In his famous appearance on The Dick Cavett Show, after headbutting Gore Vidal backstage, Norman Mailer humbly referred to himself as a “dizzying intellect.” I’ll leave that literary debate to his critics, but at least in the kitchen, Mailer was a thinker.
In his semi-recent memoir, Dwayne Raymond discusses his firsthand experience with the giant brain; he helped research Mailer’s last novel, The Castle in the Forest, but also served as confidant, tech support, chef, and guinea pig for some of Mailer’s more unique food creations.
Mailer theorized on food like a man obsessed. Occasionally this would manifest itself in more compulsive ways, like meticulously cutting a grapefruit in exactly nine sections. But you could see it more often in his pursuit of the culinary Shangri-La: a recipe that would maximize flavor, nutrition, and integrity of the ingredients all in one.
Not that these concoctions were necessarily successful. Case in point: a ghasty-sounding salad made of green beans and teriyaki-infused oatmeal (to lower cholesterol). Another “experimental” salad recipe involved the addition of Häagen-Dazs Raspberry Sorbet to a vinaigrette. “It didn’t occur to him that the whole concept was dreadful; that wasn’t the way his mind worked,” Raymond writes. “Norman believed that anything awful could be fixed if enough work was put into it.”
In that spirit, I decided to take on an awful-yet-fixable dish. Re-enter the green bean and oatmeal salad.
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