I Made the Strangest Recipe in Vincent Price’s Cookbook
While many stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood are forgotten today, everyone still knows Vincent Price. His distinctively mellifluous voice, Saturnine countenance, and campy style will always be linked to the horror genre. From the mad scientist in The Tingler to the high-style serial killer of the The Abominable Dr. Phibes to the lushly gothic series of films he did with Roger Corman based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe to his final role in Edward Scissorhands, Price was horror films.
But he was more than just a king of creepy movies. Vincent Price was a foodie before the term even existed, a lover of the kitchen who authored several cookbooks, including A Treasury of Great Recipes and Cooking Price-Wise, which was based on his television show.
Price came to cooking naturally. His grandfather invented one of the first cream of tartar-based baking powders, and his father was the president of the National Candy Company. As for Price himself, his film career was an opportunity to expand his palate in distant locations—as well as more local ones. While filming the screwball noir His Kind of Woman, Price would make gourmet picnics for his co-stars Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell, which they would eat on the set’s “beach.”
Published in 1971, Cooking Price-Wise contains wisdom like, “In the thirteenth century cheese was used as a substitute for cement in England, when the cheese got stale, that is. I don’t advocate keeping your cheese that long just to find out if it works.” Chapters on bacon, potatoes, and fish contain recipes that seemed exotic at the time. “People always seem afraid of food from other countries,” Price writes. He attempts to shake them out of their comfort zone with Fish Fillets Nord Zee, Moroccan Tajine [sic], and Biffes de Lomo Rellenos.
As I was scanning Cooking Price-Wise for a recipe to make, I saw two magic words—words that have been in many of my favorite dishes, but have never been put together before. I’m talking about bacon and mousse. Here is Vincent price’s recipe for bacon mousse:
½ lb. leftover bacon, finely chopped
4 tablespoons horse-radish sauce
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon gelatine
¼ pint cold water
¼ pint cream
Dissolve gelatine in the cold water. Heat for 10 minutes, add to cream and mayonnaise.Beat well together and add remaining ingredients. Mix and turn into moistened mould. You can vary this to taste—unmould onto lettuce hearts and cress.
This is a good way to use left-over boiled bacon in summer to serve with salad.
First of all, who boils bacon? Second, who has leftover bacon for more than a few hours? I fried up some bacon and drained it, dissolved the gelatine—the only step I had any concerns with because, gosh, pouring a teaspoon into water and watching it heat is hard. Then you just throw it all together as Price indicated and dump it into a mold.
Here’s where it gets interesting. I realized that, while I have two pairs of petit four tongs and three sets of silver and nine poison-themed cocktail glasses, I do not have a “mould.” Then I recalled that a friend had stored a bunch of burlesque memorabilia in my house, including a set of “T&A Dessert Molds.” Yes, jelly molds shaped like boobs and butts. I decided to go with the tits and poured in the mixture and set it to chill. Yes, the recipe leaves out the fact that you’re supposed to chill the mousse, otherwise it’s a sort of creamy bacon horseradish soup, which is all well and good, but not what you want.
After several hours and some struggle with a damp, warm towel, I managed to slide the mousse out of the mold. It looked like boobs with leprosy. Which might be appropriate for one of Price’s “plague” pictures, like Masque of the Red Death or Last Man on Earth, but not exactly what you want on your plate.
But what of the taste? Very spicy, very creamy, very bacon-y: In others words, this is some good bacon mousse. While Price recommends eating it with a salad, I found it to be an outstanding breakfast spread. On a toasted baguette or sourdough, better even on a bagel, the horseradish supplies a nice little wake-up kick alongside the breakfast bacon. I could also see it as an ingredient in an omelet.
In the book, Price explains that “It was the Romans who brought the idea of curing bacon to Britain. In fact, they had been salting flitches of bacon from about 200 B.C.” The man was an actor, art connoisseur, gourmet cook, and food historian, all in one.