Michael Hafford of Extra Crispy reported a couple of months ago that Hunter S. Thompson did not hold many things sacred, least of all his sobriety
But he was a real person. And he was a real person who loved breakfast. I, myself, am a boring-ass white boy who read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas at age 14 and became enthralled with Thompson’s ability to file while seemingly actively snorting whatever powder was around. And I also love breakfast. So I’ve gotten obsessed with this quotation about Hunter S.Thompson’s breakfast (I also read the Vegas book when I was 14).
“I like to eat breakfast alone, and almost never before noon; anybody with a terminally jangled lifestyle needs at least one psychic anchor every twenty-four hours, and mine is breakfast. In Hong Kong, Dallas or at home—and regardless of whether or not I have been to bed—breakfast is a personal ritual that can only be properly observed alone, and in a spirit of genuine excess. The food factor should always be massive: four Bloody Marys, two grapefruits, a pot of coffee, Rangoon crepes, a half-pound of either sausage, bacon, or corned beef hash with diced chiles, a Spanish omelette or eggs Benedict, a quart of milk, a chopped lemon for random seasoning, and something like a slice of Key lime pie, two margaritas, and six lines of the best cocaine for dessert… Right, and there should also be two or three newspapers, all mail and messages, a telephone, a notebook for planning the next twenty-four hours and at least one source of good music… All of which should be dealt with outside, in the warmth of a hot sun, and preferably stone naked.”
(Binge watching season 2 of Narcos while I write, I’m continually impressed by the outrageous sweaters worn by cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar.)
I view Hunter S. Thompson the way I view all writers talking about their supposed routines: They’re just baiting someone stupid enough to try to recreate them into personal or mental ruin. And yet, the breakfast beckoned to me. How could it not? The sheer amount and variety is completely insane. The food alone is enough to stop one’s heart, let alone the drinking and the dessert cocaine.
So I decided to try to conquer it, this Mt. Olympus of breakfast. My attempt at the breakfast took nearly five hours, inspired a minor argument, and was consumed as close to naked as I could get with a photographer and several other assistants around. I couldn’t be alone for the breakfast—I had a photographer, several people helping with the cooking, and other people that just wanted to gawk—but I cherished my few alone moments and understood why he would have valued his alone time. At times I had to lay down. Once, I vomited. Other times, I wish I had. I think I learned something. Definitely I learned about the limits of my endurance.
Hafford goes into all the details of this 5-hour marathon.
Finishing the breakfast, or coming as close as I did, more or less confirmed my suspicions. This was not a mortal amount of food to eat. Hell, this was not a mortal amount of food to describe eating. I wouldn’t characterize myself as shocked that Hunter S. Thompson would eat (or say he ate) breakfast like this, but I would say I’d be surprised if he did this more than once in his life. This type of eating requires a hotel because it’s elaborate and you couldn’t really find that solitude or nudity anywhere else. Preparing the food took an hour just by itself. One could picture him, cigarette clamped in jaw, growling the order into the phone. One could also picture the person taking the order asking if he needed two place settings.
“Just one,” Thompson might say. “Are you insane?”