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Sometimes I spend all afternoon making a 'special' from a recipe...

Updated: Jul 20, 2018

"We could learn a great deal from the French when it comes to meals. In France each housewife prides herself on one or two dishes in which she excels. One such dish becomes the main feature of the meal, the outstanding culinary triumph for which that particular meal will be remembered by all who partake of it."

Jeanette MacDonald's immense love of music and charity are well known among those who admire her. There is, however, another lesser-known love that Jeanette enjoyed tremendously and unabashedly — food. Throughout her life, Jeanette struggled to put on weight, and to keep it on. She would often be sent to a rest farm in the country, where she'd drink as much as eight quarts of milk a day during a one to two week stay, in an attempt to put on the necessary pounds between Broadway shows or films. It was a habit of Ernst Lubitsch's to have malted milkshakes delivered to set on days Miss MacDonald wasn't to be filmed singing, and to order her to drink them every half hour. These are but a few of the many efforts made by Jeanette and those around her to ensure her lithe figure was a healthy one. However, these efforts, nor her petite frame, reflect the passion Miss MacDonald had for eating! Jeanette's favorite chore in keeping a household was outlining the meals for each week, selecting recipes and planning dishes. For years she kept a binder of recipes that appealed to her that she had clipped from magazines, or collected from restaurants and friends' dinner parties. When asked about her time at Twin Gables, Jeanette's cook, Margaret, would often reflect saying she "never saw people who enjoyed food so much..."

Unfortunately, despite this hearty love for delicious meals, and despite Gene Raymond's account that Jeanette was eating "94 percent of the time", Jeanette MacDonald found cooking to be one of only a handful of skills she lacked. However, she did have few recipes that landed her much acclaim amongst friends and fans who dined at her table. Answering a questionnaire from fans, she once said "I'm not very gifted for I haven't the time, but sometimes I spend all afternoon making a 'special' from a recipe — waffles, baked beans, or ice cream."

With these favorite recipes in her repertoire, it is easy to see the appeal of the French housewives' example that Jeanette mentions in the quote above. Below are the recipes for Jeanette's four most well-known, and universally loved dishes. Here at Miss MacDonald's, we have tried them all and can enthusiastically add our praise to that given to Jeanette over the years for these 'specials'. If you try them yourselves, please tweet us and let us know how you enjoyed them!

Baked Beans

Best prepared in old fashioned bean pot. Use any brand of can beans, one half can at a time. To beans add: 1 tsp Karo molasses 1 tsp. India relish 1 tbsp. chili sauce ½ tsp. chopped onion ½ tsp. prepared mustard dash of Worcestershire sauce ½ large crushed tomato (peeled) 1 tbsp. maple syrup Add the rest of can of beans. Repeat the entire process using as many as four cans of beans to reach desired amount. Spread strips of bacon across top of pot and sprinkle with brown sugar.

Bake in hot oven for 1 ½ - 2 hours Jeanette's favorite variation: Pour a layer of cooked beans into old fashioned bean pot. Slice tomatoes over them, season with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of brown sugar. Place pork chops on top. Bake covered for 1 ½ hours. Uncover and bake until chops are brown (approx. 15 minutes).

Brown Bread

2 cups sour milk ½ cup molasses 1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal 1 cup graham or whole wheat flour 1 cup rye flour 2 tbsp. butter 2 tbsp. sugar 1 tsp. baking soda ½ tsp. salt ⅔ cup raisins Combine dry ingredients. Mix together milk, molasses and raisins. Stir liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. Divide batter. Pour into two buttered one quart pudding molds filling ⅔ full. Cover tightly. Place in pan filled with boiling water (enough to reach halfway up mild). Steam 2 - 2 ½ hours. Add more water as needed to keep at proper level. Remove molds from water, uncover and set in 300° F oven for 20-30 minutes to dry off. Remove from molds and serve hot with butter.


4 eggs beaten separately (whites beaten very stiff) 2 cups well sifted flour 4 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. salt 2 tbsp. sugar 6 tbsp. melted butter Milk Combine all ingredients except egg whites and butter. Mix well. Add enough milk to make a thin batter. Add melted butter. Finally, fold in egg whites very lightly. Yields 10 waffles. Jeanette's favorite variations: Mix sour cherries (chopped and pitted), nuts or orange juice into batter before folding in egg whites.

Coffee Ice Cream

Brew 1 cup double strength coffee. Bring to a boil. Melt 20 marshmallows in the hot coffee. Pour into freezing tray and cool in refrigerator. When chilled, fold into ½ pint of whipped cream. Freeze. Serves four.