As I was wandering about looking for Nancy’s favourite aspic recipes I got sucked into reading more of her celebrity memoirs.
For me, it is these which lift this book out of the ordinary and turn it into a thing of magnificence.
Who would not be thrilled by a picture of Harry Secombe tossing a pancake in a comedy chef costume? It takes a stronger woman than me to say no to this kind of quality product.
I could not resist a few more anecdotes of Nancy with the stars.
Here is Nancy, mixing the mundane world of the potato with the heady heights of celebrity:
‘The trouble with potatoes (in England that is) is that nobody seems to know how to boil them. Particularly in grand restaurants…And although Peter Finch once told me that he’d trained exclusively on potatoes and whisky to get his normally ascetic cheekbones to the right state of soggy unfitness for the part of Oscar Wilde, you must truly believe it was the whisky that held the calories, not the spuds.’
Here is Lena Horne, one of Nancy’s besties:
This accompanies Nancy’s recipe for chilli con carne, which you may remember is Lena’s favourite dish.
Even though they are friends, as with La Dietrich, Nancy is a bit ambivalent:
‘I’ve never quite got her recipe because she goes on for days preparing it all and she isn’t all that communicative when she’s cooking. I’m not a very patient cook though, and my quick version can be jolly hot stuff.’
So, stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Lena.
Miss Dietrich makes a resurgence in the pudding section after having been roundly lambasted for trying to pass off Lancashire Hot Pot as her own invention.
Underneath a very disturbing picture of poached pears which seem to be resting in a dish of dry ice:
She speaks of puddings:
‘So far as sweets or ‘afters’ go, I have always been a Pudding Girl. Baked Jam Roll, Marmalade Pud, Spotted Dog: these are genuinely my favourites and I would go miles to eat them. Curiously enough Marlene Dietrich shares my views. We got to know each other over a Spotted Dog. She told me that the chefs of the big hotels in London, Paris and New York were ‘too snooty’ to make Spotted Dog. So we had one made for her, had it wrapped in cellophane and delivered.’
My mental image of Marlene is getting richer and more peculiar by the day as I imagine her with a broad Yorkshire accent, tucking into her hot pot and spotted dog, and growing prize winning rhubarb.
Despite her waspishness about other celebrities, Nancy hasn’t got a mean word to say about Harry Secombe. He is obviously very much the favourite in the court of Nancy. Here they are whooping it up a deux.
And finally, really finally this time, I leave you with this picture:
This is the enchanting Finnish woman in her national costume that Nancy was trying to seduce over some smoked sprats. See how her hand is positioned to receive the sprats?