The Play of Cooking

Jeffrey Reynolds, B.H. Barry, George Devorsky, Clent Bowers and (in front) David Garrison in the Hartman Theatre production of The Three Musketeers.
Jeffrey Reynolds, B.H. Barry, George Devorsky, Clent Bowers and (in front, as D’Artagnan) David Garrison in an old Hartman Theatre production of The Three Musketeers.

The church which my family has attended for the last eight years or so, United Church on the Green, is having a “Celebrate the Fall” festival this weekend (Friday from noon to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Largely, it’s a tag sale, and my role today was to help organize the cookbooks. No other types of used books were solicited for the sale, just cookbooks. And wouldn’t you know that I found a rare theater book among them.

The Hartman Theatre Cookbook is one of those cheapo spiral-bound volumes put together as  fundraising opportunities for non-profits. You collect recipes, send them to a publisher who specializes in these things, and they package your original material with a few dozen filler pages of weights & measurements, broiling tips, calorie-counting tables and “ways to use leftovers.” The United Church on the Green tag sale has a whole box full of such books to sort through.

The Hartman Theatre was a professional regional theater company based in Stamford, Connecticut. It existed for twelve seasons, and closed in 1987 after the subscriber base had shrunk to a mere 5,400 (!). This cookbook came out in 1977, when the Hartman was just a couple years old.

So who contributed recipes to this worthy project? Who didn’t?!

• Luci Arnaz (“Wendy Mukai’s Cherry-Pineapple Cobbler”; Arnaz notes that Mukai is “the lady who taught me to hula”)

• Bob Balaban (“Stuffed Cabbage”)

• Martin Balsam (“Chicken Asparagus Casserole”)

• Joan Bennett (“Chicken Kiev”)

• Pat Boone (“Chili,” and a few pages later, “Meatloaf”)

• Victor Borge (“Victor Borge’s Recipe for Rock Cornish Hens”)

• Carol Channing (“Hello Dolly Cookies”)

• Sandy Dennis (“Vegetable Soup”)

• Mildred Dunnock (“F. Riecken’s Spinach Loaf”; F. Riecken is described as “a fine potter”)

• Nanette Fabray (“Cream Cheese Cookies”)

• Margaret Hamilton (“Ice Cream Pie”)

• June Havoc (“Pollo Con Olive Alla Havoc”)

• Helen Hayes (“Corn Pudding”)

• Eileen Heckart (“Brazilian Rice”)

• Marybeth Hurt (“Papagetti”)

• Anne Jackson “Easy Recipe for Travelers,” basically kidney beans and cheese)

• Cloris Leachman (“Bailor’s Broth” and, uh, “Applesauce”)

• Guy Lombardo (“Lobster Lombardo”)

• Lucille Lortel (“Cottage Cheese Omelette”)

• Shirley Maclaine (“Fruit Salad”)

• Ross Martin from TV’s Wild Wild West (“Creamed Schnitzel a la Martin”)

• Dina Merrill (“Pheasant with Pecan Stuffing”)

• Helen Merrill, the literary agent (“Lemon Mousse”)

• Jan Miner (“Oatmeal Bread”)

• Paul Newman (“Pork ‘n’ Beer Stew”)

• Maureen O’Sullivan (“Non-Cooker’s Chicken,” then “Non-Cooker’s Dessert”)

• Betsy Palmer (“Strawberries BP”)

• Estelle Parsons (“Walnut Torte”)

• Harold Prince (“Sopa Mallorquin”)

• Tony Randall (“Pancakes”)

• Lynn Redgrave (“Zucchini Lynnini”)

• Rex Reed (“Rex Reed’s Shrimp Gumbo”)

• Cliff Robertson (“Fillet of Beef with Fried Bananas”)

• Jerry Stiller & Anne Meara (“Spinach & Tuna Casserole”)

• Milan Stitt, whose biggest hit The Runner Stumbles was a Hartman Theatre Company world premiere (“Erna Prindle’s Mince Muffins”)

• Joanne Woodward (“Southern Fried Chicken with Cream Gravy”)

…to name a few. Many of the recipes come from Hartman Theatre staffers. Several, including “Candied Sweet Potatoes a la Hemlock,” are from the theater’s co-founders Del and Margot Tenney. A lot of the stars represented in the cookbook had homes, not to mention kitchens, here in Connecticut.

The Long Wharf Theatre put out a similar cookbook fundraising item in the 1970s. Surprising that the burgeoning regional theater movement wasn’t mistaken for dinner theater. Come to think of it, the Yale Summer Cabaret, which does serve dinner before its shows, put out a cookbook in 1996.

Which reminds me—another aspect of our church festival this weekend is a bake sale.

Roy Brocksmith as Partridge and James Naughton as Tom Jones in a musical version of Tom Jones decades ago at the Hartman Theatre Company in Stamford.