Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What Actors Eat When They Eat!

Since the Academy Award nominations were announced today, I thought it would be appropriate to share with you a wonderful cookbook I found a few years ago when I went to California on a road trip with my friend Marisa. On our way to Hearst Castle, we stopped by the charming town of Cambria and explored its many antique stores, finding ourselves happily lost in a maze of all things old. One particular item I found was a cookbook published in 1939 entitled, What Actors Eat When They Eat. It is compiled by Kenneth Harlan and Rex Lease and is filled with personal recipes from all of Hollywood's greatest stars from the golden age of film.

It's plain to see each actor's studio had a firm hand in what was printed, but haven't you ever wondered what silver screen legends like the Barrymore's or Bette Davis ate? This book has it all. (It turns out Lionel Barrymore preferred fettucini alfredo, while Ms. Davis shares her family recipe for "Finnan Haddie a la Davis"). Each recipe is accompanied by the actor's headshot and a brief biography revealing their birth names, height, and sometimes even weight!

Leading man, Clark Gable speaks of his passion for hunting and provides a recipe appropriately entitled "Hunter's Breakfast." This dish calls for twelve doves! Judy Garland offers up her mother's recipe for "Vegetable Salad," and enthusiastically advises, "Now be sure to try it, especially if you think you don't care for vegetable salads. This one is different, honest."  Cary Grant shares a recipe for "Barbecued Chicken," but warns the cook saying, "Now go to it, friends, and don't blame me if it is not to your liking. For after all, the recipe is not mine." At least he's honest.

"Silent film legend Mary Pickford gives a recipe for "Gnocckis a la Romaine." And Miss Claudette Colbert's provides a salad and assures that, "it is very delicious- easy to prepare- it's also healthful- and good for the figure." She should know. Joan Crawford gives her recipe for "Charcoal Broiled Steak" and says, "There isn't a woman in the world who doesn't have at least one dish of which she makes a specialty. She not only enjoys eating it, but preparing it as well."

Humphrey Bogart admits he's not much of a cook, but his favorite dessert is "Coconut Spanish Cream."  Jackie Cooper gives his mother's recipe for "Curried Eggs and Macaroni," and says, "Whenever my mother wants me to have a dish that contains all the vitamins that are necessary for a young chap who is growing by leaps and bounds, this is what she serves me and boy, is it good." And James Stuart tells of how, being a young bachelor in Hollywood he soon grew tired of restaurant cooking and set out to find the best cook in town. Apparently he found her, and shares her recipe for "Pork Chops Supreme." 

As expected, many of these recipes are a bit outdated or contain questionable ingredients. Nonetheless, it's fun to flip through and find your favorite stars and see the way American cooking has evolved over the last seventy years.


  1. A-mazing!!! What a fitting post for today. I hope you're planning to test out that "hunter's breakfast" recipe :)

  2. Ha, ha! Maybe I could substitute the doves for NYC pigeons.

  3. I had a roommate who worked for a PR agency. She was tasked with writing blurbs for actors/personalities in town for shows, engagements, gigs, whatever. She showed me some of the newspaper articles she wrote, one of them was for a celebrated singer's favorite recipe. I asked her when she had the occasion to meet with the lady. She didn't. The article was a total fabrication. She would just make up stories about the lives and likes of the traveling artists. I imagine the Hollywood cookbook here has a little more credibility, given the actors' images and signatures. But it was still "bally-hoo". A quaint outdated term for B.S.

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