*Best known for his years as the flamboyant movie critic on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Frank DeCaro has written a book with wit and humor – packed with celebrity profiles and pop-culture ponderings, party menus, and more – The Dead Celebrity Cookbook pays homage to the departed stars of television, film, radio, and Broadway. The late *Michael Jackson’s Sweet Potato Pie menu is a standout in this book, as well as Redd Foxx’s Spaghetti Sauce menu.
*Scroll down for the Michael Jackson’s sweet potato pie recipe
If you’ve ever fantasized about feasting on Frank Sinatra’s Barbecued Lamb – taking a stab at Anthony Perkins’ Tuna Salad, or wrapping your lips around Rock Hudson’s Cannoli – and really, who hasn’t? – hold on to your mitts! The Dead Celebrity Cookbook puts the kitsch back into the kitchen with: Michael Jackson’s Sweet Potato Pie; Patrick Swayze’s Chicken Pot Pie; Mae West’s Fruit Compote; Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies; Yvonne DeCarlo’s Exotic Chicken Ecstasy; Sammy Davis Jr.’s Salad and Elizabeth Taylor’s Chicken with Avocados and Mushrooms. Just reading the book makes me hungry!
Filled with many anecdotes and background information on the stars themselves, DeCaro takes us on a humanistic trip with some of our long departed stars – that seems to breath life back into treasured memories that we had of them.
The most interesting anecdote and characterization in this wonderful book, revolves around the late comedian Redd Foxx, as the author states: “In the season-five episode of Sanford and Son, called Can You Chop This?, Fred (Redd Foxx) is watching The Cavorting Connoisseur (Cesare Danova) when he stumbles upon a get-rich-quick scheme: selling hand-cranked food processors called Whopper Choppers. He uses Lamont’s savings as seed money, buys 100 of the cheap devices, but can’t unload even one. That is, until he crashes the cooking program and shows the studio audience (and the cameras) just how awful the Whopper Choppers are. The manufacturer agrees to buy them all back on one condition: Fred can never try to sell a Whopper Chopper again.” For me personally, and I am a big Sanford and Son fan, DeCaro brought back a lot of memories.
Junkyard owner Fred Sanford – that’s S-A-N-F-O-R-D period, as he liked to say – was one of the funniest characters on television thanks to Redd Foxx. The man could turn finding a pair of glasses in a cluttered drawer into a sidesplitting bit of hilarity, and when he thought he was having a heart attack, forget it. “It’s the big one! Elizabeth, I’m coming to join you, honey!” he’d say to his wife as he looked to the heavens, and audiences would die laughing. Foxx polished his talent as a raunchy stand-up comrdian who influenced such modern day comedians as Chris Rock. Jamie Foxx, they say, chose his stage name as a tribute to Redd. Follow-ups to Sanford and Son and several films, among them Cotton Comes to Harlem and Norman…Is That You? didn’t amount to much of the mainstream, but it certainly resonated with me. He died making the series The Royal Family. It really was the big one that got him in the end. Redd is gone, but the best of his comedy albums are still available. His spaghetti sauce is what you make of it.
I am sure everyone’s favorite Dead Celebrity, along with their menus, can be found in this fascinating book – a book that I highly recommend.
BONUS: Michael Jackson’s Sweet Potato Pie Recipe
Michael Jackson 1958–2009
Before he was weird, he was adorable. But even at his strangest—dangling his baby off a balcony, sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber, befriending a chimp—Michael Jackson was one of the most talented performers who ever graced a stage. He had thirteen Grammys and twenty-six American Music Awards to prove he was a “Thriller” and then some. One just had to watch him glide through his signature “moonwalk” or hear him sing anything from “Ben” to “Billie Jean” to know Jackson was a one-of-a-kind cultural presence, the likes of which we’ll never see again. Heck, we even loved him as the scarecrow in the awful movie version of The Wiz, and that took some serious charm. He deservedly was called the King of Pop, but was he the King of Pie? You decide.
Michael Jackson’s Sweet Potato Pie
Beat eggs and sugar. Add melted butter, salt, milk, vanilla, and spices. Blend egg mixture with mashed sweet potatoes and lemon or orange juice. Pour into an unbaked pie shell. Garnish with pecan halves. Bake 10 minutes in a preheated 400° oven. Reduce oven temperature to 375° and bake 40 minutes longer or until golden.
As it turns out, Michael Jackson WAS the King of Pie. Even using canned sweet potatoes and omitting the pecans, his Sweet Potato Pie is a “Thriller.” Cover the crust with aluminum foil if it gets too brown before the filling is set. Although it’s not that “Bad” even if it does. Warm from the oven, you can’t “Beat it.” Okay, I’m done now. Oh, one more: “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough.”
½ cup sugar
¼ cup butter, melted
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground
2 tablespoons fresh lemon or orange juice
2½ cups mashed sweet
potatoes (canned or freshly cooked)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup pecan halves
1 unbaked pie shell
Dennis Moore is a member of the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild and the book review editor for SDWriteway, an online newsletter for writers in San Diego. He is also the author of a book about Chicago politics; The City That Works: Power, Politics and Corruption in Chicago. Mr. Moore can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.