Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers & Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair

Editor: Graydon Carter with David Friend
Published: 2014

I picked this book up because it was in the sale/clearance section and it was listed at $10. For a 350+ page book, $10 is a steal of a deal I couldn’t pass up. I’m not familiar with any early 20th century American (or Canadian) writing, so this was an interesting study for me.

I started the 1910 section with a chocolate mint tea. No particular reason other than it happened to have been the first thing that I grabbed from the shelf. This tea has that melt in your mouth chocolate thin wafer taste to it, but also some other complexities as well. The smell and the taste are one and the same. I truly thought I was eating a chocolate mint wafer cookie. This sensor experience was great when reading the chapter by Lieut. E.M. Roberts Excursions into Hunland (World War I moniker for Germany). Roberts is describing a frantic air fight over Germany. As a member of the air force, he documents the exact nature of how the fight played out. He’s also very eloquent with his writing, which pairs well with this specific tea flavour.

The other great flavour with this tea is that it countered Dorothy Parker’s biting poetry. There are five articles of hers in the 1910 section. As this is my first exposure to her, I found her witty but dark and she comes across as extremely angry with the world around her: Men. Relatives. Actresses. Does anything please this woman? The tea softened the blows she leveled at the world. She was obviously a very prolific woman in the arts and literary scenes, having been nominated for two Oscars for screenplays. I’m not too sure that I will seek out her other writings, mostly because I don’t find her entertaining. Yes, she’s witty but she’s not entertaining. The mint chocolate tea was good counter to her sarcastic tone.

Even catman wants in on this book! That $10 sticker was not coming off. It’s stuck on there forever. 

The great thing about a book of this length with a multitude of essay’s to read, is that when I forget, on the whole, to document what I read, what I was thinking, and what I was drinking, I can focus in on one or two of the essays and really pour my concentration into it. It’s extremely ambitious to want to document thoughts and feelings a book evokes in me with the flavours and sensory experience of drinking tea. My biggest beef with other book and tea recommendations is that they never actually tell you what you’ll feel when you drink Tea X and read Book A. So while I’ve done my best to remember to document some of my experiences with this book, I also recognize that I have missed a bunch of essays and opportunities.


In the 1930’s section, there is a fantastic essay of Babe Ruth and his hold over the baseball world at home and abroad. The tea I was drinking for this was crème carmello. It has a sweet but mellow feel to it like the little caramel candies if they were melted into a watery-liquid form. I wasn’t so keen on the description of the audience reacting to a homerun like they’ve just been told it’s a boy. Given the time of the piece, boys were valued over girls, even though baseball is a spectator sport open to both genders, women enjoyed it just as much as men. The crème carmello tea is one of my favourites and great go to when looking for something sweet but without the sugar. It’s a rooibos tea packed full of flavour that leaves you wanting more.

A few of the teas I sampled during this read:

  • Cocoa Mint -Black, Steeped Tea
  • Berry Mania – Fruit, Steeped Tea
  • Creme Carmello – Rooibos, Steeped Tea
  • Georgia Peach – Rooibos, Steeped Tea
  • and somewhere else in there I sampled a generic-named organic green tea! I can’t have you thinking I’m all about the Steeped Tea brand!