Side Dish: Hollywood recipes

Southern Favorites with a Taste of Hollywood cookbook by Donna Douglas
Southern Favorites with a Taste of Hollywood cookbook by Donna Douglas

By Cheramie Sonnier

Television actress and Louisiana native Donna Douglas’ ardent fans will love her cookbook, “Southern Favorites With a Taste of Hollywood,” co-written with Javetta Saunders. But, serious cooks won’t be impressed with its recipe collection.

Douglas, who is from Pride in East Baton Rouge Parish, is best known for her portrayal of Elly May on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” the situation comedy originally broadcast on CBS from 1962 to 1971, which also starred Buddy Ebsen, Irene Ryan and Max Baer Jr.

In the book’s preface, Douglas writes that the character Elly May’s cooking skills were a constant joke, but in real life, Douglas learned to cook as a child helping her mother in the kitchen. She describes her mother as an “old-fashioned cook” who used “a pinch of this and a pinch of that.”

She also offers a few anecdotes about her work and friendships on “The Beverly Hillbillies” and 100 “helpful guidelines for proper dining etiquette that I learned at Hollywood’s School of Social Graces.”

Recipes are divided into a dozen chapters, beginning with appetizers and ending with pickles and relishes. A number of the books’ recipes are from actors and recording artists, including Ebsen, Baer, Pat Boone, Ruth Buzzi, Angie Dickinson, Phyliss Diller, Barbara Eden, Valerie Harper, Tina Louise, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Debbie Reynolds and Joanne Worley.

Many of the recipes seem to be family favorites popular in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s or that originated with food manufacturers, such as Copper Pennies, Strawberry Jell-O Dream Dessert, Watergate Pie and Millionaire Pie. They also apparently are printed exactly as submitted by the contributors since some recipes give can sizes, others do not; some use the term “oleo” instead of margarine; and at least one candy recipe calls for paraffin wax, which is no longer recommended as it’s not food safe.

The book includes lots of photos of Douglas today and in her Hollywood days, but the reproduction on many of them is poor quality. The book also lacks a proper index.

A co-worker who looked through the book called it “cheesy,” but perhaps that’s not such a bad description for a cookbook recalling a time when the country’s No. 1 television show was about a rags-to-riches family living in a house with “a cement pond.”

Cookbook signing

Julie Kay, who writes the What a Crock! column in The Advocate’s Food section, will autograph copies of her cookbook, “Slow Cookin’ in the Fast Lane,” at 1 p.m. Sunday at Barnes & Noble Perkins Rowe, 7707 Bluebonnet Blvd. in Baton Rouge.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s Food editor. Her email address is csonnier@theadvocate.com.