Periodically I’ll drop a line or a scene into one of my novels just because it makes me laugh.
Obviously, when I’m writing the Jackson Speed novels I’m trying to develop scenes that will amuse my readers, but sometimes the jokes are just for me. If any reader catches onto the joke, that’s even better.
In writing Jackson Speed and the Blood Tubs, I dropped a line into Chapter 11 that was a great example of this. Speed is staying at Barnum’s hotel in Baltimore and he’s gone down for a breakfast of “ham and eggs and cabbage.”
It’s a throw-away line, right? He might have had a breakfast of eggs and bacon or bacon and grits or sausage and biscuits with apple butter. I suppose I could have had him eating an Egg McMuffin, though it might not have been appropriate for the time period.
In fact, it wasn’t a throw-away line. Somewhere in my research for the novel, I stumbled across the recipe for “green eggs and ham.”
Red cabbage, when cooked with eggs, will turn the eggs green.
So I tossed in an homage to the greatest poet of my childhood, Dr. Seuss, as a fun little joke to myself.
That’s right, Jackson Speed eats green eggs and ham.
At least one reader caught the joke. I got a message not long after Blood Tubs was released from someone who thought “ham and eggs and cabbage” was an odd combination of foods, so he searched the breakfast to see if there was some special 19th Century reference, and his search produced links to green egg and ham recipes.
Of course, Blood Tubs is full of references to poets.
I still am tickled by the scene where Speedy reads Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” to woo Southern belles in Baltimore. Whitman, of course, was a rabid abolitionist, and the attendees at the ball where Speedy read Whitman to the women were all secessionists, of course.
When I write these scenes that amuse me so much, I always call my wife in and make her read them. Her reaction is generally how I know if I’ve written a scene that will amuse a wider audience or if I’ve written a scene that is all for me.
I’m not suggesting that readers should Google every meal Jackson Speed has. Sometimes he eats oysters simply because oyster bars were like the Subway sandwich shop of the 1860s.