Katharine Hepburn made mean brownies. And Liz Taylor adored chicken with avocado and mushrooms. The gastronomic secrets of stars past are being served up in a new book. And they taste good.
“The Dead Celebrity Cookbook,” just published in the United States, reveals a smorgasbord of top dishes from artists of yesteryear, whose films and songs we all know, but whose favorite recipes have until now mostly been a mystery.
The fruit of a decade and a half of passionate research, the book “was a labor of love,” its author Frank DeCaro told AFP.
“I’ve been collecting for about 15 years, I would go to flee markets, I would use eBay. I ended up with so many of them that I had to pick and choose,” he said.
“I would buy everything, manuals that came with microwave ovens, or flyers handed out in supermarkets in the 60s, recipes attributed to specific celebrities.
“I hope, I like to believe that they were in fact truly their recipes,” he added.
The volume includes recipes from more than 140 stars of music, cinema and television, ranging from Michael Jackson’s sweet potato pie and Frank Sinatra’s barbecued lamb to Patrick Swayze’s chicken pie.
“In the past, celebrities used to always be asked to provide recipes… that was part of public relations. They would offer up recipes in benefit cookbooks or magazine articles,” explained DeCaro.
“They were published all over the place,” added the writer, formerly a film critic on US television.
“These recipes come from a time when we didn’t know everything there was to know about every celebrity. They were more in control of their image, and when they chose a recipe I think it said something about them.”
DeCaro decided to only include recipes chosen by celebrities who are already dead, partly because he hopes his work will help people rediscover forgotten stars.
“I get very upset when people say ‘Oh, it was before my time’ or ‘I wasn’t born when it was on air.’ If Lady Gaga can know who Liberace is, so can you. It’s good to know what came before,” he said.
The other reason he focused on dead artists was because present-day celebrities barely ever talk about their favorite food.
“I think part of it was that people cooked at home. To be a home cook was something people were proud of, they knew they could connect with their fans that way,” said DeCaro.
“But I think also that when you have chefs who become celebrities, you don’t really need an actor to share his kitchen activity with us. The chefs themselves are the stars, now, when it comes to food, so you don’t really care what the cast of ‘Glee’ is cooking, which kind of makes me sad.”
Now, the reader can gorge on pianist Liberace’s sticky buns, Ann Miller’s “terrific” fettucini alfredo, and Hepburn’s brownies. “If you have an Oscar party, you will get an award for serving Katharine Hepburn’s brownies.
“They are the best brownies ever. There are not a ton of recipes out there from her, but the ones that are out there are really good,” he added.
And his least favorite celebrity recipe?
“Isabel Sanford’s Boston chicken,” he replied without hesitation, referring to the actress who played the mother in American sitcom “The Jeffersons” in the 1970s and early 80s.
“It’s chicken with Russian dressing, and apricot jam and onions, all at the same time. And I’m not convinced those three things should be mixed and put on a chicken.”