the literary cook

0 Comments

 

cookingwithvincenta smallMaster of Hammer, Witchfinder General and the weak-chinned lover of the female protagonist in Otto Preminger’s original and magnificent film noir Laura (1944), actor Vincent Price informs our cultural consciousness.

But how many of us know that Price was the Master Chef of his time? A bon vivant and gourmand, Price not only loved to cook and entertain with his wife, Mary, but made several foodie-guest appearances on TV and radio shows from the 1960s to 80s, perhaps most famously on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show (21 November 1975), on which he poached fish in a Westinghouse dishwasher on a ‘regular cycle’.

Price also published two cookbooks A Treasury of Great Recipes (1965) and Come into the Kitchen (1965 and 1969, respectively; both with Mary Price), before being commissioned by British media network Thames Television to star in a 6-week, 30-minute cooking programme series.

Aired in 1971, Cooking Price-wise involved Price cooking his way around the world, producing delicious dishes from different countries in an albeit rather sad studio.

He explained the reason behind the series in the foreword to a spin-off TV tie-in book (cover; above right):

Hello, I’m Vincent Price.

‘…People always seem afraid of food from other countries – they’ll eat spaghetti, for instance, if it comes out of a tin, chopped up short and smothered in tomato sauce, but the real thing, no matter how available it is, is quite beyond them.… So, I was glad to accept the challenge when the producers of the series Cooking Price-Wise asked me to do the shows. The one condition was that all the ingredients in all the recipes must be readily available in any group of food shops of supermarket.

‘We spent hours arguing as to whether a particular item was available in the local shops – in fact, one of the producers even rang up a Bolton supermarket to ask whether they stocked tins of beanshoots. They did. We also found that soy sauce was available in Oban, Scotland.

‘…I must warn you, though, that some of the recipes come from a rather far-away place called Britain! Now, the people of this country have rather strange eating habits. Instead of washing their hands very thoroughly and eating with their clean fingers, they use what they call “Knives and Forks” – which they get from a drawer where they’ve been lying collecting dust for up to several days since being washed – these implements are not washed again before they’re used! However, I assure the squeamish among you that I have only chosen the cleanest recipes from this unfortunate land…”

 

‘Unfortunate land’ – us poor Brits always get slated for one thing or another! Although I am rather impressed that you could buy soy sauce in Oban in the early 70s.

In addition to food, Price was a keen advocate of good wine, particularly Californian wine, for which he was appointed ambassador in 1965. He also produced the LP Wine Is Elegance (in association with the California Wine Institute; Nelson Industries Records). Why vinyl, I wonder? Love to get my hands on a copy.

There are quite a few clips on YouTube relating to Price and his cooking passion, but we rather like the following short film (see below), featuring BFI curator Nathalie Morris and film archivist Jenny Hammerton as they try to recreate Vincent Price’s ghoulish goulash from the book.

Jenny writes the extremely entertaining blog, Silver Screen Suppers, The Wonderful World of Film Star Dining and Drinking. It features recipes from classic Hollywood stars, which Jenny tests.

 

See also: ‘Cooking lesson – Master of Hammer Vincent Price makes a “daring curry”

 

Vincent Price’s ghoulish goulash as recreated by Jenny Hammerton and Nathalie Morris: