Last month my wife and I were lucky enough to be invited to a small event in New York City, celebrating the life of the great film legend Vincent Price, hosted by his daughter, Victoria Price.

vincent sardis

Sardi’s portrait of Vincent Price

After a private screening and presentation courtesy of Ms. Price, we all went over to Sardi’s Restaurant to partake in the late actor’s favorite dishes from the iconic eatery. It was all part of the announcement that Vincent and his wife Mary’s long-out-of-print 1965 cookbook, A Treasury of Great Recipes, is finally seeing a reissue next year to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

And I have to say, it’s about time for this gem to get back to the masses.

My wife and I actually own this cookbook (signed as well!), along with he and Mary’s 1969 follow-up release Come into the Kitchen, his 1967 series five-volume series A National Treasury of Cookery (the titles of the books are: Recipes of Early America; of the Young Republic; of the Westward Empire; of Ante Bellum America; of Victorian America), the small companion to his 1971 UK cooking show of the same name, produced by the Thames network appropriately entitled, Cooking Price-wise (which retailed for only 30p!) -all co-authored by the husband and wife team- and lastly his 1977 series of cooking tutorials he recorded for preparation of various international cuisine, entitled Vincent Price’s Beverly Hills Cookbook. So to hear that 1965’s Treasury is getting a re-release, is great news for any Vincent Price or cooking fan for that matter.

Who knew that Treasury was ranked as the 9th most popular and sought after out-of-print book in the world (Madonna‘s SEX is ranked number one!), and because of the public demand, it will be available again in 2015.a treasury of recipes

If you are only familiar with Vincent Price’s image as an actor and more specifically his later years as a horror icon, please check out our earlier Podwits Profile concerning his other, lesser known but in some ways more prolific and profound loves: the visual arts and his prowess as a gourmet chef.

His affinity for cooking started long before he was even born into his already famous family. Mr. Price’s father, Vincent Leonard Price, founded the National Candy Company at the end of the 19th century, and his grand-father, Dr. Vincent Clarence Price, actually created the first commercially manufactured baking powder in the United States. Dr. Price was the first person to patent extracts and theirs was a household name in the 19th century. So one can see where you Vincent developed his palette.

Price majored in art history at Yale and abroad in London, and even though made acting his vocation, he readily used the latter as vehicle to pursue his passion for art. His future wife Mary was a Broadway costume designer, who worked on many Cole Porter musicals and others such as Oklahoma.

Mr. and Mrs. Price were ‘collectors of experiences‘ as Victoria described them, and traveled the world searching high and low for art to either supply their own private collection, or help expand the inventory of Sears & Roebuck through which the actor piloted a unique and since unheard of partnership with the retailer, which tried to promote and push art in the mass market, and make original pieces of art affordable to buy. Sears was going through a renaissance and had such celebrities as Sir Edmund Hillary as Sporting Goods Spokesman, Jackie Kennedy was the Social Secretary, Latrisha Baldwidge embassador of Household ware, Ted Williams as the Sporting Equipment guy, and reached out to Price for the Art Department. He did not like the art they already had, so wife Mary suggested he buy the art for Sears to sell. The company agreed, and the couple then went all over world and bought 20k pieces for Sears in the 1960’s.

So, you could buy a Pablo Picasso, a Salvator Dali, a James Abbott McNeill Whistler, a Louis Renard– on a your Sears credit card with a money back guarantee- how incredible is that?!

He credited art for getting him out of his native St. Louis and into the world, by giving him an interest to pursue. As he viewed it, art saved him from the upper-middle class society he would be destined to become apart of and instead gave him a life he loved. And acting came by mere chance but successfully helped him support, sustain and pursue his real passion (Victoria cited an example in his career, one of my personal favorites, the film The Last Man on Earth, adapted from Richard Matheson’s I am Legend. One of the major reasons he took that project was to be able to live in Rome for 9 months).

beverly hills cookbook

Vinent Price’s Beverly Hills Cookbook audio series

This passion for visual arts led him to bond with many fans who shared the same interests as him. And Price was such a great man, that he would buy local people’s artwork, give them tickets for when he was back in town, or send postcards of paintings to fans he thought they would like that he met through their mutual admiration for art. Later in life, this appreciation for the visual arts guided him on selfless journeys around the country and the world. Price lectured about the visual arts in 60 cities in 65 days for 30 years because he thought the topic was so important. He was on the Indian Arts and Craft Board of the Department of the Interior, which helped protect Indian art and culture, long before people like Marlon Brando made it cool. Some termed him a renaissance man, which Victoria joked was a “polite ephorism for ‘workaholic-multitasker’ “.

But this also helped he and Mary cultivate and participate in another mutual passion: food. While traveling all over the world, the Prices would also collect thousands of recipes and menus, from various restaurants around the globe. They both loved to travel. Vincent was a great conversationalist and a bit of a flirt in this regard, and would partake in a great meal at a fine five-star restaurant or hole-in-the-wall eatery (or just some hotdogs at a Dodgers baseball game). He would sweet talk his way into the kitchen and get a copy of the recipe that they would then replicate later back at home for dinner parties they hosted for their friends and family. Eventually, these recipes turned into the 1965 A Treasury of Recipes book. It summed up who they were; the cookbook was about collecting experience.

In celebration of the announcement of the reissue, we were treated by Victoria to an intimidate presentation of her father’s life narrated by her, using personal photos along with clips from his films and other rare videos to show her father in and out of the limelight to form the complete picture of not only the man who was the movie and stage actor, but the art lecturer, philamtrapolist, humanitarian, and friend. It was inspirational, and if there was one theme Victoria wanted you to take away from her show was that her father loved life, and thrived on educating himself and others on all forms of culture, and spread the joy of life, and his joy that he garnered from art and cooking in particular. For someone who is a legend and icon within a set genre, be it film or more specifically the horror genre, I find it incredibly fascinating what really interested and drove the great thespian.

Vincent Price on set of his English cooking show.

Vincent Price on set of his English cooking show.

What other enthralling tidbits did Victoria divulge? She’s not a horror fan- she practically didn’t see any of his frightening catalog until adulthood, perhaps she alludes to, because of a childhood incident where her mother took her to see her father on stage in the role of the iconic Captain Hook (How amazing would it be to see footage of that performance?!), and didn’t go so well; the very young Victoria burst into tears and wanted to know what had come of her father? So much so that Mary had to take her backstage during the intermission so she could see her father and show her that he was in fact still just her dad, in disguise. But we of course can see why his later horrifying roles would be off-putting for her.

Her favorite role from her father’s career? Otto Preminger‘s 1944 masterpiece, Laura. Also, a very little known fact, that her grandfather, Vincent’s father, was friend’s in high school with a man named Richard Welles, father of Orson, which years later the two young actors would speak and joke about.

But aside from all the compelling stories and antidotes about her Vincent Price, Victoria seemed to want to reinforce the theme of the evening, that her father embraced the joy of life, in which he selflessly pursued. This helped her in life and taught her learn how to be a better person because of him; something I myself can personally say people in this world need to learn. He LOVED life, and more people need to learn how to do that too. And now being dead for over 20 years, Vincent Price still transcends to this day. He still brings joy to the masses, no matter what the form.

Luckily, and thankfully, a new generation next year will be able to indulge in a new joy thanks the Prices and their book, A Treasury of Great Recipes.

Victoria Price and I

Victoria Price and I

 

Comments
  1. Tina says:

    WOW! How cool that you got to do all that. And to have a signed copy of A Treasury of Great Recipes….amazing!

  2. Dion says:

    Thanks Tina! You can find them pretty easily on Ebay. You might luck out and find an autographed one! 🙂

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