apple tart.”
In 1922 Hadley became pregnant and discovered that her uncle had mishandled her trust fund. The couple left Paris for Toronto, where Hemingway unhappily worked for The Toronto Star.
After Jack was born the Hemingways returned to Paris. “This was the year,” Hemingway wrote “of worrying about money.” They moved to an apartment near the Luxembourg Gardens. The Hemingways now often did not have sufficient funds. “You got very hungry when you did not eat enough in Paris,” Hemingway wrote in A Moveable Feast, “because all the bakery shops had such good things in the windows and people ate out- side at tables on the side- walk so that you saw and smelled the food.”
Hemingway met for lunch one day with Ernest Walsh, a poet who was a Dial editor. They ate oysters — “flat faintly coppery marennes” and “the familiar, deep, inexpensive portugaises.” They drank Pouilly- Fuisse, and then ordered more oysters.
“I was wondering if he ate the flat oysters in the same way the whores in Kansas City, who were marked for death and practically everything else, always wished to swallow semen as sovereign remedy against the con; but I did not ask him. I began my second dozen of the flat oysters, picking them from their bed of crushed ice on the silver plate, watching their unbelievably delicate brown edges react and cringe as I squeezed lemon juice on them and separated their holding muscle from the shell and lifted them to chew them carefully.” (A Moveable Feast)
In Our Time, Hemingway’s story collection, which includes “Big Two-Hearted River,” was published in 1925. The publication made Hemingway a minor celebrity among American artists in Paris. In 1925, the Hemingways met the Pfeiffer sisters, Pauline and her sister, Jenny, and Lady Duff Twysden, a gorgeous long-legged creature who smoked opium and drank mightily. Although Hemingway felt a stirring attraction for Lady Duff, it was Pauline Pfeiffer, an Arkansas heiress working for Vogue, with whom he had an affair. Lady Duff would become Lady Brett in Hemingway’s first successful novel, The Sun Also Rises, and Pauline, in 1927, would become Hemingway’s second wife.
Pauline and Ernest moved to Key West, where Hemingway would write A Farewell to Arms. In the Keys he fished and ate prodigiously from the local shrimp catch, dipping the big shrimp in catsup and horseradish mixed together. Pauline rarely cooked. Her money, and later the money Hemingway’s books earned, allowed servants. Pauline’s cook regularly prepared green turtle steak, tuna, black beans and rice, conch salad and conch chowders, cornbreads and corn fritters, deep dish fruit pies.
In 1928, seven months after Pauline and Ernest’s first son Patrick was born, Dr. Hemingway, depressed by poor health and money worries, placed his father’s Smith and Wesson .32 revolver against his right temple and fired one shot. Hemingway’s mother, several months later, at Ernest’s request, mailed him the Smith and Wesson, a tin of cookies for his sister Sunny, visiting in Key West, and a chocolate cake.
A Farewell to Arms, published in 1929, was set in Italy (where Hemingway was wounded) and completed Hemingway’s fame. Now, he would be a celebrity, his every movement reported by gossip columnists.
After Farewell, Hemingway completed his paean to bullfighting, Death in the Afternoon. His third and last son, Gregory, was born in 1931.
During the 1930s Hemingway’s drinking escalated. He began drinking in the morning, after he finished writing. He had trouble maintaining his weight. Six feet tall, his weight would climb to 260.
Hemingway frequently traveled aboard his 38-foot cabin cruiser, the Pilar, to Cuba. In Havana, where he stopped off during fishing trips, he ordered daiquiris.
He had drunk double frozen daiquiris, the great ones that Constante made, that had no taste of alcohol and felt, as you drank them, the way downhill glacier skiing feels running through powder snow and, after the sixth and eighth, felt like downhill glacier skiing feels when you are running unroped. (Islands in the Stream)
Hemingway and Pauline went on safari to Kenya in 1933, from which would come, in 1935, Green Hills of Africa. In 1936, in Wyoming, shortly after Hemingway’s story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” had come out in Esquire and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” in Cosmopolitan, Hemingway hunted grizzly bear. He bagged two. Carlos Baker describes Hemingway’s bear steak lunch.“The meat was rank and stringy, cooked middling rare, and eaten as sandwiches made from sourdough pancakes spread with orange marmalade. Ernest consumed his portion with evident gusto, chewing long and appreciatively, his black beard glossy with bear fat.”
December 1936, in Sloppy Joe’s, a Key West bar, Hemingway met Martha Gellhorn, a reporter and novelist who four years later would become his third wife. At home that evening, writes Bernice Kert in The Hemingway Women, Pauline “was holding a crayfish dinner for Ernest’s arrival. They had company, and Pauline sent a male guest to Sloppy Joe’s to tell Ernest dinner was ready. He reported back to Pauline that the reason for Ernest’s delay was a beautiful blonde in a black dress.”
Gellhorn and Hemingway, the year after they met, traveled through Spain, covering the Spanish Civil War. Hemingway, like his father, was a superb provisioner. James R. Mellow in Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences tells how Hemingway had brought to his headquarters in Madrid, where food and gasoline were in short sup- ply, dozens of hams, kilos of butter and coffee, jellies and marmalades. In his fourth- floor rooms in Madrid’s Hotel Florida, Hemingway daily directed a friend in breakfast preparations.
Early in 1939, Gellhorn, with Hemingway in Havana, found La Finca Vigia, a dilapidated estate, 15 miles east of Havana. They rented the Finca for $100 per month. Martha, like Grace Hemingway, had no fondness for housework.“What I did not like to do was run the house,” she told Bernice Kert in interviews for
The Hemingway Women. “The servants were hopeless, and I did not know how to boil an egg. I couldn’t teach people how to cook because I didn’t know anything except when it wasn’t edible.”
Hemingway and Martha married in Wyoming in late 1940. They went on to Sun Valley, Idaho, where Hemingway finished For Whom the Bell Tolls, in which he wrote:
The wind blew warm on Robert Jordan’s shoulders. The snow was going fast and they were eating breakfast. There were two big sandwiches of meat and the goaty cheese apiece, and Robert Jordan had cut thick slices of onion with his clasp knife and put them on each side of the meat and cheese between the chunks of bread.
“You will have a breath that will carry through the forest to the fascists,” Agustin said, his own mouth full.
“Give me the wineskin and I will rinse the mouth,” Robert Jordan said, his mouth full of meat, cheese, onion and chewed bread.
Hemingway bought the Finca in 1941, where he would make his home until 1960. He superintended planting of vegetable gardens and planted avocado, mango, and guava.
His third marriage did not flourish. Gellhorn refused to remain in Cuba and went to Europe as a war correspondent. Hemingway armed the Pilar and spent the next two years hunting German sub- marines in the Caribbean.
From 1944 to 1945, Hemingway was in Europe as correspondent for Collier’s. There he met Time correspondent Mary Welsh. “You’re beautiful, like a May fly,” he said when Irwin Show introduced them.
Mary arrived in Cuba, two weeks after President Roosevelt’s death. Hemingway proudly showed her around the Finca. What she found, she would later write in How It Was, was a mess. The 13 servants were poorly supervised. The 50 pounds of ice gotten in daily could not properly refrigerate the food stored in the ancient icebox. Mary agreed to take overmanagement of house, garden, food larder, and accounts. She organized the garden and brought in milk-producing cows. March 1946, Mary and Hemingway married in Havana.
That fall Mary became pregnant. Hemingway, father to three sons by Hadley and Pauline, longed for a daughter. But during the drive from Miami to Ketchum, Idaho, Mary miscarried. In Ketchum, Mary would recall that Hemingway prepared their breakfast — “trout that Ernest sauteed in butter with squirts of lemon juice, and they were wonderfully sweet and hazelnut-tasting. The kitchen afterward was a disaster area.”
Mary prepared dinners for Hemingway’s hunting buddies and practiced what she called “one of my newer skills, the baking of pies full of apples, lemon custard, pumpkin, or mincemeat redolent of brandy, or layer cakes, preferably chocolate nesting beneath thick coats of frosting.” Actor Gary Cooper, a Hemingway friend, was visiting. “ ‘Sure smells good in here,’ Gary would say, sniffing my pastry as it lay on top of the refrigerator.”
Hemingway wrote a friend: “I make breakfast. Mary cooks supper. She can cook like hell. Learned it in England cooking for ex- husband who only liked an overcooked chop (dry) really and is having a wonderful time with this succulent basic food.”
By 1947, Hemingway weighed 256. His doctor advised a strict diet. Each morning he would get on the scales and write on his bathroom wall his weight for the day. By 1947’s end he’d lost 28 pounds.
During the immediate post–World War II years, Hemingway began two books that, after his death, would be published as The Garden of Eden and A Moveable Feast. These titles and a third, Across the River and into the Trees, which he began in 1948, filled with detailed accounts of characters’ meals. In these books, his writing about food has an almost pornographic aspect.
The Garden of Eden’s David Bourne, the Hemingwayesque narrator, is an American writer, honey- mooning with his bride Catherine in France and Spain in the 1920s.
[T]here was brioche and red raspberry preserve and the eggs were boiled and there was a pat of butter that melted as they stirred them and salted them lightly and ground pepper over them in the cups. They were big eggs and fresh and the girl’s were not cooked quite as long as the young man’s. He...was happy with his which he diced up with the spoon and ate with only the flow of the butter to moisten them and the fresh early morning texture and the bite of the coarsely ground pepper grains and the hot coffee and the chicory-fragrant bowl of cafe au lait.
They were hungry for lunch and the bottle of white wine was cold and they drank it as they ate the celery remoulade and the small radishes and the home pickled mush- rooms from the big glass jar. The bass was grilled and the grill marks showed on the silver skin and the butter melted on the hot plate. There was sliced lemon to press on the bass and fresh bread from the bakery and the wine cooled their tongues of the heat of the fried potatoes. It was good light, dry, cheerful unknown white wine and the restaurant was proud of it.
The Hemingways traveled to Italy in 1948 where Hemingway met a 19-year-old Italian beauty, Adriana Ivancich, and fell in love. Staying in an inn on an island near Venice, he would get up early and write and then go out and shoot ducks from a rowboat. In Venice, he began Across the River and into the Trees, with its ailing hero, 50-year-old Colonel Cantwell, and Renata, the young Italian woman whom he loves. Hemingway writes expansively about their meals, many of them eaten in the two-story bar and restaurant, Harry’s Bar, in Venice.
Cantwell orders “The scaloppine with Marsala, and the cauliflower braised with butter. Plus an artichoke vinaigrette if you can find one.” His artichoke arrives. “He started to eat the artichoke, taking a leaf at a time, and dipping them, heavy side down, into the deep saucer of sauce vinaigrette.” (The recipe for this particular vinaigrette, as well as ways Hemingway liked his duck prepared, can be found in The Harry’s Bar Cookbook, by Arrigo Cipriani.) The acme of Hemingway’s writing about food in this novel is his three-page paean to the Venice out- door market:
[The Colonel] loved the market. The Colonel liked to study the spread and high-piled cheeses and the great sausages. He asks a woman in a booth, “Let me try a little of that sausage, please.”
She cut a thin, paper thin, slice for him, ferociously, and lovingly, and when the Colonel tasted it, there was the half smoky, black pepper-corned, true flavor of the meat from the hogs that ate acorns in the mountains.
He carries the wrapped package and proceeded on through the market inhaling the smell of roasted coffee and looking at the amount of fat on each carcass in the butcher section, as though he were enjoying the Dutch painters, whose names no one remembers, who painted, in perfection of detail, all things you shot, or that were eatable.
In the market, spread on the slippery stone floor, or in their baskets, or their rope-handled boxes, were the heavy, gray-green lobsters with their magenta overtones that presaged their death in boiling water.
He stops to ask a seller where his clams came from. They came from a good place without sewerage and the Colonel asked to have six opened. He drank the juice and cut the clam out, cutting close against the shell with the curved knife the man handed him.
In Cuba in 1949, Hemingway ordered, as a gift for himself for his 50th birthday, cases of canned Mexican enchiladas, pinto beans in chili sauce, and El Paso tortillas. Mary set about making preparations to celebrate Hemingway’s birthday. “After eight months of paying homage to Italian pasta, we welcomed our return to the Chinese cuisine I had been learning before we left home. Ernest decided that his birthday lunch should be Chinese, and with the help, I produced a miniature feast of stir-fry dishes, winter melon soup, slippery chicken and almonds in champagne sauce and a turban ice cream cake.” (How It Was)
Jack, Hemingway’s first-born, had married Byra Puck Whitlock in Paris in 1949. Puck was a Cordon Bleu student; matron of honor at her wedding was Julia Child. The couple had three daughters: Joan, Margaux, and Mariel. During the ’50s, Jack’s family often visited Hemingway in Cuba. Joan, in 1978, would write The Picnic Gourmet, which includes many of her grandfather’s favorite dishes, including a gazpacho that appears in The Garden of Eden.
Mary was grateful for vacations, so that she would be free of kitchen duties. The Hemingways passed through New York on their way to Europe late in November of 1949, staying in a suite in the Sherry- Netherland. Hemingway, as was his habit, immediately ordered champagne and caviar — “large-caliber gray caviar,” Mary called it, adding, “In salute to my new freedom from the kitchen I chose caviar one day for all three meals, caviar on buttered toast, coffee, and champagne for breakfast and so on.”
Lillian Ross, in a profile that appeared in the New Yorker in 1950, wrote about the days the Hemingways spent in New York. When Ross arrived at the hotel on the first morning, Hemingway had been up for several hours, writing and drinking Perrier-Jouet Brut. Mary suggested they go out for lunch. Hemingway wanted lunch sent up to the room.
Hemingway began with oysters, and he chewed each one very thoroughly. “Eat good and digest good,” he told us.
“What I want to be when I am old is a wise old man who won’t bore,” he said, then paused while the waiter set a plate of asparagus and an artichoke before him and poured the Tavel. Hemingway tasted the wine and gave the waiter a nod....
He picked up a long spear of asparagus with his fingers and looked at it without enthusiasm, “It takes a pretty good man to make any sense when he’s dying.”
During 1951 Hemingway was writing what would become The Old Man and the Sea, a novella about an aged fisherman and his battle with a marlin. Published in 1952, the book would give Hemingway his best reviews since For Whom the Bell Tolls. April 1951, while working on Old Man, Hemingway wrote from Cuba to his publisher Charles Scribner, “Keeping your weight down to keep your blood pressure down is a daily damned job. Eat three rye-crisp for breakfast, then a few carrots, young radishes and green onions from the gar- den when I finish work. Light lunch and either nothing or a peanut butter sandwich for dinner.”
Scribner answered Hemingway’s letter, expressing worry over Hemingway’s food habits. Hemingway answered that he couldn’t cut out starches and sweets because he never ate them.“I get enough sugar from what alcohol I consume.”
What I really like is good fresh fish, grilled, good steaks (not those comic steaks they have bred so they have no taste, but only size) with the bone and very rare. Good lamb, rare. Elk, mountain sheep, venison and antelope in that order and grouse, young sagehen, quail and teal, canvasback and mallards in that order. With mashed potatoes and gravy. For vegetables I like celery and artichokes best, artichokes cold with sauce vinaigrette, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, broccoli and all fruits.
The Old Man and the Sea won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1953. Late that year and early 1954 the Hemingways went on safari in Kenya. Mary recalled:
Ernest’s lion was a young male in his prime, with immense fore- and hind-leg muscles and thick bones and muscles in his paws. Watching the skinning, Ernest bent down and with his pocket knife cut out a bit of the tenderloin beside the spine, chewed some and offered me a tidbit. We both thought the clean pink flesh delicious, steak tartar without the capers.... Thereafter, Ernest and I had the lion marinated in sherry with some herbs and grilled over N’bebia’s cook fire.... Later we dressed it up with garlic and onion and various tomato and cheese sauces. (How It Was)
In 1954, the Nobel Prize went to Hemingway. Mary described their celebration on the day they learned of the award.
Since Cuba was a Catholic country, we ate only fish on Fridays. Our luncheon that day began with shrimp in the Hawaiian manner, with a spicy sauce which Ernest’s sister Ura had taught me, and went on to roast swordfish and vegetables and finished with cake and fresh pineapple and lingonberries from Sweden, the lot accompanied by champagne with bonhomie rising like mist from the table.
During his last six years, Hemingway continued with what would become A Moveable Feast and The Garden of Eden. He returned to Spain, writing a long piece on bullfighting for Life. He drank heavily, fought publicly with Mary — one evening while they were entertaining guests, he threw a glass of wine in her face. In 1960, with Castro’s rule in Cuba making the country unfriendly to Americans, the Hemingways retreated to Ketchum. Hemingway’s health worsened; he suffered increasingly from diabetes, nephritis, hepatitis, high blood pressure, impotence, depression. A photo in How It Was shows Hemingway in the Ketchum kitchen eating dinner. Gone from his face is the expression of glee one sees in earlier snapshots of Hemingway at table. He looks down at the food on his plate as if he were seeing a terrifying ghost.
Early one Sunday morning in Ketchum, home after several months in the Mayo Clinic, where electroshock treatments muddied his memory, Hemingway slid two shells into the double- barreled 12-gauge Boss shot- gun he’d bought years before at Abercrombie & Fitch.
From her bed, Mary heard what sounded like drawers banging shut. She went downstairs. She found “a crumpled heap of bathrobe and blood, shot- gun lying in the disintegrated flesh.” It was July 2nd, 1961, three weeks before the man who began life “lunching” at his mother’s breast would have celebrated his 62nd birthday.