The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

You can almost feel the Italian heat baking down, and smell the bougainvillea flowers, as you read this evocative novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley. Tom Ripley is a young man from New York, struggling to make something of himself. He’s approached by Mr. Greenleaf who mistakes him for a close college friend of his son, Dickie, who has run off to seaside Italy and essentially gone native there, living in a little house with his girlfriend Marge.

Mr Ripley

Mr. Greenleaf offers Tom money to go to Italy and persuade Dickie to come back and resume a “normal” life. Tom meets Dickie and becomes caught up in the other man’s life, obsessively. They bond and become great friends, but several flies in the ointment, including Dickie’s quasi-girlfriend Marge and his obnoxious drinking buddy Freddie Miles, soon threaten their close bond.

2016-06-05 18.10.36_resized

What makes Tom Ripley such a fascinating character study, psychopath that he is, is because we can all relate to him – having feelings of alienation and wanting to find an identity that matches our images of ourselves. Ripley is self-aware on a bizarre level, understanding his two identities and even acknowledging what he’s done by justifying his actions to others and himself. Yet for all the evil deeds he does, he’s not a classic antagonist. He is living his “normal,” as we all are, and the fact that I could sympathize and root for him and understand his motivations tells me that this book was written by a master. It didn’t hurt that the characters of Dickie, Marge and Freddie were all such annoying little prigs.

2016-06-05 18.17.36_resized

Set primarily in Italy, then in France, the scenes in these countries evoke so wonderfully the Mediterranean sun and sea, the taste of salt from the ocean, the sound of boats and birds and busy harbors, and the marvelous flavors that these two countries sometimes share. When Tom is invited to Dickie’s house in Italy for the first time, Sunday lunch is being cooked by Marge – a roast chicken and artichokes –  two of my favorite foods. Yum!

2016-06-05 18.10.00_resized

“The climb up the hill to Dickie’s house didn’t seem half so long as before. Delicious smells of roasting chicken drifted out on the terrace……….’I’m waiting for the darn artichokes to get done. You know that front hole. It’ll barely make anything come to a boil.'”

2016-06-05 18.14.50_resized

Having recently gotten my hot little hands on some culinary lavender, I decided a riff on the classic Sunday roast chicken was in order, spiced up with lavender, lemons, garlic, new potatoes and of course, artichoke hearts – a wonderful melding of the flavors of France and Italy. Oooh la la, or as we tend to say here in New Mexico, oooooh a la!


This is the method that worked for me.

1 large chicken, about a 6-lb roaster will do.
2 large lemons
2 heads of garlic
1 cup dried lavender granules
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups of artichoke hearts, drained and cut into long chunks
4-5 small red potatoes, cut in half
10-12 sprigs of fresh thyme

Your chicken should be at room temperature before roasting, so take it out of the refrigerator a good hour before starting preparations.

Pre-heat the oven to 360F. Butterfly the chicken. This is much easier than you might think. Turn the bird breast-side down, tailside facing you, and cut out the backbone using very sharp kitchen scissors. Then turn it over and press down on it so it flattens and looks like a butterfly. Hence the term “butterfly the chicken.” This YouTube video was how I learned, and it was so easy. If a total klutz like me can butterfly a chicken, you most certainly can! Trust me.

2016-06-05 18.21.07_resized

Once the chicken is laid out nicely in a large roasting pan, salt and pepper it well. Slice the lemons somewhat thinly, and lay them across the skin of the bird. Tuck some of the lemon slices between the skin and the meat, as well. This helps tenderize the bird and gives more flavor to the skin. Keep half of one of the lemons for later.

2016-06-05 18.16.40_resized

Around the chicken, dot the artichoke hearts, the garlic cloves still in their papery skins, and the potatoes. The idea with the garlic is that they will steam inside the skins and come out soft and sweet and mellow and delicious. Everything looks beautiful in the pan, too.

2016-06-05 18.14.03_resized

Pour the olive oil over the bird and the surrounding vegetables, ensuring everything is well-coated. Add a splash of good red wine, then squeeze the juice of the remaining half lemon over the vegetables. For the final touch, scatter over the dried lavender and the thyme sprigs. The scent is heavenly, spicy and floral and warm at the same time.

2016-06-05 18.13.29_resized

Cover the bird and roast for 2 hours. The smell of the bird cooking, mingled with the lavender and all the yummy vegetables, will make your mouth water. At the 2-hour mark, remove from the oven, increase the heat to 425F, take off the cover, and baste the chicken and vegetable with the pan drippings that have collected at the bottom of the pan. Pour in some chicken broth if you think it looks dry. Tuck the uncovered pan back in the oven and roast under the high heat for another 25 minutes, so the skin darkens and crisps up. Keep an eye on it, though, to make sure the vegetables don’t burn.

2016-06-05 18.13.03_resized

Remove the chicken from the oven, sprinkle over some sea salt, and let the dish rest for a good 10-15 minutes. Then serve and eat with a smile on your face and a song in your heart. But don’t actually START singing. You’ll frighten your guests and they’ll start thinking you’re a madman like Tom Ripley or something.

2016-06-05 18.12.39_resized

32 thoughts on “The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

    1. Aww, thank you! I really enjoyed the movie though obviously I think the book is better. As you’re a bookworm like I am, if you ever get a chance to read any of her sequels to this book featuring Mr. Ripley, I highly suggest that. They’re quite good though somewhat different.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Cool! I really enjoyed the book as well and the movie wasn’t too bad. I won’t get into my dislike of Gwyneth Paltrow. Lol! I really thought the lavender gave the chicken a very Mediterranean feel, so it was appropriate for the book.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I have not read the book, but I enjoyed the movie. It was disturbing, with great scenery-always a deadly combination. I remember reading an article about the author soon after the movie came out and they described her as awful, bossy and rude! I wish I could remember xactly what they said 🤪 your chick n sounds yummy. Buona Domenica, Cristina

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The film was beautiful and disturbing, I agree, even though I really dislike Gwyneth Paltrow. That’s interesting about the author. I had not heard anything about her but I will have to do some research now. Thank you for your comment on the chicken as well. It definitely came out delicious.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved this book but I’m with you when it comes to Gwenyth Paltrow. I can’t stand her either. I feel like I’ve met my people at last. Lol plus your chicken looks amazing. I’ve made similar chicken with just garlic and lemon and Olive oil but have never thought to use lavender some gonna have to give this a whirl.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I never think about using lavender in cooking, but I see recipes with it all the time and have some growing in my garden. That chicken looks so good, and actually perfect for a Sunday lunch. I’d have to run and get artichoke hearts, but I think I could throw this together for lunch today. Excellent post, and thanks for reminding me of Tom Ripley. I hated the film, but since I can’t stand Gwenyth Paltrow, no surprise there. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Marianne, and I’m glad you like the post. It really is kind of a perfect summer Sunday lunch. If only I was near the sea and could cook and eat it, like Tom Ripley! If you do make it, let me know how it turns out. And I don’t like Gwyneth Paltrow much, either. I pictured her differently in the book from how the film portrayed her. Have a great day!


  4. i love reading about the Mediterranean, love the food, loved traveling there. saw this as a movie, which was not bad. the dish looks incredible. i read “The Razor’s Edge”, by Somerset Maugham, set on the Riviera, while on vacation there. Great book. And…I’m still not getting email notices of new posts here! But keep them coming!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the book is far better than the movie. The movie was just average, plus I can’t stand Gwyneth Paltrow. If it helps, I post every week without fail usually on a Sunday night or Monday morning. So check back on a weekly basis if you can. And thank you for the ongoing support.


  5. Lavender must taste good with chicken, combined with lemon and garlic! Thanks for giving me the idea, must try it asap.
    There’s a very old Venetian recipe using a hint of rose water to flavor chicken, combined with yellow curry, mustard, long pepper, cinnamon, raisins and salt.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Marco! So glad you enjoyed it. The lavender is lovely, isn’t it? I’m thrilled this method worked for you, too. This is actually the first feedback on any of my recipes I’ve gotten on this site, so I am doubly appreciative. And I love your site, by the way! Lots of cooking inspiration there, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve never cooked with lavender but this seems amazing. I did see some beautiful dried lavender in the market the other day and wish I’d bought some. Next time I will and try this. Thanks for another lovely post. Tom Ripley: everyone’s favourite psycopath. You can’t help but like him!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Luca. If you ever do get a chance to cook with fresh lavender or even dried, do so. It really does add a note that you can’t really describe. Kind of floral, kind of spicy and yet very comforting. I’ll be making lavender ice cream later this summer, so keep an eye on the blog!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s