BOOK REVIEW: "A Treasury of Great Recipes", a magnificent culinary legacy by Vincent Price

 A Treasury of Great Recipes, gif, Cine Gratia Cinema

Little did I imagine that reading a food blog, I would discover such literary jewell: an original cookbook written by legendary actor Vincent Price. A Treasury of Great Recipes is a thorough compendium of the most exquisite recipes, carefully curated from his many trips around the world. Along with his second wife, costume designer Mary Grant, he visited some of the finest restaurants of the time. Now, this book is, by no means, just another exotic and sophisticated recipe book. We are talking about Vincent Price here. To be honest, this publication holds extraordinary value, not only from the gastronomic point of view but also as a testimony of a genuine philosophy of life. A mouth-watering trip back in time through the lives and times of Mr. and Mrs. Price. I can't think of a better way to treat yourself, than to try a few of these wonderful recipes à la Vincent Price. Fasten your seat belts, it's gonna be a yummy night!

There are not that many famous actors whose interests and talents –besides their film careers– really amount to anything. Vincent Price was an exception for he was a distinguished art collector and a gourmet chef. It is really fascinating to discover this whole different facet of a man who was already quite interesting. For those who are already familiar with his gourmet side, perhaps his cookbooks are not that popular. Admirably, A Treasury of Great Recipes is by far his most splendid cookbook.

Vincent Price gazes upon his wine cellar in A Treasury of Great Recipes.

Its recipes are broken up by all the countries that Mary and Vincent visited and by their favorite restaurants around the globe. Their introductory stories for each chapter deserve your full attention. Filled with anecdotes and their own impressions, it feels as though you can really hear Vincent's distinctive voice. Scattered throughout this publication, you can find carefully selected pictures of the couple and of restaurant menus –which Vincent obviously and wisely collected–, as well as beautiful illustrations for each chapter. Furthermore, the final section provides a table of equivalents, a calorie chart and even some extra pages to write down your own favorite recipes and wines. Clearly, the couple wanted everyone to experience some fine cooking and some traveling from their very own homes. We can all have a glimpse of that through A Treasury of Great Recipes. If you sometimes feel like you have missed a wonderful era, this is your literary substitute for time traveling.

In a very unique and unpretentious way, this book starts off with "an invitation and a promise", just like those that were extended to them "by some of the World's most famous chefs"(1). Under this candid premise, we embark on a journey from Europe to America, from Mexico to France and even Spain. We can almost smell the dishes by their profound knowledge of gourmet food and cooking. The whole book oozes charm and humor. Let's just say that their words are the perfect side dish for this excellent and exquisite cookbook.

There are also many references to Hollywood and its glamorous lifestyle, from which the couple had first-hand information. But "although Mary and Vincent were of Hollywood, they were far from being from Hollywood", so Cleveland Amory's first introduction states. They acknowledged the role it played in their lives, for Vincent was an actor and Mary was herself involved in film business as a costume designer, however their perception is somewhat that of an outside observer. Significantly, the section dedicated to the United States and specially to California is the richest in recipes. Hotels, clubs and restaurants frequently attended by movie stars, are also described in this cookbook. As a classic film lover, those were the chapters that I enjoyed the most.

I also have a great admiration for illustration and photography and, in that regard, I couldn't be more mesmerized. It was Fritz Kredel, a German-born artist and graphic designer, the sole responsible for its outstanding artwork. Judging by the drawing's simple strokes, one could perfectly get the feeling of contemplating one of Vincent or Mary's own sketches. I am amazed by how consistent this approach is, with this whole book's concept, that of a precious and intimate publication. Its pictures were mainly taken by the great photographer William Claxton, his collaborators were Tosh Matsumoto and Eliot Elisofon who worked for LIFE magazine. Maybe you are not familiar with those names but they were representative for an exceptional generation of photographers and photodocumentalists.

I have been also highly impressed by Vincent and Mary's concern for the functional vision of the recipes. Without compromising sophistication, each recipe is conceived to meet the standards of every kitchen. The only requisite was that every ingredient in all the recipes had to be available in any supermarket. For a book first published in 1965, that was a pretty advanced approach and in line with how cuisine has actually evolved. Back in the sixties and the seventies, experiencing food from all over the world was quite a novelty. Vincent's effort to convey his worldly approach to culinary art and to provide with his international knowledge is quite remarkable.

In addition to this cookbook, which was his first, Mary and Vincent Price also wrote Mary and Vincent Price Present a National Treasury of Cookery in 1967 and Come into the Kitchen Cook Book in 1969. Vincent even starred in his own cooking tv series in 1971 for UK's Thames Television. The show was cleverly named Cooking Price-Wise and he would cook dishes from around the world, as that was clearly his specialty.

Cooking Price-Wise
(Click to enlarge) Vincent Price on his show Cooking Price-Wise.
Image via Horrorpedia and the British Film Institute

Over the years, this cookbook has gained considerable notoriety among film buffs, foodies and collectors of rare books. Many websites have been created honoring this volume, such as the lovely Cooking With Vincent, run by The Vincent Price Estate, in which they point out that "A Treasury of Great Recipes has come to be regarded as "one of the most important culinary events of the 20th century" (Saveur Magazine) and was recently named the eighth most popular out-of-print book of any kind by Booklist." Another exceptional example of more online tributes is the webpage Silver Screen Suppers, a recent discovery of mine. Besides having an extensive archive of Vincent Price's recipes, this site is dedicated to recovering recipes from the Golden Era.

I must also confirm that many of the recommended restaurants, can still be located and visited. A simple internet search will easily reveal their good eye for sampling the finest and timeless establishments. For Vincent Price not only lived his life, he tasted and savored it. He really knew how to take the most out of it and he passed his passion for art and gastronomy to others. Undoubtedly this is the greatest cookbook ever. A relic from the past and, for me, its discovery –despite distances– had a similar significance as that of Howard Carter's Tutankhamun tomb. 

A thorough explanation of the napkin folding process for a proper dinner table setting.

For Vincent Price fans, for those who enjoy cooking and consider it an art, for those who love getting lost in marvelous details, this is definitely the book you have been waiting for. Don't hesitate to get your own copy or you will regret it "maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life." By all means, this cookbook is indeed a treasure.


(1) A Treasury of Great Recipes. PRICE, Vincent and Mary. 1965. Ampersand Press. 


  1. INDEED! Vincent Price is my favorite and I own this amazingly beautiful book, along with Come into the Kitchen. Wonderful post! :)

    1. Thank you so much, Violet! Oh, Come into the Kitchen! I have to get hold of that one, too :)

  2. Hi Miriam - thanks so much for the mention. This is a really brilliant post!

    Thought I would give you an early heads up that I'm organising a Treasury of Great Recipes virtual reality cookalong party soon. It's to celebrate the launch of the 50th anniversary edition of the book which will be out sometime in the Autumn. It would be great if you fancied participating. There will be more details nearer the time but just drop me a line if you'd like to be added to the VIP guest list!

    Party is open to all so feel free to let your chums know too! Jenny from Silver Screen Suppers xx

    1. Hi Jenny,

      I'm so happy that you liked the post! I'd be delighted to participate, so by all means I'd love to be added to the VIP guest list.

      Thank you so much!