Kurt Vonnegut’s Recipes in Deadeye Dick: Polka-Dot Brownies, Linzer Torte & Haitian Banana Soup

Author Kurt Von­negut incor­po­rat­ed sev­er­al recipes into his 1982 nov­el Dead­eye Dick, inspired by James Beard’s Amer­i­can Cook­ery, Mar­cel­la Hazan’s The Clas­sic Ital­ian Cook Book, and Bea Sandler’s The African Cook­book.

He writes in the pref­ace that these recipes are intend­ed to pro­vide “musi­cal inter­ludes for the sali­vary glands,” warn­ing read­ers that “no one should use this nov­el for a cook­book. Any seri­ous cook should have the reli­able orig­i­nals in his or her library any­way.”

So with that caveat in mind…

Ear­ly on, the narrator/titular char­ac­ter, née Rudy Waltz, shares a recipe from his family’s for­mer cook, Mary Hoobler, who taught him “every­thing she knew about cook­ing and bak­ing”:



Mix togeth­er in a bowl half a cup of flour, one and a half cups of yel­low corn-meal, a tea­spoon of salt, a tea­spoon of sug­ar, and three tea­spoons of bak­ing pow­der.

Add three beat­en eggs, a cup of milk, a half cup of cream, and a half cup of melt­ed but­ter.

Pour it into a well-but­tered pan and bake it at four hun­dred degrees for fif­teen min­utes.

Cut it into squares while it is still hot. Bring the squares to the table while they are still hot, and fold­ed in a nap­kin.

Bare­ly two para­graphs lat­er, he’s shar­ing her bar­be­cue sauce. It sounds deli­cious, easy to pre­pare, and its place­ment gives it a strong fla­vor of Slaughterhouse-Five’s “so it goes” and “Poo-tee-weet?” — as iron­ic punc­tu­a­tion to Father Waltz’s full on embrace of Hitler, a seem­ing non sequitur that forces read­ers to think about what comes before:

When we all posed in the street for our pic­ture in the paper, Father was forty-two. Accord­ing to Moth­er, he had under­gone a pro­found spir­i­tu­al change in Ger­many. He had a new sense of pur­pose in life. It was no longer enough to be an artist. He would become a teacher and polit­i­cal activist. He would become a spokesman in Amer­i­ca for the new social order which was being born in Ger­many, but which in time would be the sal­va­tion of the world.

This was quite a mis­take.


Sauté a cup of chopped onions and three chopped gar­lic cloves in a quar­ter of a pound of but­ter until ten­der.

Add a half cup of cat­sup, a quar­ter cup of brown sug­ar, a tea­spoon of salt, two tea­spoons of fresh­ly ground pep­per, a dash of Tabas­co, a table­spoon of lemon juice, a tea­spoon of basil, and a table­spoon of chili pow­der.

Bring to a boil and sim­mer for five min­utes.

Rudy’s father is not the only char­ac­ter to fal­ter.

Rudy’s mis­take hap­pens in the blink of an eye, and man­ages to upend a num­ber of lives in Mid­land City, a stand in for Indi­anapo­lis, Vonnegut’s home­town.

His fam­i­ly los­es their mon­ey in an ensu­ing law­suit, and can no longer engage Mary Hoobler and the rest of the staff.

Young Rudy, who’s spent his child­hood hang­ing out with the ser­vants in Mary’s cozy kitchen, finds it “easy and nat­ur­al” to cater to his par­ents in the man­ner to which they were accus­tomed:

As long as they lived, they nev­er had to pre­pare a meal or wash a dish or make a bed or do the laun­dry or dust or vac­u­um or sweep, or shop for food. I did all that, and main­tained a B aver­age in school, as well. 

What a good boy was I!

EGGS À LA RUDY WALTZ (age thir­teen)

Chop, cook, and drain two cups of spinach.

Blend with two table­spoons of but­ter, a tea­spoon of salt, and a pinch of nut­meg.

Heat and put into three oven-proof bowls or cups.

Put a poached egg on top of each one, and sprin­kle with grat­ed cheese.

Bake for five min­utes at 375 degrees. Serves three: the papa bear, the mama bear, and the baby bear who cooked it—and who will clean up after­wards.

By high school, Rudy’s heavy domes­tic bur­den has him falling asleep in class and repro­duc­ing  com­pli­cat­ed desserts from  recipes in the local paper. (“Father roused him­self from liv­ing death suf­fi­cient­ly to say that the dessert took him back forty years.”)


LINZER TORTE (from the Bugle-Observ­er)

Mix half a cup of sug­ar with a cup of but­ter until fluffy.

Beat in two egg yolks and half a tea­spoon of grat­ed lemon rind.

Sift a cup of flour togeth­er with a quar­ter tea­spoon of salt, a tea­spoon of cin­na­mon, and a quar­ter tea­spoon of cloves. Add this to the sug­ar-and-but­ter mix­ture.

Add one cup of unblanched almonds and one cup of toast­ed fil­berts, both chopped fine.

Roll out two-thirds of the dough until a quar­ter of an inch thick.

Line the bot­tom and sides of an eight-inch pan with dough.

Slather in a cup and a half of rasp­ber­ry jam.

Roll out the rest of the dough, make it into eight thin pen­cil shapes about ten inch­es long. Twist them a lit­tle, and lay them across the top in a dec­o­ra­tive man­ner. Crimp the edges.

Bake in a pre­heat­ed 350-degree oven for about an hour, and then cool at room tem­per­a­ture.

A great favorite in Vien­na, Aus­tria, before the First World War!

Rudy even­tu­al­ly relo­cates to the Grand Hotel Oloff­son in Port au Prince, Haiti, which is how he man­ages to sur­vive the — SPOILER — neu­tron bomb that destroys Mid­land City.

Here is a recipe for choco­late seafoams,  cour­tesy of one of Mid­land City’s fic­tion­al res­i­dents:



Break up six ounces of semi­sweet choco­late in a saucepan.

Melt it in a 250-degree oven.

Add two tea­spoons of sug­ar to four egg yolks, and beat the mix­ture until it is pale yel­low.

Then mix in the melt­ed choco­late, a quar­ter cup of strong cof­fee, and two table­spoons of rum.

Whip two-thirds of a cup of cold, heavy whip­ping cream until it is stiff. Fold it into the mix­ture.

Whip four egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then fold them into the mix­ture.

Stir the mix­ture ever so gen­tly, then spoon it into cups, each cup a serv­ing.

Refrig­er­ate for twelve hours.

Serves six.

Oth­er recipes in Rudy’s reper­toire orig­i­nate with the Grand Hotel Oloff­son’s most valu­able employ­ee, head­wait­er and Vodou prac­ti­tion­er Hip­poly­te Paul De Mille, who “claims to be eighty and have fifty-nine descen­dants”:

He said that if there was any ghost we thought should haunt Mid­land City for the next few hun­dred years, he would raise it from its grave and turn it loose, to wan­der where it would. 

We tried very hard not to believe that he could do that. 

But he could, he could.


Put two cups of grat­ed coconut in cheese­cloth over a bowl.

Pour a cup of hot milk over it, and squeeze it dry.

Repeat this with two more cups of hot milk. The stuff in the bowl is the sauce.

Mix a pound of sliced onions, a tea­spoon of salt, a half tea­spoon of black pep­per, and a tea­spoon of crushed pep­per.

Sauté the mix­ture in but­ter until soft but not brown.

Add four pounds of fresh fish chunks, and cook them for about a minute on each side.

Pour the sauce over the fish, cov­er the pan, and sim­mer for ten min­utes. Uncov­er the pan and baste the fish until it is done—and the sauce has become creamy.

Serves eight vague­ly dis­grun­tled guests at the Grand Hotel Oloff­son.


Stew two pounds of goat or chick­en with a half cup of chopped onions, a tea­spoon of salt, half a tea­spoon of black pep­per, and a pinch of crushed red pep­per. Use two quarts of water.

Stew for an hour.

Add three peeled yams and three peeled bananas, cut into chunks.

Sim­mer until the meat is ten­der. Take out the meat. What is left is eight serv­ings of Hait­ian banana soup.

Bon appétit!

The recipe that clos­es the nov­el is couched in an anec­dote that’s equal parts scat­ol­ogy and epiphany.

As a daugh­ter of Indi­anapo­lis who was a junior in high school the year Dead­eye Dick was pub­lished, I can attest that Pol­ka-Dot Brown­ies would have been a hit at the bake sales of my youth:



Melt half a cup of but­ter and a pound of light-brown sug­ar in a two-quart saucepan. Stir over a low fire until just bub­bly.

Cool to room tem­per­a­ture.

Beat in two eggs and a tea­spoon of vanil­la.

Stir in a cup of sift­ed flour, a half tea­spoon of salt, a cup of chopped fil­berts, and a cup of semi­sweet choco­late in small chunks.

Spread into a well-greased nine-by-eleven bak­ing pan.

Bake at two hun­dred and thir­ty-five degrees for about thir­ty-five min­utes.

Cool to room tem­per­a­ture, and cut into squares with a well-greased knife.

Enjoy, in mod­er­a­tion of course.

I was wear­ing my best suit, which was as tight as the skin of a knack­wurst. I had put on a lot of weight recent­ly. It was the fault of my own good cook­ing. I had been try­ing out a lot of new recipes, with con­sid­er­able suc­cess. — Rudy Waltz

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Why Should We Read Kurt Von­negut? An Ani­mat­ed Video Makes the Case

Watch a Sweet Film Adap­ta­tion of Kurt Vonnegut’s Sto­ry, “Long Walk to For­ev­er”

The Recipes of Icon­ic Authors: Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath, Roald Dahl, the Mar­quis de Sade & More

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.