Taste-testing Charlton Heston's Tuna Cheese Puff. Plus: other delicacies from Dining With David Wade
Each Monday, your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets around Los Angeles.
Dining With David Wade
Author: David Wade
Publisher: None listed; apparently, it's David Wade.
Discovered at: American Way Thrift Store, 3226 W. Magnolia, Burbank
The Recipes Include: Fresh Banana Refrigerator Pie; El Sombrero Corn Bread; Vealuscious; Lobster Tail Reginald Denny; Jet Prune Cake; Turkey-in-a-Sack
Of "Doves Epicurean":
"A dove dinner, cooked to a hunting man's epicurean taste, is a gourmet food concerto. After the partaking of these fine-feathered birds done to such intoxicating perfection, the sportsman can say with the epicure, 'Fate cannot harm me, for I have dined today.'"
Of "Chuck Wagon Beans, Ole!"
"And like those violent men of the West, this Chuck Wagon bean recipe is colorful, spicy, and hot, hot, hot!"
There he is, David Wade, The Hollywood Gourmet, the self-proclaimed Rembrandt of the Kitchen, the Texas-born syndicated TV food also-ran whose every utterance about food boasted more ham than even his String Beans Biscay.
On the cover he wields a royal tray of olive-speared canapés and is dressed, as always, right out of the Wide World of Sports maitre d' collection.
In the book, as on his TV shows and newspaper columns, Wade whips up macaroni salad with Mickey Mantle, Maverick Steak with James Garner, and recalls working over the Brown Derby staff until they reveal just how Gracie Allen prefers her brussel sprouts. (Two cups heavy cream; one cup parmesan.)
Here he is cooking Gregory Peck's Broiled Coffee Ham.
And here he is introducing a recipe in the style of Lolita:
"Ah, cheeseburgers. I have loved you, perhaps not wisely but too well. What to do? Give them up or go on growing. I analyzed my love. I found I could salvage meat, cheese, the entire fine flavor in another form. Goodbye, cheeseburgers. Hello, Cheeseburger Pie. Oh, perfect love, without fault or flaw."
And, regarding his
Fresh Broccoli Sicilian Style:
"I personally feel that any college in the country would give this recipe a master's degree of elegance."
There's something darling - maybe heartbreaking -- about Wade's pretensions to UHF elegance. While he never achieve the success of Julia Child or the Galloping Gourmet, Wade reminds us that in the era of post-war affluence, middle America aspired toward a sophistication entirely at odds with today's Wal-Mart anti-elitism.
Yes, that sophistication might have been cartoonish. And, yes, it might have called for you to dump entire cans of cheddar-cheese soup into your homemade recipes.
But the taste of the actual food notwithstanding, Wade's world beats the one where you can't run for office if you prefer arugula to iceberg.
Wade lived for creamy foods, cheesy celebs, and flights of language so over the top they can see your house from up there. Like a Love Boat with bacon drippings, Dining With David Wade offers guest appearances from Carol Lynley (of Under the Yum Yum Tree), Audie Murphy (of World War II and The Red Badge of Courage), George Maharis (of TV's Route 66), Jinx Falkenburg (Two Latins From Manhattan), and Jerry Lewis, who gives us "Bavarian Cream" with "one envelope unflavored gelatin," 6 tablespoons of sugar, and one cup of heavy cream.
Wade's taste for pomposity and dreck come to their fullest fruition with Charlton Heston's Cheese Tuna Puff.
Here Wade landed not just an A-list actor but Moses himself, which I guess makes eating this cheese puff the will of God.
The cruel Old Testament God, naturally.
Intrigued, your Crap Archivist recently gathered some friends, some courage, and a doublewide block of mild cheddar. After downing many beers, we dared to assemble the rare dish that's less humane than Soylent Green itself. Call it Heston's Revenge.
Like Christopher Hogwood conducting Handel, we aimed to be period appropriate. That meant bland cheese, no spices, a crust made from scratch, and tuna canned in oil.
Ever wondered what would happen if John Boehner melted?
As per Wade and Heston's instructions, we piled cheese atop egg-whites atop cheese atop tuna atop cheese atop cheese atop crust.
One friend called it "Moses' Shit Pie." Another, reading aloud from the recipe, hit the line "Salt and pepper to taste" and added, "Wait, I have to taste it?" (And to "Serve immediately," he added "Before your nerve fails.")
Here's the final product, accessorized a la Heston.
Time for a bite!
Your Crap Archivist found it hot, gooey, salty, and tasteless. It was something like blowing a stack of Velveeta through your nose, heating it up, and then scarfing it all back down.
Others hated it more than I did:
Amy: "Oh, I remember that fishy warmth from the first time I smelled cat puke."
JJSKCK: "I wish I could reanimate his soul and tell him kindly to fuck off. Who could ever have made this, smelled it, and then wanted to eat it? And this is the best version of it! It's been tested! How many times before this did they get this wrong? How many times was some guy like, 'No, no, I got it this time -- I'm adding some egg whites!' Or, 'I know it made everybody sick last year, but this time I got a quart of mild cheddar!'"
The four of us failed to get through a full slice.
Still, the next night, proud midwesterner Lora got a plateful down without trouble. "I don't like it," she said, "but if there was nothing else around I would have no problem eating this. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, this is what my family eats."
In fact, she took the cheese puff home to her parents. On New Year's Eve, she texted me:
"Everybody had seconds."
More of Wade's finest prose:
"Here's my interpretation, my blueprint, for a traditional Old World favorite. Beef Stroganoff. A recipe which will haunt your hungry moments for weeks to come."
"I find that sportsmen have a particular proclivity for Catfish Courtbouillon. As a matter of fact, this authoritative member of the seafood family is savored by all men; seems to be designed to provoke bravos from them when served at any gathering."
On "the meat and sauce wedding of flavors we call barbecue":
"Popular it has always been, but just perchance there breathed a man in the world who had not heard of this Western taste experience, he has now been informed via the communications media from the LBJ Ranch Fiestas where the great, the near-great, and the soon-to-be-great have been most graciously entertained in true Western style."
Further Reading: Bill Gibron stares down the mystery of David Wade on Popmatters.
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