Saturday, January 25, 2014

"Celebrity Recipes" - (Walt Disney's) Chili and Beans - celebrating the Hollywood movie and TV awards season

Date I made this recipe:  January 18, 2014 (Screen Actors Guild Awards)

Celebrity Recipes compiled by Helen Dunn
Published by:  Grayson Publishing Corp.
© 1958 (October, 1958)
Recipe:  Walt Disney's Chili and Beans – p. 54

Before we get into the gist of this recipe and this book, a word about the cover:  zzzzzzzzz.  Boring.  Really boring. (As was the recipe, but we'll get to that.)  I suspect the black and gold print on a cream page is supposed to convey elegance or "celebrity," but I must say, it's one of the most "vanilla" covers I've ever seen.  And as someone with over 1800 cookbooks, I've seen a lot.

I selected this cookbook to pay homage to the start of the Hollywood movie and TV award season, starting with the Golden Globes and ending with the big daddy of them all, The Oscars, in early March.  And you would think that a book titled Celebrity Recipes would feature all the Hollywood heavyweights that (some of us) know and love but it turned out that the name was a misnomer.

In 1958, the year this book was published, many more people than the Hollywood actors and actresses we've come to know, were considered celebrities.  In fact, the back of the book gives us a short list:  President Dwight D. Eisenhower (34th President of the U.S. just before Kennedy was elected); Her Majesty, Queen Frederica of Greece (Greece did away with its monarchy in 1967 after a military coup.); Prince Aly Kahn (who married Hollywood star, Rita Hayworth); J. Edgar Hoover (head of the FBI) and so on.  In other words, no Kardashians, no Miley Cyrus, no Real Housewives of [insert city name here], and no to anybody who is currently making a spectacle of herself/himself in Hollywood (and that field is wide open.  Wide.).  This book does contain recipes of some actors and actresses but they were people who were at the top echelon of  Hollywood back in its heyday like Arthur Godfrey, Rock Hudson or even the contributor of today's recipe, Walt Disney.

Before we get to Walt, let me just point out that I should have been included in this book.  It was published in October, 1958, and I was born that month and obviously would have merited a recipe mention or two had I not been just days old (celebrity newborns are rare).  As my dad would say:  "Story of my life:  a day late, and a dollar short."

Okay, on to Mr. Walt Disney.  When I was growing up, just about every significant movie of my childhood was produced by Disney Studios.  Walt Disney, former animator turned magnate ruled the world.  Here's just a small sampling of Disney movies:

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
  • Pinocchio (1940)
  • Fantasia (1940)
  • Dumbo (1941)
  • Bambi (1942)
  • Cinderella (1950)
  • Peter Pan (1953)
  • Lady and the Tramp (1955)
  • Old Yeller (1957)
  • Sleeping Beauty (1959)

And on and on and on.  And then in 1964, Disney produced Mary Poppins, one of my favorites, and wouldn't you know the (sanitized) story of how that movie was made is now a popular movie, Saving Mr. Banks.  I haven't seen this movie yet but it's the story of how Walt Disney worked with Mary Poppins' author, P.L. Travers, to create the memorable movie version, featuring a significant amount of animation, of Travers' book. Tom Hanks stars as Walt Disney and British actress, Emma Thompson, played P. (Pamela) L. Travers.  I've read that in real life, P.L. Travers was so angry about how the 1964 movie turned out that refused to have any other of her Mary Poppins books made into a movie.  So...all was not well in the Magic Kingdom.

And speaking of the Magic Kingdom, Walt was also instrumental in building Disneyland.  Until Disney World was built (1971), Disneyland (built in 1955) in Anaheim, California, was THE place to visit.  There was not a kid I knew growing up who wouldn't have killed to go there but alas, the cost of a trip to California was beyond most families' reach.  We were lucky to go there in 1973 and even though I was a bit older, it was still magical. 

One of the attractions at Disneyland that made me positively giddy was the "It's a Small World" ride.  That 1973 California visit was not the first time I saw "It's a Small World" as my parents took me through that ride at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair.  Thereafter, many relatives sent me "It's A Small World" dolls as birthday and Christmas presents; I just recently discovered that my mother had saved them all for me.  I want you to know that to this day, I can still sing along with the theme song: "It's a world of laughter, a world of tears, it's a world of hope, it's a world of fears, there's so much that we share, that it's time we're aware, it's a small world after all.... [EVERYBODY!] It's a small world after all....."

(Let me just say that one of the other rides I looked forward to the most, Autopia, where you got to drive your own little car on a track, provided insight into how my dad and I would do in a car for real when it came time for me to take Driver's Ed.  Hint:  not good!)

For that song alone – "It's a Small World" -  Walt Disney was a genius.  But alas, while his movies were outstanding and the idea for Disneyland and Disney World was genius, (and he even sponsored several Disney TV shows), this chili recipe fell short.  In fact, it is the only chili to date that I've ever made that had no flavor.  None.  And I'm puzzled as to why.

The basic recipe calls for three spices:  paprika, dry mustard and chili powder.  So I added them and tasted and....nothing.  I added salt and pepper (not called for in the recipe) and...still nothing.  Walt suggested that if I wanted a more spicy chili I could add other spices from an "optional" list so I did:  cumin, cinnamon, dry ginger and....oh for God's sake!  Still bland.

An even worse problem was the great abundance of liquid that turned this recipe more soupy than a stand-a-spoon-in-it thick chili and I'm not sure if that was the intent.  To start the recipe, you need to simmer the beans with onions in water and although I read and re-read the recipe, it never said to drain that water but drain I did!  I drained out a significant amount of liquid before adding all the additional "spicier" spices but by this time I think the recipe had just derailed and there was nothing I could do about it.  It wasn't bad chili, it just wasn't that great.  And what is more interesting is that Walt likely obtained the recipe for this chili while in Mexico!  Now granted, many people think that Mexican food is overly spicy and not all of it is, but I wouldn't have minded a tiny bit of tongue-singe here and there. 

The other critical thing you need to know about this recipe besides the fact that it (in my opinion) doesn't have much flavor, is that you must be prepared to devote hours to making it.  The beans have to soak overnight.  The next day, you are to simmer the beans for four hours, then make your sauce mixture and simmer than for an hour and then add that to the beans and simmer for one-half hour more.  Good thing I could dedicate a day to making this recipe because it took about that long.  I'm willing to bet that a master animator like Walt could get the illustrations done in far less time than it took me to make his chili!

Chili and Beans – serving size unknown but half a recipe still makes a lot!
2 pounds coarse ground beef
½ cup oil
2 onions, sliced
1 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dry mustard
2 lbs dry pink beans
1 large can solid pack tomatoes
1 tsp chili powder, or to taste

Soak beans over night in cold water. Drain.  Put in pot with water to cover, about 2 inches above beans and simmer with onions until tender – about four hours.  (Ann's Note:  unless you want really soupy chili and beans, drain most of the water).

For the sauce, brown the meat and garlic together in oil.  Add other ingredients and simmer for one hour.  When beans are tender, add sauce and simmer for one-half hour more.

For spicy Chili and Beans, add a pinch of:  coriander seeds, tumeric, chili seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cloves, cinnammon, dry ginger and a little yellow Mexican chili pepper.

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