Vincent Price's Bran Fudge Squares
In honor of Vincentennial, the one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of the actor Vincent Price, Gut Check decided to honor Price by cooking something.
Price, you see, was a noted gourmand. In 1965, he and his second wife Mary collaborated on a cookbook, A Treasury of Great Recipes, which collected recipes wheedled from the chefs at some of the world's most notable restaurants. It's a pretty good time capsule of what foodies were eating in the mid-60s -- and it's also a bit shocking to realize that back then, you could get a three-pound lobster for less than ten bucks. This from a fine restaurant mind you, not some random food-poisoning palace.
Gut Check got our hands on A Treasury of Great Recipes and also Cooking Price-Wise, the companion volume to the cooking show Price hosted on British TV in 1971. (Alas, clips from it are hard to come by, but Price got to demonstrate some of his kitchen skills in the 1972 movie Theatre of Blood. He cracked an egg one-handed, and then beat it in a bowl tucked under his arm. Well, Gut Check was impressed.)
Aimee Levitt Gut Check's new Price...er, prize acquisition.
But something about the recipes in those books didn't sit right with us. It's true St. Louis has never been known as a foodie mecca, but would it have killed Price to include one homegrown recipe? Fortunately, over at the Ladue campus of St. Louis Country Day, Price's alma mater, there's a stack of scrapbooks assembled by a former headmaster, Robert H. B. Thompson, and inside one of them is a newspaper clipping from the Globe-Democrat from sometime in the 1940s or 50s that bears the headline "Big Crowd at Finale of Cooking School: 12,000 See Vincent Price, Screen Star, in Frilly Apron and a Chef's Cap." Below it was the subhead "Price's Concoction" and a recipe.
Immediately, we knew this was exactly what we had been looking for.
Country Day archivist Cliff Saxton graciously Xeroxed the article for us (and put up with our repeated exclamations of "This is so awesome!"). It was only after we got back to the office and bothered to read the recipe and realized it was for bran fudge.
But it was too late. We were committed.
The article commemorates the "grand climax" of the Globe-Democrat Cooking and Home Making School led by Jessie Marie De Both, whose big gimmick was to force a "prominent man" to serve as her demonstrator before a big crowd at Washington University's field house. (Remember, this was about 50 years before the rise of the Food Network, which made it acceptable for men to cook in public.)
Price accepted the honor with characteristic good humor. "It's fun, really," he told the crowd at the conclusion of the demonstration. "I had little idea that cooking could be so simple or so enjoyable."
Could this have been the beginning of Price's fabled cooking career?