It’s time to shatter an image. Alice, the incredibly efficient housekeeper who served three meals a day and passed out bulging lunch sacks to the Brady family each morning, can’t cook her way out of a paper bag.
In episode after episode of “The Brady Bunch,” actress Ann B. Davis labored to prepare everything from holiday turkeys to hamburgers and meatloaf for “a lovely lady who was bringing up three very lovely girls” and “a man named Brady who was busy with three boys of his own.”
But when she looked like she was cooking, the most she was doing was adding salt and pepper to some ready-made Dinty Moore beef stew. More often, she was simply stirring a pot of boiling water with her “prop” wooden spoon.
One afternoon, when she was doing a little method acting to get into Alice’s role, Davis was taking a pot roast out of an oven that wasn’t on.
“The roast had been prepared at 5 a.m. that morning,” she says. “When I realized I did not have a mitten on one of my hands, instead of reacting naturally since the metal pan was cold, I let out a scream like I was about to be burned and dropped the roast, pan and all. As they mopped up the mess, I realized too much realism could be an untidy thing.”
Adds Davis: “Personally, I can’t cook. Well, I don’t cook - maybe a steak or a chop - but nothing that merits me giving any advice whatsoever, with the exception, of course, of my secret recipe for Beef Jerky, which somebody gave me eons ago.”
Such revelations are shocking, considering the actress has just written “Alice’s Brady Bunch Cookbook” (Rutledge Hill Press).
No one should expect the news to create a culinary tempest in a stockpot, however. The actress, Ann, and the character, Alice, are too universally loved by two generations of Americans to be skewered by them.
Gauging from the success of the original series, the reruns on Nick at Night, “The Brady Bunch” specials, books about the show and the popularity of “The Brady Bunch Movie,” fans are apparently as devoted to the Bradys as “Trekkies” are to “Star Trek.”
Davis solicited recipes from the cast members for the “Personal Favorites” chapter of the cookbook, but relied on two other writers to supply recipes for the kinds of foods the Bradys might have eaten.
The actress stirred in her thoughts about the series that has been in perpetual reruns ever since original episodes stopped being made in 1974.
The book, brimming with anecdotes, trivia quizzes and photos of the actors and scenes from episodes, surely will become a keepsake for all who loved the wrinkle-free series that drip-dried and never faded.
A sample of food dialogue from the show:
Carol: “Alice, you can put the hamburgers on any time you’re ready.”
Alice: “All right, Mrs. Brady. That’s rare for you and Mr. Brady. Medium rare for Jan and Peter. Well-done for Marcia. It could be a lot simpler if I just pounded this whole thing together into a meat loaf.”
The “Personal Favorites” chapter contains enough recipes to provide culinary accompaniments - homemade TV dinners to a fair number of episodes.
Readers will find Davis’ One and Only Beef Jerky, Florence Henderson’s (Carol Brady) Divine Stuffed Rigatoni and Chicken Oregano and the late Robert Reed’s (Mike Brady) Chicken Rosemary Cajun and Pumpkin Chiffon Pie.
Christopher Knight (Peter) contributed Rigatoni with Broccoli and Chicken. Susan Olsen (Cindy) sent South of the Border Beef Filet and Easy Pot Roast recipes.
Mike Lookinland (Bobby), apparently one of the most avid cooks in the cast, offered Mike’s Scintillating Chili, Spaghetti Sauce, Clam Chowder and Dreamy Chocolate Cheesecake.
Williams (Greg) sent recipes for Yogurt Chicken and his Showstopper Zucchini and Swiss Cheese Pie. Maureen McCormick (Marcia) provided Chicken a l’Orange and Fabulous Meatballs.
Co-author Ron Newcomer, a playwright and author of nonfiction books and screenplays, rewatched 92 of the show’s 117 episodes to prepare the trivia questions and the dialogue segments for the book. He and his wife, Diane Smolen, selected the rest of the recipes to go into the cookbook.
The pair aren’t food experts. They got the job doing the cookbook because their agent was Davis’ agent and because they also knew Sherwood Schwartz, who was the creator of “The Brady Bunch.”
To fill the book, they added catchy names to the dishes they cooked for their own family as well as recipes they solicited from friends.
“We tried to pick the kinds of foods the Bradys would have eaten. We made sure we used pot roast, pork chops, mashed potatoes, applesauce and turkey,” Newcomer said.
Here are some really groovy recipes from “Alice’s Brady Bunch Cookbook.”
Ann B’s One and Only Beef Jerky
Worcestershire sauce (not much)
Ground red pepper (optional)
Garlic salt (optional)
Coarse ground pepper (optional)
Tabasco sauce (optional)
Smoke flavoring (optional)
Smashed dried onions (optional)
Cumin (optional, a little goes a long way)
Anything else that occurs to you
Cut off all the fat from the beef (fat will not dry). Slice into manageably sized pieces. Arrange the beef strips in a shallow dish.
In a bowl combine one part soy sauce and two parts lemon juice in a quantity great enough to cover the beef strips. Add any or all of the remaining ingredients that appeal to you. Pour the marinade over the beef.
Drain. Spread the beef out on aluminum foil and put in an oven that has a gas pilot. Don’t light the oven. After three or four days it will be black and ugly and taste wonderful.
Florence’s Chicken Oregano
4 boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup butter (or olive oil)
1 teaspoon leaf oregano
Pepper to taste
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 16-ounce box spaghetti
1 tablespoon oil
Arrange the chicken in a baking pan. Dot with 3 tablespoons of butter and sprinkle with some of the oregano and the garlic powder. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour. Add the mushrooms for the last 10 minutes of baking.
Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions, adding 1 tablespoon of oil to the water. Drain.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup of Parmesan, a little more of the oregano, and pepper on the bottom of a platter. Place the spaghetti on top of the spices on the platter. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese, the remaining oregano and pepper over the spaghetti.
Melt 5 tablespoons of butter and pour it over the noodles. Place the chicken and mushrooms over the noodles and serve.
Yield: 4 servings.
Mike’s Clam Chowder
3/4 cup melted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup diced potatoes
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onions
1 cup diced green bell peppers
1 cup diced leeks
3/4 cup chopped clams
3/4 tablespoon pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
6 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
3/4 cup sherry
2 cups water
3/4 cup clam juice
3/4 tablespoon whole thyme
2 quarts half and half
Combine the melted butter and flour in an ovenproof container. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the half and half. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked. Blend the butter and flour mixture into the chowder and cook until thick, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the half and half. Heat to serving temperature.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
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