In WAR or peace, Ernest Hemingway was never too busy for food.
He acquired his tastes from his father, a general practitioner in Oak Park, III. "Apart from collecting," wrote biographer Carlos Barker of Clarence Edmonds Hemingway, "his chief avocations were fishing, hunting and cooking." The elder Hemingway often performed the culinary chores around the house and was remembered by his patients for suddenly interrupting his doctoring to call home and remind whoever was around to take the pie out of the oven.
"He shot all kinds of edible animals for the cooking pot, and taught Ernest from the begining to like venison, squirrel, possum and raccoon, as well as pheasant, duck, quail, partridge, doves and all kinds of fish . . . He taught Ernest how to build fires and cook in the open, how to use an ax to make a woodland shelter of hemlock boughs, how to tie wet and dry flies, how to dress fish and fowl for the frying pan or the oven."
"All his life," said Baker of Ernest Hemingway, ". . . He shared his father's pleasure of 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."
As young writer in Paris, he was hungry: "You got very hungry when you did not eat enough in Paris," he wrote in "A Moveable Feast," "because all the bakery shops had such good things in the windows and people ate outside at tables on the sidewalk so that you saw and smelled the food."
Hemingway's taste consistently leaned more toward the he-man than the gourmet. Although his comments on food seldom ventured beyond "wonderful" or "very good," he could bring to his dinner table the same talent for description that made his fiction legendary.
"As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea," he wrote in "A Cafe on the Place St-Michel," and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans."
During his 62 years Hemingway "shared his father's determination," said Baker, "to do things 'properly' (a favorite adverb in both their vocabularies)."
Whether it was fritured goujon from the Seine while in Paris, venison from Austrian Alpine forests, trout from the Basque country, duck from pistine Idaho lakes or lion meat fresh from Africa, Hemingway preferred what was local.
At times, his friendsthought it was an obsession.
Hunting in Wyoming before leaving to cover the Spanish Civil War, Hemingway felled two grizzlies. As Baker describes the resulting lunch of bear steaks, "The meat was rank and stringy, cooked middling rare, and eaten in the form of sandwiches made from sourdough pancakes spread with orange marmalade. But Ernest consumed his portion with evident gusto, chewing long and appreciatively, his black beard glossy with bear fat."
On safari in Kenya with Mary Hemingway, his fourth wife, his gusto knew no bounds.
"Ernest's lion was a young male in his prime," as she recalled his catch in "How It Was," "with immensefore- and hind-leg muscles and thick bones and muscles in his paws. Watching the skining, Ernest bent down and with his pocketknife 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 cookfire . . . Later we dressed it up with garlic and onion and various tomato and cheese sauces."
Hemingway's prodigious food and drink habits caused him health problems. At one point his weight approached 260 and his blood pressure skyrocketed. Often he was compelled to diet.
"Ernest thought his careful diet of rye crisps, raw green vegetables, peanut butter sandwiches and occasional glasses of wine was partly responsible for his recent success [in 1951]," wrote Baker. "He explained his dietary beliefs at length to Charlie Scribner [his publisher]. Everyone's metabolism was different. He himself never ate sweets or starches; his daily alcoholic intake gave him enough sugar.
Each morning since 1939 he had taken six B-1 Combex capsules. He was never really hungry as a horse except when he was in the mountains or cruising at sea. Then his preferences turned to 'good fresh fish, grilled' or good steaks with the bone, cooked very rare, or lamb also rare. He liked elk, mountain sheep, vension and antelope in that order, and among game birds, grouse, young sage hen, quail, teal, canvasback and mallards, served with mashed potatoes and gravy."
Hemingway meticulously tended his own garden during the years he spent with Mary in Cuba. "All kinds of fruits, including his home-grown mangoes and alligator pears, appealed to him, while his favorite vegetables were Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, broccoli and artichokes with sauce vinaigrette. So, lovingly he named over the delicacies he had denied himself while writing his recent books." CAPTION: Pictures 1, and 2, no caption; Picture 3, Mariel, Puck, Margaux and Jack Heminway at home in Ketchum, Idaho, By Susan Synder Cook for The Washington Post. Ernest Hemingway, inset.; Picture 4, Ernest Hemingway in 1961, by Associated Press