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Thanksgiving with Bette Davis

The below passage is from MISS D & ME: Life with the Invincible Bette Davis. You can purchase the book here.


MISS D DECIDED that she wanted to cook Thanksgiving dinner herself. I took out her little metal box of recipes and we sat at the kitchen table thumbing through it as she picked out ones we’d awarded a gold star and laid them on the table to consider. As with everything, Miss D had a system. When she cooked something new, we rated it: gold for best, then silver, red, green, and yellow in descending order. For this holiday she wanted only gold star favorites. The menu she chose was squabs roasted with grapes and bacon, French-style green beans, her famous corn pudding, and pumpkin pie for dessert.

Photos and the menu from Thanksgiving, 1983.

Her guest for that Thanksgiving was her dear friend, Bob Osborne. A host for the classic movie station Turner Classic Movies, he was also a historian for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Miss D’s confidant and frequent escort. I watched with pride as she called in her own order to Chalet Gourmet and Arrow Market, which always had the best meat. When the delivery boys deposited the big bags of groceries in the kitchen, I worried Miss D was taking on too much, but she had chosen well. She ordered three squabs, really young pigeons, small birds that were easier for her to handle with her weak left arm. On Thanksgiving morning I stayed with her in the kitchen to reach or to stir things that required some strength. After she had cleaned the squabs and patted them dry, I steadied them as she rubbed each one with melted butter and sprinkled them with salt and pepper. She halved the seedless grapes and the bacon slices. The grapes went into the cavity of the squab and she draped the bacon over the breast. I was amazed by her dexterity, no doubt partly inspired by her passion for cooking. We had holiday music playing as we cooked and reminisced about other holidays we had shared.

The finished product looked like a professional chef had created it, not like something prepared by one who still was recovering from a stroke. Bob was suitably gobsmacked and visibly moved. This was a very happy day, the best feeling of the life we had had before the stroke.


You can purchase MISS D & ME: Life with the Invincible Bette Davis here.

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