I’ve been collecting cookbooks for years. This is rather odd, since I rarely cook. I’m foodie at heart (and, also at stomach), so cookbooks are my idea of a Disney fairy tale. All I need is a magic wand to conjure up a handsome prince, who also happens to be a(magic) chef! And Voila! Cook books inspire me to keep that dream going. Thus, I have a bookcase full of vintage cook books, mostly by and about artists, or from other countries. (Anybody know where to find a multi-lingual-painting-prince who can cook like Gordon Ramsay?)
On the other hand, there are certain vintage cookbooks I collect that are definitely not in the dreamy category. This is the case with Dinah Shore’s The Celebrity Cookbook, a far cry from Disney. Alas, no brilliant color photos to dream over. Published in 1966, the book is aged and worn, like a starlet who just couldn’t get a part. The dust jacket is tattered. There are a few stains, here and there. But, if you don’t or can’t cook like me, this book is dual-purpose. Not only does it contain quaint old-school recipes, it’s a great reference for autograph and entertainment collectors who avidly seek authentic signatures and ephemera. Illustrations aside, this book has a certain panache. Or should I say, “ganache.”
For starters, there’s Jacqueline Kennedy‘s recipe for Waffles and Bette Davis‘ Red Flannel Hash. Then, there’s Edith Head‘s Chicken Casa Ladera and Lucille Ball‘s Persimmon Cake. Each recipe was signed, when submitted to Dinah for inclusion in this book, and later printed in facsimile. So, with the help of this book, you can compare Sandy Koufax‘s signature to the one on the baseball you are thinking of buying. (Never mind his recipe: boiling water for coffee).
The other most charming fact about this book is that it features the home addresses of many late celebrities. Gene Kelly, the great dancing star, lived on North Rodeo Drive, presumably cooking up some Coq Au Vin in the kitchen. The great writer, Fannie Hurst, lived & cooked on West Sixty Seventh Street in New York. Dean Martin , who contributed Martin Burgers (plain hamburgers with a side of chilled bourbon), lived on Graciosa Drive in L.A. Not every famous person/politician’s address was included with their recipes, but enough of them to whet a paparazzi’s appetite (had they existed, back then).
So, yes, the 1960s were simpler and more idealistic. People shared. Not only their recipes, but their addresses. And, this book, with its personal details, is witness to that. And, like that.