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Movie-themed cookbook deserves Oscar for originality.

Byline: Jim Boyd The Register-Guard

Francine Segan, the food historian and cookbook writer who gave us `Shakespeare's Kitchen,' has just published the perfect cookbook for Academy Awards week.

Actually, her new paperback cookbook, `Movie Menus: Recipes for Perfect Meals with Your Favorite Films' (Villard Books, $16.95), is really three books in one.

First, it's a cookbook with authentic recipes from the cultures and eras portrayed in popular Hollywood and foreign films. Many of the recipes are from historic cookbooks but modernized by the author for contemporary tastes. The bibliography near the end of the cookbook lists 62 sources, starting with a contemporary translation of `Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome' by Apicus and ending with `Thrifty Cooking in Wartime,' published in 1942.

Second, it's a compendium of movie trivia juxtaposed with the recipes.

For example, in the first chapter - which has the Hollywood epics inspired by the Bible and ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome as its theme - the reader learns at the bottom of the recipe for Chickpea Dip that `Telly Savalas first shaved his head to play Pontius Pilate in `The Greatest Story Every Told.' He liked it so much that he kept it that way for the rest of his career.'

At the top of the Chickpea Dip recipe, there's a quote (`Truly, this man was the son of God.') that John Wayne uttered in the 1965 epic.

The recipe's headnote explains, `This is John Wayne's only line in the movie `The Greatest Story Ever Told.' According to Hollywood legend, the Duke kept delivering the line stiffly, so after several failed readings, the director pleaded with him to try it once more `with awe.' On the next take, Wayne supposedly said, `Aw, truly this man was the son of God.'

"Chickpeas, eaten for centuries," the headnote continues, "make a deliciously creamy and healthy dip for veggies or corn chips. Once you try this, you'll never go back to store-bought. Truly."

Third, "Movie Menus" is a manual for throwing movie-theme parties.

The "Lights, Camera, Action!" segment at the end of each chapter offers suggestions for a toga party with a finger-food buffet, a medieval feast, an Elizabethan banquet, an all-American picnic, a ranch house roundup supper, a Victorian tea and dessert party, a comfort foods potluck supper, a speakeasy party, a candlelit supper for two, and a family movie night with foods that can be passed around in popcorn bowls. Segan also includes a list of suggested movies to watch on video for each of the 10 themes.

To say the least, Segan's cookbook deserves an Oscar for originality.

The cookbook contains more than 100 recipes, but one called Woolworth Special in "The War Years" chapter caught my eye. It's not because the recipe is particularly typical of the others in the cookbook but because I'm the son of an F.W. Woolworth Co. manager and I can remember when, as a small child, the ringing of the mission bells marking the end of World War II saved me from a threatened spanking at my dad's store in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Segan's headnote says, `This recipe comes from `Parties for Pennies,' a 1942 cookbook by Nancy Webb that boasted ways for `bank-accountless' civilians to entertain `soldier and sailor friends on leave.' The dish was named after the now-defunct five-and-ten store chain Woolworth's, which served inexpensive, lunch-counter meals. This satisfying, one-pot meal is a snap to make, and kids love it.'

One movie factoid on the page with the Woolworth Special recipe tells the reader, "During World War II, the Academy made the Oscars out of plaster instead of bronze, as a symbolic gesture of support for the war. After the war, the Academy replaced the winners' plaster Oscars with more permanent metal ones."

Woolworth Special

1 purple onion, diced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound ground beef

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 red bell pepper, diced

3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (about 10 ounces)

12 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated

1 cup corn kernels

1 can (10 ounces) condensed tomato soup

1/2 cup light cream

1 pound dried macaroni, such as ziti or fusilli

Red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

Saute the onion in olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until softened, about 4 minutes. Add beef and garlic and continue cooking until the beef is browned, about 5 minutes. Add bell pepper and mushrooms and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add Cheddar cheese, corn and tomato soup and simmer until the cheese is melted. Remove pan from the heat and stir in the cream.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni according to package directions until al dente. Drain.

Serve the macaroni with the sauce poured over the top. Season to taste with red pepper flakes and salt and pepper.
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Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Recipe
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 25, 2004
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