The Turbot of King Lear: The Pre-quel Text
“O flesh, flesh, how art thou fishified!” Romeo and Juliet, 2.4
There are various legendary Celtic recipes of a head chef Llyr having a heap of trouble with a trio of ungrateful daughters as he tries serving them dinner. William’s early “Turbot” adaptation varies on those original dishes by moving back the timeline – showing Lear’s children as infants and Lear himself before he chopped and cooked his way to the top. Shakespeare does keep a tragic end, however, when despite Lear’s best efforts to convince them to try his baked fish his kids instead humiliate him into taking them to MacDonald’s.
The later, full version “The Turbot of King Lear” is often proclaimed not only to be Shakespeare’s most accomplished plate but even the most impressive meal ever prepared by any English-speaking cook. It has been copied and adapted around the world and is still one of the few standards against which only the greatest of acting chefs measure themselves.
The Ingredients of the Dish:
3 young kids
1 large turbot, enough to feed them
Pepper & salt
Extra – Virgin olive oil
The Chefs of the Recipe:
Lear – takes care of the kids on Sunday and Monday nights when the restaurant he works at is closed
Hygd – his wife, out to visit her family
Gonoril – one of their daughters – ‘this fish is too dry’
Regan – another of their daughters – ‘this fish is too wet’
Cordelia – their youngest daughter –‘mmmbbpth’
serves 3 kids. Daddy will grab a sandwich later. If he’s lucky.
Act III, sc. 1
Enter Lear, about 40, and his wife, Hygd. Their daughters, Gonoril, 5, and Regan, 3, are playing while Cordelia, still a baby, sits at the kitchen table in a high chair, watching and fidgeting. Hygd, holding her purse and car keys, speaks with Lear at the side door
Hygd: Ok, so you’re really sure you can handle the kids without me for a few hours?
Lear: Attend to your family, dear Hygd.
I will meantime here attend our 3 kids,
Dividing myself equally between
Them. Go, take your time, have fun, and please do
Give your mother my biggest, warmest hug.
Hygd: (unsure) Ok, but call me if you need anything. Bye, honey. (pecks him on the lips)
Lear: Bye, sweet-cakes. See ya’ later.
Hygd: (off-stage) And don’t get upset if the girls don’t want your baked fish for lunch. I know you hate it when I take them but they just love MacDonald’s Macfish sandwiches so don’t be a snob about it. And don’t be a baby about it either. We already have 3, and not everyone is born a royal gourmet. Be back soon.
Car motor starting, sounds of a car leaving, garage door closing. Lear waves, shuts the side entrance and checks on the oven. As Lear recites his soliloquy Gonoril and Regan begin fighting over a toy
Lear: MacDonald’s! Good-for-naught, oil-filled fast food,
The creeping bane of our tongues and noses.
I will not have my chef’s daughters eating
Industrial meat, sugared potatoes
Fried in rendered fat, no, never, never,
Never, never, never. They will not eat
It in my car, they will not eat it near
Or far, they will not eat it here or there,
They will not eat it anywhere. Gonoril,
Regan, cupcake, are you hu…
Gonoril: Daddy, Regan’s not playing right.
Regan: I am too! You’re not playing right.
Gonoril: Uh-uh, you didn’t give me a turn.
Regan: Yes I did…
Lear: Kids, now what did mommy say about playing nice? If you can’t play nice I’m gonna’ have to take your toy away and give you two a time-out.
Gonoril: But dad-yy…
Lear: No. It’s almost lunchtime anyway. Here; you can watch TV for 10 minutes while I finish making lunch. (picks up the TV remote and turns on the TV. Gonoril and Regan immediately stop fighting, sit down and stare wide-eyed at the screen. A clown is on the screen juggling. Background sounds of the clown) Pretty clown. Ok. Where was I. Oh yeah. Burgers and fries.
A culinary nothing. And nothing
Can come from nothing. By Jupiter, I’ll
Teach my children now in their greenest days
How to take proper care of a proper meal. (looks into the oven)
My flatfish cooks above the thinly sliced
Potatoes I layered beneath. Oven,
Rumble thy bellyful; fire, heat; fish, bake.
In a few minutes I’ll clean away the bones
From Neptune’s fresh tidbit and serve it with
The best olive oil, salt, parsley and
The fish-juice soaked potatoes. They’ll love it.
Act III, sc.2
The kids are all sitting at the table, Gonoril in a regular chair, the other 2 in highchairs. Lear is on his feet with a spoon in one hand, trying to get Cordelia to eat. Regan is crying. Gonoril is playing with her food. There are particles of fish, potato, parsley and other unidentifiable organic substances on the table, floor, chairs, walls and Lear.
Lear: Common’ now cupcake, you can do this for da-da. Open up your little mouthy a little bit, now, watch the train, choo-choo, choo-choo…
Cordelia: (shaking her head and keeping her mouth shut) Grbbllmm-mm. (She reaches up with her hand and deflects the spoon and its contents onto the floor.)
Regan: (wailing) Daddy I don’ like it, I don’ LLLLIIIKKKEIIT!
Gonoril: Daddy can we go to MacDonald’s?
Regan: (whining) When’s mommy coming back? When’s mommy coming back?
Lear: (trying to answer Gonoril as he takes a different spoonful of food for Cordelia)Honey, please just try a little taste.
Gonoril: But it smells funny.
Enter Felix, their gray and white cat, jumping onto the kitchen table
Gonoril: (she reaches out and pets the cat) Kitt-y
Lear: Honey, don’t pet the cat on the table, Felix, down, get down…
Cordelia: (reaching for the pretty kitty) Da-do-goop-goop-goop kitt-kit ppttttffs.
Regan: (Wailing again and this time pounding the table)Mommymommymommymommy…(on the last ‘mommy’ she pounds the table harder. The cat scurries away. The plate of food from which Lear is trying to feed Cordelia bounces over the edge and hits him solidly on his toe)
Lear: Eeeoooww! Howl, howl, howl, howl! That hit my foot like a stone! (Reaches down and touches his foot, then starts hopping around. The kids start laughing. Then Lear’s cell-phone rings. He answers, a little out of breath) Hello? What? No sweetcakes, everything’s under control. No, no. They ate just fine. We’re gonna go for a walk at the shopping center. You? Ok. Take your time. Bye. (Hangs up. Looks at the kids who are all looking at him) Fine. You win. But if you promise not to tell mommy you can each have a MacIcecream cone to, OK?
Regan: Yum, yum, yum, yum!
Lear: You guys go get dressed and I’ll clean up. (Exit Gonoril and Regan. Looks at Cordelia) Oh, would you look at you. Here, cupcake, let me wipe off your lips.
Lifts her up off the high chair as he wipes off her face. Exits. Exit recipe
The real recipe:
2-4 potatoes, thinly sliced about the width of 2 quarters of edge
if yes, evoo
if no, extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 large turbot or other flatfish
serves 2-5, depending on the size of the fish
Make sure the potato slices are well seasoned & covered with olive oil. Place in a large tray to bake about 10 minutes in a hot oven, 150 degrees Celsius. Then place the fish on top of the potatoes, add some capers here and there and continue cooking 10-20 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. In the meantime chop the parsley. When the fish is ready – I’ve found it easiest to judge by the fishes’ eyes, usually. As soon as they start whiting over the fish is probably done – remove, de-bone and dribble some evoo (extra-virgin olive oil) over it. Accompany with boiled vegetables, the sliced potatoes and a well-structured white, maybe a white Burgundy.
…you could, if you have three daughters with 3 different tastes, cook a fish in 3 different styles: http://www.godecookery.com/incrd/incrd.htm#001