Thursday, June 4, 2009

Eat like your idols!


Ever fancied sinking your teeth into Loretta Young's Peach Dessert?
Or wolfing down a couple of Kim Novak's Chili Rellenos?
Or would you rather get your hands on Gary Cooper's Griddle Cakes?
Ever caught yourself wondering just what exactly Mary Philbin's Brown Betty is, and where you can get some? Did you even know that Bette Davis made her own marmalade?
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If the answers to all, none or any of these questions are yes, no or I don't know, salvation is at hand whatever...
I can't stop dipping into Silver Screen Suppers and I'm damned if I'm going to let you spend another second in ignorance of it either.
It's a wonderful, near-unclassifiable labour of love by Jenny Hammerton, film writer and archivist, and the author of the book For Ladies Only? - of which more, here, later, too.
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I asked Jenny if she would say a few words to introduce the site to those who have yet to succumb to its infectious charms...
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Silver Screen Suppers allows me to sprinkle stardust around my kitchen as I cook the favourite recipes of Hollywood’s greatest stars for my family and friends. Current crowd pleasers include Greta Garbo’s Swedish Meatballs, Errol Flynn’s Baked Fish Havanaise and Clara Bow’s Vanilla Marlow.
I blog about the results of my culinary experiments over at www.silverscreensuppers.com, which is great fun, as some dishes are complete triumphs and some are absolute failures.
Ginger Rogers’ Date Butterscotch Pudding springs to mind: it sounded good on paper, but being made predominantly of tapioca was not a great success in my household. Pat O’Brien’s Corned Beef and Potato Patties went more or less straight from the plate into the bin. I’m always happy to nibble on crackers topped with Adolphe Menjou’s Spiced Venetian Cheese or Jean Harlow’s Celery a la Shrimp though...
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Every man's dream: Clara Bow, forty marshmallows and a pint of whipping cream
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“Along with fellow film archivist Caroline Frick I am currently testing 100 of the recipes for a forthcoming cookbook.
As Caroline is based in Texas and I’m in London it’s a fabulously fun transatlantic project with questions regularly flying across the pond about ingredients unfamiliar to a British cook such as Graham Crackers, Hominy and Bisquick. The book will feature glossy portraits of the stars, short biographies and a suggestion of a classic film to watch whilst scoffing their signature dish.
I decided to start eating like my idols after I discovered a 1931 pamphlet entitled Favorite Recipes of the Movie Stars in a junk shop and started salivating. That was around ten years ago and Caroline and I have been collecting the recipes ever since. We are like a pair of Wire Fox Terriers, seeking out recipes here, there and everywhere.
The golden era was the 1930s when promotional booklets for products such as the American Stove Company, Norge refrigerators and Ann Page Salad Dressing featured studio shots of the stars accompanied by their favourite recipes. Rummaging around in second hand bookshops, libraries and junk shops will sometimes yield wonderful treasures and of course the mighty eBay is a great boon to collectors like us. We now have over 3500 recipes relating to hundreds of actors and actresses famous during the 1920s – 1950s.
.Drab things Audrey can do while looking effortlessly classy, #479.
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“Although the general suggestion is that these recipes are for meals the stars cooked themselves, many would freely admit that their wives or cooks were responsible for preparing them. Patterns are emerging though, and we are getting a good idea about which stars actually spent time in their own kitchens rustling up fabulous things to eat.
Marlene Dietrich, for example, was a seriously good cook. She used food to seduce her many lovers and was a great favourite of studio staff when arriving on set with pies and cakes fresh from the oven. Dick Powell obviously enjoyed donning a pinny; his recipes are always good, and Joan Crawford usually offers up something pretty eccentric. Creamed White Onions in a Red Pepper Cup is one fanciful dish attributed to Joan, and her meatloaf recipe for 8 contains so much veal and sirloin steak that it would cost around £60 to make at today’s prices. It does contain a secret ingredient designed to please though – several hard boiled eggs hidden amongst the vast amount of meat.
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.....................................Who stole the egg?
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........................ Marlene whips up another seduction
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Dick Powell knows that there's only so much petting in the park you can do on an empty stomach

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“We are always on the lookout for recipes so if your readers come across any we’d love to hear about them. There are a few stars for whom we have no recipes at all – Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner and Charlie Chaplin to name but three.
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................................. The closest she ever got?
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“Soon the Silver Screen Suppers website will have a “recipe of the month” page and if readers are fans of particular stars we can supply recipes on request. We would love to get feedback from others who have attempted things such as Louise Brooks’ Knickerbocker Supreme of Chicken, Anna May Wong’s Tea Cakes or Tallulah Bankhead’s Coconut Jumbles!”
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The closest he ever got?
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And while we're on the subject of Hollywood stars in their kitchens, click here to read about what is plainly the greatest cookery book of all time.