Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Wednesday, January 12, 2000

O’Brian piece
encountered rough seas

ALL columns are not created equal. Having written roughly 1,200 Honolulu Lites since 1992, I freely admit that I put a little more effort into some than others. And without fail, the columns that I really, really care about are the ones that get all screwed up. Thank you God.

So it was with this week's column I wrote to honor author Patrick O'Brian, my favorite writer and the reason I have a brass replica cannon and ship's lamp in my living room (not to mention a framed print of sailing ships over the fireplace and shelves of books devoted to Men of War, fighting frigates and great sea battles of the Napoleonic and Revolutionary wars). That's a lot of sea stuff for a guy who couldn't even handle four days on the S.S. Constitution between Hilo and Hanalei without serious abdominal agitation.

But that's what Patrick O'Brian did to me. His 20-book series recounting the lives of fictional characters Capt. Jack Aubrey and ship surgeon Stephen Maturin turned me into an early 19th-century interior decorator.

Naturally, my tribute to him ended up with a couple of major errors. First, O'Brian sympathized with Catalonia's sovereignty struggles with Spain. I referred to the region as Catalan.

A passage I quoted from the book "Wine Dark Sea" also suffered during transmission. It's too long to go into again here, but the correct version can be found by going to

I also might have made it seem like O'Brian has far fewer followers than he actually does, even in Hawaii. In 1995, I did a story on O'Brian and found many fans, including the admiral in charge of Pearl Harbor.

Beatrice Burch, a Bishop Museum research associate, quickly wrote this week to remind me that there are other O'Brian-ophiles in Hawaii.

"I've all his books, even gave a complete set to the Bishop Museum," Mrs. Burch said.

She ended her note by asking if I had the recipes for the puddings called "Boiled Baby" and "Spotted Dog" in which Aubrey and Maturin often indulged. This would seem to be a peculiar question. But it is perfectly normal to any O'Brian fan. And, in fact, I do happen to have the recipes for those dishes, along with instructions on how to make plum duff and perfectly prepare rat.

Mrs. Burch was extremely sorry to learn of O'Brian's death. I tried to make her feel better in a telephone conversation by pointing out that O'Brian, who died at age 85, had lived a long, fruitful life and it was just his time to go. Mrs. Burch found this analysis a bit harsh and I wished like the dickens I hadn't said it when I learned seconds after the words escaped from my mouth that Mrs. Burch is 83. (Way to go, Chucky. Real sensitive.)

As a way of extricating myself from this embarrassing situation, did I mention I have the recipe for rat?

It can be found in a book called "Lobscouse and Spotted Dog," written by two O'Brian fanatics with a forward by the man himself. Within are recipes for all manner of food consumed in the Aubrey/Maturin series, many of which involve the act of boiling suet (beef fat).

You can find that book and tons of other O'Brian-related material on the Internet, beginning with "The Gunroom Guide to Patrick O' Brian Resources" at

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802
or send E-mail to or

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