I’m not old enough to know Dinah Shore from television.
I know her from her LPGA championship, later renamed “Kraft Nabisco” for the sponsor, although to this day I still refer to it lovingly as “The Dinah.”
Dinah had it all.
Wife, mother, friend, singer, cook, hostess, television personality, athlete and gourmand. Truly unique, no one has emerged as her successor.
A few months ago I was interviewing Carl Reiner for my book. He couldn’t contain his admiration and respect for her. He praised her cookbook, originally published in 1971, and I made it my mission to acquire one for my collection.
It reads more like a memoir, catapulting me back to a more leisurely time. I can hear Dinah’s southern drawl when she says, “I never got a standing ovation for a pot roast – but it feels like it when they go back for seconds.”
I was bonding with Dinah from page one. In her introduction she shared that she and her pals would, “… play six to eight sets of tennis, race to the Farmer’s Market in our tennis clothes, buy everything we needed, come home and start cooking a gourmet meal still in our tennis shorts under disapproving glances of spouses and kids.”
I giggled about this today when I arrived at the Santa Rosa Farmer’s market in my exercise togs (tight and cellulite revealing) and suffered the same disapproving looks. Fifty years ago Dinah was an icon living a healthy and athletic lifestyle and she remains a role model for me in the twenty first century.
In Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah, she shares anecdotes and recipes from her famous pals:
Bill Holden’s specialty, Marinated Hawaiian Steak, which he created while on a family vacation with Dinah and George Montgomery. Frank Sinatra’s Sausage and Peppers, a cooking lesson he gave Dinah while he was driving her to the airport. Super Chocolate Cake, contributed by Fanny Brice whom Dinah notes was not just a great comedienne, but also a spectacular cook and decorator. Benny’s Roast Chicken, the dish that took Dinah years of begging to get the recipe from Mrs. King, Jack Benny’s cook. (They called them cooks in those days, no matter how accomplished, not chefs.)
Also included are treasured family recipes from her son Jody, cousin Selma, her beloved mother, her sister Bessie, and best of all, Dinah’s side-kick Pauline, “a lean, great cook,” that shared her kitchen for twenty years.
I asked one of Dinah’s close friends Susan Meredith, wife of NFL Hall of Famer Don, to reflect on what made her so special:
“Dinah was one of the most admirable people I have ever known. She never ever complained or blamed. She was most forgiving, especially after friendships or romances had begun, and loyal forever. I think one of her greatest assets was her interest in absolutely everything. If you were interested in how ants build hills, she was right there with you and would probably send you a book about the subject for your birthday. As an athlete and card player she was the most gracious competitor, wanting to win, but happy for those that did. Her homemaking was unbelievable. Even formal dinners with Dinah were warm and inviting. She made the world around her a better place, a welcoming place, and a loving place.”
I feel all those sentiments in Dinah’s cookbook. Her storytelling, the confessions, sharing of secret tips – all make me feel like I am a welcomed guest in her home.
You don’t need to know her to love her.
That’s the charm of Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah.