Small Plates: TV’s Top Kid Stars Share Their Favorite Meals & Recipes
When Little House on the Prairie’s Laura Ingalls (Melissa Gilbert) wanted to get sweet revenge on the ever-menacing Nellie Oleson (Alison Arngrim), she took to a special spice and purposely doused her mother’s famed “cinnamon chicken” with cayenne pepper. The Season 6 two-parter, “Back to School,” turned into a classic. “If you saw the episode, you know that Nellie forces poor Laura to cook cinnamon chicken for her and Almanzo so she can take credit and steal her man,” Arngrim shares in the book TV Dinners penned by Hollywood historian and author Laurie Jacobson. “Laura gets her revenge … positively nuking Nellie and Almanzo’s taste buds and sending them from the table screaming and choking.”
This is just one of many humorous and endearing stories that Jacobson shares in her lovingly crafted book that celebrates child stars of TV’s golden age, along with their favorite meals as kids, and some current favorites (recipes included). “I loved that Alison’s story came from an actual episode,” Jacobson tells us. “She was so enthusiastic, as she loves to cook, so she loved telling that story.” (Arngrim does describe herself as “one of those freaks who took Home Ec three times.”) “But I loved her mac and cheese Christmas tradition with her family as well, where her parents were between jobs and it was the least expensive meal they could make, yet she didn’t know that’s why they chose it,” Jacobson adds.
Among the more interesting food favorites was Lost in Space’s Bill Mumy’s, who shared more of a tummy turner with his “Mumy Super Dooper Sandwich” which involves a generous heaping of peanut butter along with cheese, roast beef and bologna. Maybe a polite pass on that one.
“Hard to believe we ever actually ate this,” Mumy told. “I haven’t eaten any red meat in over 40 years, but when I was a kid, my dad and I made these sandwiches all the time and we loved ’em.” Jacobson laughs on some of the recipes. “There were a couple that really kind of turned my stomach. It was like, ‘Are you serious? You ate that.’ It also really revealed how differently we eat today, the fat, and then the butter and the Karo syrup and stuff that we use. But, hey, most of us turned out OK.”
The book’s menu is broken into decades. The 1950s covers child stars Jay North and Jeannie Russell from Dennis the Menace, Paul Petersen from The Donna Reed Show, Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow from Leave It to Beaver, Annette Funicello and Sharon Baird from The Mickey Mouse Club, and more.
“Typically, we weren’t allowed to watch TV when we ate dinner,” told Butch Patrick. “But the whole family loved The Flintstones. Once a week, we would set up the TV trays in the family room. Mom would make tacos and we’d watch The Flintstones. Dad always rushed home for it.”
Starstruck From The Start
You could say Laurie Jacobson was born starstruck. She’s spent almost a lifetime writing about Hollywood (Timmy’s in the Well, Hollywood Haunted, Dishing Hollywood), writing and producing documentaries (The 20th Anniversary of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Suzanne Somers Show), acting a little (Not Fade Away) and even marrying a star (Jon Provost, Lassie’s little Timmy).
Growing up in St. Louis, Jacobson spent much of her childhood going to movies with her family, where they reveled in backstories of golden era stars. When Jacobson finally moved to Tinseltown in the ’70s, she found herself frequenting iconic restaurants and places that the stars she idolized visited, and started talking to staff who still remained. Her books share many of those stories.
It was perhaps destiny that Jacobson met her future husband at an autograph convention in the 1990s when “one of the guys from My Three Sons introduced us.” They’ve been married since 1999. “Through my many years with Jon I got to know lots of other television kid stars, many who were the kid stars I grew up watching. It’s such a special group of people who have remained friends for 60 years,” she says.
And, of course, Jon has a prominent place in her book with his family pot roast. “This family recipe fills the house with wonderful aromas for hours as it cooks,” Jon said. “That’s the thing I remember as a kid — the second you entered the house, you would smell that familiar smell and your mouth would water. I still love it. I don’t think I ever had roast before I married him. He’s really a great cook,” Jacobson adds. “It’s so good and I’m not a pot roast person.”
The couple, who share a lifetime commitment to dog advocacy, recently released a new product that helps with anxiety called Spray, Mix ’n Go!