When first holding this cookbook, one might think it is a photo album. It must win the prize for the most unusual cookbook cover with its plush leatherette embossed with copper. It just feels like something special in your hands. And indeed it is. But then it hits you – Vincent Price, the “Merchant of Menace,” he of such horror films as The Pit and the Pendulum, House of Usher, The Masque of the Red Death, and The Raven writes gourmet cookbooks?? The man whose voice is so recognizable that you shiver a little just hearing him speak about anything? But rest assured, this is one amazing cookbook.
Vincent Price was born in St. Louis and attended Yale, studying art history and fine art. He and his second wife, Mary, donated hundreds of works of art and large amounts of money to East Los Angeles College in the early 1960’s in order to endow the Vincent and Mary Price Gallery. It was the first “teaching art collection” owned by a community college in the U.S. To this day, the collection of over 2,000 pieces continues to present world-class exhibitions, and remains one of the actor’s most enduring legacies. The Prices were known in the art world for their artistic and designing abilities, but in the world of Hollywood, they were known as highly skilled amateur chefs and connoisseurs of fine cooking, and everything associated with fine dining. But friends also said that Vincent appreciated a great hot dog, which meant when guests would be invited to their home, dinner could be anything from a ball park-style frank (he has 3 recipes in the book) to Coquille Maison.
This is one of the most enjoyable cookbooks just to read. It has endless wonderful stories about the people and places that Vincent and his wife loved, not to mention the most amazing recipes that you will keep as staples. The book is divided by countries- France, Italy, Holland, Scandinavia, England, Spain, Mexico, and the United States. Each of these chapters include photos and illustrations of the restaurant, food, and even the actual menus. Vincent and Mary would return from their visits and try to recreate meals for their family and friends geared toward American kitchens, making sure they were not too difficult and within the budget and skills of the average cook. They possessed such a generosity of spirit and good will, and truly wanted everyone to reap the bounty of their travels and good food. It is not even possible to list all the marvelous recipes in this book. If you love to cook and read about culinary pleasures, then find it at your library, or better yet, order it from a used book seller or keep your eye open for it at antique stores or book fairs.
Even though Vincent Price was the master of horror films, I always preferred him in movies such as Laura, Leave Her to Heaven, and Dragonwyck. My mom and I can watch Laura over and over and never tire of it. I would also say that we prefer Vincent’s crab cakes to his “brain cakes” from another of his cookbooks, but then again, that would be a recipe most would expect from the master of horror, served up as he twirled a villainous moustache and chose victims for lunch. But I prefer to think of him up to his elbows in flour, kneading his favorite herb bread for his next “victim.”
Cut and print! That’s a wrap!