As a classic film fan, there are so many beloved stars of the period that I adore seeing at work in many a film. Moreover, learning about their lives–on screen and off–has also been of high interest to me and to many other fans from generations past. Fan magazines of the time period and studio publicity departments worked to connect audiences with the larger-than-life performers they would see on the movie screen by crafting articles about their personal lives, interests, passions, and philanthropic work.
While audiences typically encountered their favorite stars on screen, various publications presented stars living their lives off-camera and enjoying leisurely activities such as spending time with their families, exercising, or even cooking a meal at home. Portrayals like these helped make film stars far more accessible to the American public, not to mention all the more relatable.
While I am no stranger to following some of these recipes–such as Katharine Hepburn’s brownies or Ginger Rogers’s fruit muffins–there are many that I have not yet attempted. In certain cases, there is a bit of experimentation needed. Some of these recipes need to be altered to include more specific instructions or even more modern conveniences. While I’ve had some misses, there have certainly been some hits along the way and I am always eager to see these recipes be demonstrated successes.
My friend, film historian and Hollywood Forever tour guide Karie Bible, has done far more than read and collect some of these intriguing recipes. In her live-streamed series, Hollywood Kitchen, Bible not only cooks and/or bakes the publicized recipes but she also invites various classic film experts to collaborate with her on this endeavor. These episodes recreate recipes and also serve to honor various film stars. Each episode of Hollywood Kitchen profiles a certain classic film star and his or her recipe. Bible prepares the recipe while also discussing the star’s life, career, and legacy.
I am delighted to share my interview with Bible here and discuss her experience with running this exciting series so far.
Annette: What inspired you to create Hollywood Kitchen?
Karie: About ten years ago a friend gave me a first edition copy of A Treasury of Great Recipes by Mary and Vincent Price. That started the ball rolling and after that I started collecting vintage movie star recipes and cookbooks. It is rather funny though, since I’m really not much of a cook! That said, the pandemic has really forced my hand and now I have to cook since I can’t go out as often as I used to.
Annette: How do you find recipes to use?
Karie: I pretty much have three big criteria:
- I try to select things I would actually eat! Some of these recipes are very questionable to say the least. So many of them involved TONS of butter, cream and there are lots of veal recipes, which I’m not willing to try.
- I also try to pick stars based on if I know authors / historians / collectors who could be special guests.
- I also have been trying to make recipes that don’t involve the oven. If I use the oven these days, it makes my entire apartment burning hot. We’ve been having a record-breaking heat wave in Los Angeles so cold items are much better at the moment.
Annette: Is there a recipe you’re particularly excited to try or are glad to already have accomplished?
Karie: Out of everything I’ve tried recently, I really enjoyed Ann Dvorak’s coffee mousse. It was very easy to make and a perfect summer treat.
Annette: Lately, you’ve been collaborating with other individuals in your episodes—namely individuals with a keen interest in a particular star who they have researched. Do you think that baking or cooking according to a star’s recipe teaches us more about him or her? If so, how?
Karie: It depends. I’m assuming that many of these stars didn’t have the time to cook, given that they worked very long hours six days a week. I have a lot of movie star cook books from the 1930s and 40s and, in many cases, the recipes are repeated in several different books and given to different stars. I sometimes wonder if these recipes were from the studio publicists or the people who actually cooked for the stars.
That said, some stars were known for their culinary skills like Vincent Price and Marlene Dietrich. I definitely think it gives us a window into their lives a bit. Naturally, Marlene’s recipes were VERY German and pretty straightforward, which makes perfect sense. Vincent Price’s cook book features recipes from his travels all over the world and really runs the gamut from high-end gourmet cuisine to his love of the hot dogs at Dodger Stadium. I went to an online lecture given by his daughter Victoria recently. She said he used to say, “If you limit your interests, you limit your life.” Vincent’s passions and interests were limitless and you certainly get that impression by his food alone. He was very sophisticated and his daughter said that he practiced making the same dish over and over again until he perfected it.
Annette: Sometimes, it can be tricky to recreate an older recipe in the present. Do you have any successful moments or not-so-successful moments in the kitchen that you’d like to share?
Karie: My attempt at making Ann Dvorak’s “Salad A La Jell” was a total disaster. I managed to mess it up TWICE and had nothing to show on the episode. I was upset at first and nearly canceled the shoot that day, but then I figured that I might as well laugh about it and embrace the fact that I’m not perfect…and Jell-O molds are MUCH harder than you would think.
The Valentino Spaghetti Sauce turned out surprisingly well. My friend ,Donna Hill, is a Valentino expert and an amazing cook! She really had the patience of a saint in helping me make that episode happen.
Annette: Do you have any words of wisdom for your viewers if they would like to cook or bake along with you?
Karie: I would say just make the recipe your own. There are usually ways to make things vegetarian or to alter them to suit your taste and/or health requirements. For my first episode I made Katharine Hepburn’s brownies. A guy emailed me and asked if he could put marijuana in the recipe. I don’t think Kate would never censor someone. I just said, “If that’s your thing, go for it!”
Annette: What does the future of Hollywood Kitchen look like? Do you have any exciting developments that you’d like to share or promote?
Karie: I’ve got a lot of ideas for more episodes and I’m trying to line up guests. It just seems more fun to have a special guest/expert involved. When the pandemic is over I hope to get back to my original idea of shooting these episodes in the person’s home and making it more like a classic Hollywood cooking demo/dinner party. Stay tuned!
Hollywood Kitchen episodes typically air live on Karie Bible’s Facebook page at 1pm PST. Episodes are posted on the Hollywood Kitchen YouTube channel.