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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Recipes for Life: My Memories by Linda Evans

Recipes for Life: My Memories by Linda Evans
Published by Vanguard Press, ISBN 978-1593156430
Hardcover, $24.99
Publication date: October 11, 2011

Hollywood memoirs are a dime a dozen, some salacious, some introspective. Linda Evans, who has been on the radar since her days as ingenue Audra Barkley on TV's The Big Valley in the 1960's, has written a unique memoir titled Recipes for Life: My Memories, that incorporates her love of cooking with her tales of living and working in Hollywood.

I was a big fan of The Big Valley and later Dynasty, which was a monster hit in the 1980s, and always thought that Evans was not only beautiful but also talented. This delightful book has fifty recipes interspersed throughout the book, along with many photos and memories.

She begins the book with her childhood, and includes a fantastic photo of her parents who were professional ballroom dancers in the early 1940s. When times were tough, her mother made Hot Dog Stew, the first recipe in the book. (It's actually two recipes, as she shares her version and her sister's version.)

Evans' memories of her co-star Barbara Stanwyck enthralled me, as I am a fan. Stanwyck was a big star, and she gave much advice to the young Evans during their Big Valley days, in her inimitable way, as only she could do. Evans shares a recipe she created called Missy's Hobo Fillet, based on Chasen's Hobo Steak, a Stanwyck favorite. I'm definitely going to try this one.

John Derek was Evans' first big love, and she was devastated when he left her for 15 year-old Mary Cathleen Collins, soon to be known to the world as Bo Derek. Evans had many romances after that, and they are recounted here with stories and photos, along with recipes from parties she hosted and attended. There are many recipes from friends; whenever she ate something she liked, Evans always asked for the recipes, including three from John Wayne himself.

She shares memories of famous friends and colleagues, like Steve McQueen, Richard Burton, and a long time friendship with David Janssen of TV's The Fugitive, along with wonderful spontaneous photos of them at parties.

Evans' made a lifelong friend, Bunky, who eventually became her assistant and traveled with her on jobs around the world. Bunky is quite a character, and brought out the silly side in the usually reticent Evans.

One of the unique things that I remember about Evans is her friendship with John Derek's ex-wives. Ursula Andress, Bo Derek, first wife Pati and her daughter Sean, and Evans all became good friends, and spent a lot of time together, even celebrating his birthday all together.

The Dynasty days are covered, and Evans and screen hubby John Forsythe became good friends. Evans spent a lot of time with John and his wife, dining and vacationing together. She does address the Rock Hudson issue. He was guesting on Dynasty as a love interest for Evans, and was reticent to kiss her in a big scene. Soon she found out it was because he had AIDS. Reading her recollection of the story illuminates the feelings of that not-so-long-ago era.

This is a terrific way to write a memoir; Evans loves to cook (she even finished first on Hell's Kitchen, a London TV cooking competition show) and so wrapping her memories around recipes and fabulous  photos is a natural.  She shares her own recipes, and recipes of famous chefs like Julia Child and Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten, and many of them sound mouthwateringly delicious. The book is so beautiful, I will have to take care when using it in the kitchen; I don't want to get anything on the pages!

Recipes for Life is a great gift for anyone who loves Linda Evans, as well as anyone who enjoys cooking. Some of the recipes are definitely challenging, but there are some simpler ones in there as well. It reminds me of Paula Deen's autobiography from a few years back- a fascinating life remembered in recipes.

rating 4 of 5

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