The Manchester Review
Matthew Hull
Interview with DBC Pierre
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Matthew Hull: Can you tell me a little about Lights out in Wonderland? There's a recipe on your agent’s website for turtlenecks in brioche crumbs, is this a reference to something that happens in the book or an elaborate red herring?

DBC Pierre: The book is an allegorical bildungsroman, not quite a novel as we know it. It’s on the theme of decadence. It takes the story of a young product of our time in Britain who has a whole range of modern afflictions: he is an anti-capitalist and manic depressant, he has decided that the place has gone to the dogs like the fall of Rome. The markets have leeched every protein out of the culture; there is nothing left which is unaffected by the notion of profit. This is to the extent that he begins to see this even his anti-capitalist action groups.

So, in the tail-end of one of his depressions, he decides he will kill himself. But then he realises he doesn’t have to go through with it immediately and decides to have one last good drink, one last great party. This is where it starts and the whole book is him trying to find that one last good drink, and getting a re-education in the process.

This guy is a failed chef - he was always a bit timid around knives and flames - and so in the course of the story he comes upon some real hardcore kitchen underworld chefs, and at his last party ends up involved in a banquet that's like nothing anyone's seen since the fall of Rome. They’re eating endangered species – panda bear and Bengal tiger and the like. And this is where the allegory really kicks in, his final binge is exactly what the market has been doing: eating, deforesting everything around. So that's where the recipe's from.

And the recipes I’ve included are completely genuine. I’ve spoken to a combination of vets, zoologists and chefs who’ve collaborated to see how you would make a great meal from these animals, so there are seven recipes up for rare creatures.

MH: I read recently that Charles Darwin was an experienced eater of rare and unusual animals.

DBC: Yes the giant tortoise - apparently it’s meant to be really delicious!

MH: I read that he took several on the journey back from the Galapagos but that he and the crew managed to eat them all before they got back to England.

DBC: Yes! There’s a giant tortoise in the book. Apparently the best thing is you can eat every part of them. The brain and the flippers and the belly – everything is great in a tortoise. I heard somewhere that there was no Latin name for them across two or three hundred years because one didn’t last long enough to make back for study. They were just automatically eaten.