It takes a dedicated man to thumb through old recipe cards, movie magazines, advertising pamphlets and God knows what else ephemera to find recipes that have a dead celebrity’s name attached. It doesn’t really matter whether the late famous person ever actually cooked the dish or not (in Lucille Ball’s case, definitely not) it is the glimpse into their world that counts, back in the days when celebrities still had an air of mystery about them.
Nowadays the paparazzi stalk the famous relentlessly, and if Star Trek veteran Kirsty Alley ever goes near a takeaway again the resulting shots of her hoeing into burgers and fries will be all over the gossip magazines. But back in the day the nearest we ever got to see what the stars ate was a fetching posed pic of a TV mom like Donna Reed in a skirt as bouffant as her hair do, and a frilly apron dishing up a tray of brownies (something of a mystery in itself to those not born in America).
DeCaro loves those days and loves TV and movie stars. After all he did spend seven years as a movie critic for the Johnny Stewart Show, and now helms a radio show sharing gossip and recipes. He does the same in The Dead Celebrity Cookbook, the difference being that none of the celebs who fancied themselves as chefs (as opposed to chefs today who fancy themselves as celebs) are with us anymore. As one wag wittily observed, it may have been their own cooking that did them in, but the recipes are fun and worth sharing anyway – even if only as a guide to what not to eat. Deep fried peanut butter and hamburger sandwiches a la Elvis anyone?
You won’t find any Presley party pieces here, but you will find the late lamented stars of Batman and Star Trek sharing recipes that you can whip up for your next marathon night or fan meeting. Among the Batman delicacies are Otto Preminger’s (Mr Freeze) Devilled Eggs, Eartha Kitt’s (Catwoman) Chicken Wings and Burgess Meredith’s (Penguin) Nacho Salad.
Dinner on the Enterprise may have come out of a programmed reconstituter, but the late DeForest Kelley and James Doohan could whip up real meals off the set. Kelley’s fat laden Cheese Potato Casserole would never pass muster with a real doctor, so you may be better tackling Doohan’s Chicken Lasagna. They both make Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry’s Lima Beans and Ham look like health food, in spite of the cheese and salt. How they ever managed to fit into those jumpsuits must remain a mystery.
Ricardo Montalban, from the Wrath of Khan, contributes a hearty meat dish, Carne Asada, while Elizabeth Montgomery from Bewitched, Carolyn Jones from the Addams Family, and Yvonne de Carlo from the Munsters all have recipes included. Most of the recipes in the book show the culinary traditions of the times – even Carolyn Jones ‘That Fish Thing’ relies on canned vegetables and soup – but DeCaro cooked each recipe himself and offers a very honest post mortem on how it turned out.
With a bit of modern thinking, many of these recipes could actually translate into decent food. But even if you would never allow this stuff to pass your lips, DeCaro’s book is a delicious confection of wit and gossip.
My thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book.