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What’s Cooking, Debbie Reynolds?

“Hi, there, Debbie! What cooks?”

It was the Reynolds’ neighbor-to-the-north hailing Half-pint as she bounced her Pontiac coupe into the driveway that separates their two homes.

“Hi, Mr. Davies,” Debbie greeted him absent-mindedly. “Did I just run over your hose? Please excuse me if I did.”

“That’s okay,” Mr. Davies said, good-naturedly shifting his sprinkler to another part of the lawn. “Now, tell me again. When are you and your young fellow getting married?”

“We don’t know exactly,” Debbie answered politely. “Probably sometime in June.”

Later that evening a columnist called Deb to check on a hundred rumors circulating about her and Eddie. “Is it true you and Fisher plan on getting married up at Grossinger’s? . . . If not Grossinger’s, I hear it will be at Eddie Cantor’s . . . Say, would there be a chance of your getting married in Miami?”

Debbie sighed. “Honestly, as soon as we set the date, you’ll be the first to know.”

At noon the next day the little bundle of energy bounced into the Metro commissary for a luncheon interview.

“What’s the angle this time?” she asked.

Publicist Jim Mahoney grinned. “Something new—your marriage plans.”

Debbie clutched her stomach, feigning great pain. “Oh, no,” she groaned. “Not that!” Then she said, “Honestly, I don’t have the answers to any of the questions everyone wants to know—whether it will be a large wedding or a small wedding and where we’re going to live and where we’re going to honeymoon. I don’t know any of that.”

All Debbie knows these days is that she’s completely in love. Totally oblivious of the world, her mind seems to be thousands of miles away or wherever Eddie Fisher happens to be. She hears only half the questions put to her. Ask her the day of the week and she obliges with the time. Ask her to name her latest picture (Hit The Deck) and she’s not too sure she’s made a movie recently.

The only subject she seems to be clear on is food. She is one bride-to-be who knows exactly how she’s going to feed her man. See her recipes at the left.

“This much is for sure about our marriage,” she vows. “I won’t have any trouble in the kitchen department.”

And then for a mouth-watering hour and a half she talks food, menus, parties and special family recipes. Debbie even’ has a mental picture of special kinds of crazy snacks she’s going to keep on her pantry shelves for between meals.

If Eddie Fisher wants a forecast of how and what he’ll be eating during that all-important first year, he needs only to read this article.

Although Debbie is reconciled to hiring a maid to do the bulk of the housework, she expects to show the way to any cook. She is convinced that she will be fixing all the favorite dishes, “especially frijoles—the way my grandmother taught me.”

“Eddie,” she says, is really easy to cook for because our tastes are so similar. We both like plain, country-style cooking. And we’re both mad for beans. And when it comes to steak, I take mine medium and Eddie likes his cooked about three minutes longer.”

By country-style food, Debbie says she means all the typical American dishes her mother has always prepared. Debbie’s folks never were well off so there never was any fancy cooking with wine and rich sauces. As a result, Debbie today has no taste for the continental cuisine. No gourmet, Miss Half-pint prefers a wholesome, balanced meal of meat and two vegetables. Eddie agrees.

The Sunday special of roast chicken, peas and mashed potatoes is a Deb favorite. Also a beef stew “that’s simply loaded with whole onions, carrots and potatoes and cooked together in a thick, gravy sauce.” Casserole dishes appeal to Debbie and she’s doubly fond of baked beans and wieners.

Eddie’s favorite home-cooked meal is also based on beans. He’ll take lima bean soup followed by a plate of ham hocks and lima beans served with hot corn bread.

This bean addiction can be traced easily to their childhoods. They were both children of the depression, a time when money (and, consequently, food) was scarce. His mother had learned very early in the Jean years in Philadelphia that lima beans cooked in a dozen different ways helped fill hungry stomachs. Ordinarily, one might expect a different reaction to set in. You’d understand if, upon reaching maturity and success, Eddie would have refused lima beans for the rest of his life. He doesn’t. He relishes them—any way you cook them.

Debbie’s folks rode out the depression in El Paso, Texas. Her father worked on the railroad. When he was laid off, the family learned that there was a lot of nutritious value in beans. El Paso is on the Mexican border, so every few days Deb’s mother would load up on the inexpensive pinto. or pink Mexican beans. Her neighbors taught her how to cook them Mexican style, and that’s the way Debbie prefers them now.

“My parents tell me,” Deb says, “that brother Bill and I were literally weaned on beans and milk when we lived in Texas.”

One day last summer Debbie took Eddie to the famous Farmers’ Market in Los Angeles and introduced him to frijoles, tortillas and enchiladas. After it was all over, Eddie admitted that “the chili made my eyes water—it was so hot—but the fried beans reminded me of Philadelphia.”

One of Debbie’s sweetest and most appealing qualities is the considerate manner in which she watches over those she loves. Once she became engaged to Eddie Fisher, she familiarized herself thoroughly with his habits. “I’ve tried to figure out,” she says, “what our day-to-day eating schedule will be like. And that, let me tell you, isn’t easy.”

Some wives make the mistake of setting up the housekeeping regimen as if marriage were a potential battle field, the wives in one camp and the husbands in another. This is not Debbie’s way.

Aware of Eddie’s ways, she is determined to keep him pleased and satisfied. Debbie herself does not eat breakfast. She doesn’t like food in the morning and usually drinks only a glass of orange juice before going to the studio. Eddie on the other hand, likes a big breakfast. “Coffee comes first, then juice, bacon, eggs, sometimes flapjacks, then more coffee, followed by coffee.

“It may mean that I’ll have to get up real early,” Deb conjectures. “I may have to start cooking at five-thirty. But Eddie’s going to have his breakfast prepared before I go to work.”

For lunch each of them usually orders a thick, hot soup. Although it isn’t hot, borscht is one of Eddie’s favorites. Debbie likes it, too, more for the color than the taste. Soup is followed by a hamburger, salad and milk. Deb drinks quantities of milk, but Eddie is completely gone on Coca-Cola. Breakfast is the only meal not punctuated by this soft drink.

Fisher, needless to say, does not suffer from obesity.

“Any time I can put an extra pound on him,” Deb crows, “I consider it a genuine victory.”

Debbie is also a between-meals nibbler: corn kernels, dill pickles, peanut butter, marshmallow fudge and a kind of glorified oatmeal cooky she bakes for herself. “You start with the recipe for a plain oatmeal cooky, then you add chopped dates, nuts and shredded coconut. Eddie says they’re sensational.”

Compared to his size-eight fiancée, Eddie is a second-rate nibbler—cokes and red-shelled pistachio nuts.

Along with Deb’s assortment of snacks, the Fishers’ pantry is certain to be stocked with traditional Jewish delicacies: salami, pastrami, knockwurst, halvah and bagels. Debbie expects to make good use of these on the maid’s night out or when Eddie brings some of the old gang home.

Deb is also studying frozen food and prepared mixes. “So far,” she says, “we’ve tried chicken pot pies and corn bread mix. Both very good.”

A culinary trick the little actress has discovered in connection with mixes is that they’re improved by adding more butter than is called for. Not knowing too much about short-cut prepared mixes, Eddie swears that, “Debbie’s corn bread is almost as good as my mother’s.”

Debbie has already earned the reputation of indefatigable hostess. During the summer, her backyard pool and barbecue are the focal points for Saturday night cook-outs. Friends start coming for a swim at two. At six her dad gets the bed of charcoal red hot. Then Deb calls on her Girl Scout training and goes to work. She barbecues hamburgers, shrimp, chicken, hot dogs, practically anything.

Once a year, Deb gives what she terms a goofy party. She knocks herself out on these fantastic affairs. She starts with a theme: Gay Nineties, Halloween, Desert Sheik. For her last “goofy” affair ’she sent out forty invitations asking people to come in, jungle outfits. She borrowed stuffed apes, leopards, snakes and other such props from the RKO prop department. She spotted these around her house and bathed the rooms in an eerie, haunting, green light. The front door was rigged so that as soon as a guest stepped inside, the lights went out and a gun went off. After the guests recovered from heart failure, Deb served. a buffet dinner of Mexican dishes.

“I don’t think,” Deb says, “that Eddie and I will give any ‘goofy’ parties right away. First comes the house-warming. I think that one should be a nice, dress-up party. I’ll serve a buffet of Mexican food. The menu will probably consist of guacamole with crisp tostaditos to dip into the avocado mix, a tureen of albdondiga soup (meat balls in broth), beef or chicken tacos served with chili and tomato sauce, and probably a light dessert—a Jello ring filled with fresh fruit.”

“Suppose,” she was asked, “Eddie gets to the point where he doesn’t like Mexican food. What will you do?”

Mary Frances sat back and cocked her head to one side. “I’ll change,” she said. “After all, any wife must be adaptable. That’s the key to success.”





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