Hollywood historian and author Laurie Jacobson admits her new book, “TV Dinners: Classic TV Kid Stars Dish Up Favorite Recipes with a Side of Memories,” was just plain fun to research and write.
“It was also very personal because I knew most of the people featured,” said Jacobson from her home in Northern California.
The 232-page book published by Micro Publishing Media (micropublishingmedia.com) features biographies, interviews and favorite recipes of beloved TV child actors from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s including Jerry Mathers (Beaver in “Leave It to Beaver”), Butch Patrick (Eddie in “The Munsters”), Kristy McNichol (Buddy in “Family”) and dozens more.
Married to actor Jon Provost (Timmy in “Lassie”), Jacobson says the couple began hanging out with other former TV child actors through autograph shows and entertainment events over the years and friendships developed within the group.
“As kids, they worked and didn’t socialize much with their peers, but later became closer and interested in learning about each other’s experience as child actors,” she said. “We all loved food, too, so I asked them for a favorite childhood recipe as well as one from their adult years.”
Jacobson says everyone she approached for recipes eagerly contributed since a portion of the book sales will go to A Minor Consideration, “an organization devoted to the rights and well-being of working kids” (see www.aminorconsideration.org).
The book dishes up a generous serving of nostalgia for classic TV fans.
“And it truly is ‘TV Dinners,’” said Jacobson, referring to the book’s title. “Many of us grew up with one television set, which the family would gather around during supper watching series like ‘Dennis the Menace,’ ‘The Munsters’ or ‘The Donna Reed Show.’ Reading the recipes and the stories behind them leaves you with that warm, fuzzy feeling of getting to know those actors who were like the audience’s extended family.”
Recipes include pickled cucumbers from Kathy Garver (Sissy in “Family Affair”), originally prepared by her Austrian grandmother. Jeanne Russell (Margaret in “Dennis the Menace”) shares her mother’s recipe for Southern fried chicken prepared in a paper bag, while Jerry Mathers (Beaver) takes a healthier approach with his non-fried fried chicken (recipe in sidebar), a dietary requirement after he developed diabetes.
The Cartwright sisters, Angela (Penny in “Lost in Space”) and Veronica (Jemima in “Daniel Boone”) highlight their British heritage with recipes for shepherd’s pie and baked custard.
Several childhood food memories are particularly endearing such as "Munsters" star Butch Patrick’s tacos.
“He remembers waiting for his father to come home on Wednesday nights when his mother made tacos and the family watched ‘The Flintstones’ together,” Jacobson recalled. “He knew when his dad arrived home because the front of his Cadillac would always hit the back of the garage!”
Recipes from Patty Duke and Annette Funicello are also included, although the author never knew the actresses personally. Duke died in 2016 and Funicello six years earlier after a long battle with multiple sclerosis.
“I got Patty’s recipes from an old cookbook from the ’60s and Annette’s from a website,” explained Jacobson. “I had to include Annette in the book because she was really the queen of kid stars for young girls in the ’50s and ’60s.”
The book is also filled with dozens of photos of the actors as both kids and adults.
“Many are from my personal scrapbook,” said Jacobson. “These former child actors are still close, still friends and still getting together. It is something unique to this first generation of TV kid stars, and the fans who continue to love them are delighted to see that.”
For more on Jacobson, visit lauriejacobson.com.