The Recipes of Famous Artists: Dinners & Cocktails From Tolstoy, Miles Davis, Marilyn Monroe, David Lynch & Many More

Celebri­ties (those who are not pro­fes­sion­al celebri­ty chefs, that is) release cook­books at an alarm­ing rate. Do we imag­ine most of their recipes were actu­al­ly curat­ed by the per­son on the cov­er? Do we sup­pose that per­son has spent the count­less hours in the kitchen required to become an author­i­ty on what the rest of us should eat? As in all things, it depends.

Stan­ley Tuc­ci seems to have more than proven his met­tle, releas­ing two well-loved cook­books and earn­ing praise from Mario Batali. But I’d also take a chance on Snoop Dogg’s From Crook to Cook, which includes 50 of his own recipes, such as “baked mac and cheese and fried Bologna sand­wich­es with chips.” How could you go wrong?

Many a celebri­ty cook­book aims for the fine-din­ing approach famous peo­ple are used to get­ting from per­son­al chefs. But Snoop joins a long tra­di­tion of artists whose sig­na­ture dish­es are every­day com­fort foods and hol­i­day favorites. What­ev­er else he and Leo Tol­stoy might find to talk about, for exam­ple (use your imag­i­na­tion), they would sure­ly swap mac and cheese recipes.

Tolstoy’s recipe for mac and cheese is made on the stove­top, not baked, but it sounds deli­cious all the same, with its lay­ers of Parme­san cheese. Far more com­plex meals, fit for Russ­ian aris­to­crats, appear in The Cook­book, a col­lec­tion of Tol­stoy fam­i­ly recipes, though we can hard­ly imag­ine the Tol­stoy fam­i­ly did much of the cook­ing them­selves.

Not so with Miles Davis, who also uses Parme­san in a dish not usu­al­ly known to fea­ture the Ital­ian cheese. His chili—or rather “Miles’s South Side Chica­go Chili Mack”—sounds incred­i­bly rich in a recipe pub­lished in 2007. “I could cook most of the French dish­es,” Miles wrote in his auto­bi­og­ra­phy, “and all the black Amer­i­can dish­es.” His skills in the kitchen were well attest­ed, though his per­son­al recipe book has been lost.

Oth­er celebri­ties like Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe also go with com­fort­ing old favorites. What appears in her recipe for turkey and stuff­ing (besides wal­nuts and no gar­lic… feel free to make sub­sti­tu­tions…)? That’s right, Parme­san cheese. If there’s a pat­tern in this rep­e­ti­tion, maybe it’s that the rest of us home cooks should do more with Parme­san cheese.

If you’re won­der­ing what kind of cheese Ernest Hem­ing­way puts on his favorite burg­er, the answer is none. Anoth­er celebri­ty cook who sure­ly did a good bit of his own cook­ing, Hem­ing­way asks a lot of those will­ing to take a chance on his burg­er recipe, which com­min­gles India rel­ish, capers, Beau Monde sea­son­ing, Mei Yen Pow­der with gar­lic, green onions, egg, and red or white wine.

Despite such unusu­al top­pings, a burg­er is still a burger—for mil­lions of peo­ple the most com­fort­ing food they can imag­ine. Crack­ing open Sal­vador Dali’s 1973 cook­book reveals few dish­es that are famil­iar, or actu­al­ly edi­ble or even legal. Dali formed ambi­tions to become a chef, he claimed, at the age of 6. Maybe that’s also when he came up with “Tof­fee with Pine Cones,” “Veal Cut­lets Stuffed with Snails,” and “Thou­sand Year Old Eggs.”

None of these recipes have in mind the needs of the carb-con­scious, or of veg­e­tar­i­ans and veg­ans. But some cre­ative reimag­in­ing could make them suit­able for sev­er­al kinds of mod­ern diets. (In Hemingway’s case, a sim­ple swap for any burg­er alter­na­tive might do the trick.) When it comes to cock­tail recipes, alter­na­tives are trick­i­er.

If you don’t drink alco­hol or eat meat, you’ll have lit­tle to gain from Leonard Cohen’s recipe for The Red Nee­dle, which involves two ounces of tequi­la and should be served with Mon­tre­al smoked meat sand­wich­es. Like­wise, I doubt there’s any veg­an, low-sug­ar, non-alco­holic way to make Eudo­ra Welty’s “Mother’s Eggnog” (which she also attrib­uted to Charles Dick­ens).

Maybe celebri­ty cook­books these days don’t con­tribute so much to the epi­dem­ic of heart dis­ease and hyper­ten­sion. But there’s some­thing to be said for the authen­tic­i­ty of recipes from famous peo­ple of the past. They reflect dish­es and drinks made with deep affection—for but­ter, cheese, carbs, salt, fat, and booze.

If it’s health­i­er fare you’re look­ing for, why not take a chance on Allen Ginsberg’s cold sum­mer borscht? Or David Lynch’s easy quinoa recipe? Aleis­ter Crowley’s recipe for a rice meant to be eat­en with cur­ry sounds delight­ful, though one can’t help but won­der at anoth­er lost recipe the infa­mous occultist once made for his fel­low moun­taineers on an expedition—a rice so spicy, he claimed, it made them “dash out of the tent after one mouth­ful and wal­low in the snow, snap­ping at it like mad dogs.”

See many more recipes from famous artists at the links below.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Dessert Recipes of Icon­ic Thinkers: Emi­ly Dickinson’s Coconut Cake, George Orwell’s Christ­mas Pud­ding, Alice B. Tok­las’ Hashish Fudge & More

The Recipes of Icon­ic Authors: Jane Austen, Sylvia Plath, Roald Dahl, the Mar­quis de Sade & More

Pablo Picasso’s Two Favorite Recipes: Eel Stew & Omelette Tor­tilla Niçoise

Ernest Hemingway’s Sum­mer Camp­ing Recipes

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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