Readers of the Jazz Age classic The Great Gatsby see a bit of the author’s personality when narrator Nick Carraway lists in great detail the guests arriving at Gatsby’s party. F. Scott Fitzgerald, the author, was himself a notorious listmaker. When University of South Carolina received Fitzgerald’s personal scrapbooks, including 13 ledger-sized notebooks, archivists found, among other things, list after list. Sadly, no favorite gumbo list, though he did keep detailed recipe logs.
His last personal assistant, Frances Kroll Ring, wrote he was “amazingly organized” and
made lists for novels, football plays, football players, wars, reading, movies. Of course that wasn’t news to his daughter Scottie. When she was eleven, he prepared a life list of things for her to worry about, not worry about, and think about.
In 1936 when wife Zelda was under treatment in a nearby psychiatric hospital, Fitzgerald was convalescing in an Asheville, North Carolina hotel. He offered his nurse a list of 22 books he
thought were essential reading. The list on the right is written in the nurse’s hand. Best known for serious works The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night, The Beautiful and the Damned, his humorous side appears in his famous Turkey List for Thanksgiving. Published in 1956 along with some recipes, the list provides a dozen funny ways to prepare turkey. For instance, Turkey Cocktail: To one large turkey add one gallon of vermouth and a demijohn of angostura bitters. Shake.
Of course there’s no turkey gumbo recipe on the list, but he surely would appreciate the Southern tradition of gumbo the day after Thanksgiving. (After all, Zelda was from Montgomery, Alabama).
So it’s turkey gumbo for F. Scott Fitzgerald, served with lemon cake for dessert, as a remembrance of The Great Gatsby scene when Gatsby prepares an afternoon tea for Daisy.