Judy Garland and I actually have quite a bit in common. I won’t go into some of the similarities, but some of the fun ones involve her children. She had three of them, two girls, one boy, the boy being the youngest, just like my family. Her youngest’s name is Joey, same as my brother. And her oldest’s (Liza) baby picture looks strangely like me.
I remember watching Judy’s In the Good Old Summertime for the first time years ago, where at the very end of the film, little Liza makes her very first cameo. I jumped at the screen. “Holy cow!” I called my grandma in. And we laughed and gasped at the funny coincidence that my favorite actress’ (and, dare I say, obsession’s) daughter had my mouth, big eyes, and dark hair. Besides the almost daily, “Hey, you look like Anne Hathaway,” I get quite often, “You look like Liza Minnelli!” and I get super excited at the thought of having some sort of a connection with Judy. I’ve also had several strangers tell me that I resemble Judy herself, and that comment usually leads to a lot of hand shakes and lightheadedness and enough flattery to knock me out cold for a couple of days while I dream of having a Coca-Cola and something fancy with her at Ciro’s.
As you may imagine, I love to eat. So did Judy. During her studio days, her menu and food were quite restricted, in an attempt to keep the ever-wanted and demanded Hollywood/MGM look. But in her younger, vaudeville days, she was often seen with a candy bar in hand, always snacking on something. Oh, man. I’m pretty sure in every home movie we have of me as a toddler I’m stuffing my face with something. I think there’s even one of me crying because my dad wouldn’t let me eat batteries (the following video is proof that I was a monster toddler, stuffing my face while my hungry younger cousin stood by, ignoring the prompts from the adults to give him a bite).
Anyway, it’s one of the marvelous things about her. Behind the spotlights and interviews and fans, she was very human. She loved socializing, entertaining, laughing, and making people laugh. Bing Crosby said of her, “…what really hasn’t ever been mentioned very much is the fact that she was a tremendously gifted comedienne…and liked fun and good times and laughs. I worked with her quite a bit, on radio and at benefits, and I found her one the most amusing women I have ever known. Her sense of humor was delicious. She was a good, low comedienne, baggy pants stuff. Did all kinds of dialects: Italian, Southern, whatever you wanted…She was unquestionably the most talented person with whom I ever worked.” I don’t think I could ever express the immense talent and genuineness and intelligence of this woman. After years and years of nerdy research and listening and watching, listening and watching, and more listening and watching, I still can’t wrap my mind around her complexity and perfect timing. It’s like I can never learn or know enough. I will always be enthralled.
(This video is one of my favorites and neat to see since video of her earlier live performances is quite rare. This is taken from Bob Hope’s radio show Command Performance USA in 1943.)
It’s said that Judy’s favorite food was steak and kidney pie. She was a real trooper and apparently an awesome foodie and braver than me. I suppose I’m not much of a kidney fan, but I do love most any dish made with a buttery pastry. Get it, Judy, and this one’s for you.
judy garland’s steak pie
adapted from emeril’s steak and mushroom pie
prep time: 25 minutes cook time: 2 hours 5 minutes yield: 6 servings
6 ounces minimally processed bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 pounds minimally processed beef chuck or sirloin, cubed
1 tbsp Essence, recipe follows
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 (12-ounce) bottle dark beer
2 cups beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tsp fresh thyme
Pastry top, recipe follows
1 large egg, beaten, for glaze
This mixture can be stored in an air-tight container for quite some time.
To make the pastry crust, sift together the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add the butter and work in with fingertips until coarse crumbs form. Add enough cold water 1 teaspoon at a time to form a smooth dough, being careful not to overwork the dough. Cover and let rest, refrigerated for 30 minutes before rolling out.
To make the filling, cook the bacon over medium-high heat in a large skillet until browned. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Season the beef with the Essence. Add enough oil to the pan to equal 2 tablespoons of fat and heat over medium-high. When hot, add the beef (in batches, if necessary to prevent overcrowding). Cook until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and add the onions, adding more oil as needed. Cook, stirring, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the salt, pepper, flour, and Worcestershire, and stir well. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the beer and stock, and stir to deglaze the pan. Bring to a boil and add the bay leaf, parsley, and thyme, and return the meat to the pan. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 1 hour. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaf, and adjust the seasoning, to taste.
Preheat the oven to 400º. Roll out the pastry crust on a lightly floured surface into a circle large enough to cover the top of the baking dish.
Add the cooked bacon to the meat mixture. Pour into a large, deep dish, ceramic baking pan. Place the pastry crust on top of the baking dish, crimping around the sides to seal. Cut a vent hole in the center with a small sharp knife. Brush with the beaten egg and bake until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.
I am often overwhelmed with nostalgia and it’s sometimes hard for my relentless brain to rest until it can picture an entire situation, leaving no holes and knowing every detail (psychologists of the world, start analyzing). My sister used to tell me that I had an obsessive personality. It’s probably true. But this crazy brain has led me to my funny hobby of learning about the four-foot-eleven-inches tall firecracker of an entertainer who is rightfully dubbed as the world’s greatest. Her talents will never tire.
(Easter Parade, 1948)
Judy’s the greatest entertainer who ever lived-or probably ever will live…an amazing girl. She could do things-anything-without rehearsing and come off perfectly. She could learn faster, do everything better than most people. It was one of the greatest thrills to work with her. -Fred Astaire
Judy would have celebrated her 90th birthday this year on June the tenth.
(The celebrity quotations in this post are taken from John Fricke’s book Judy Garland: A Portrait in Art & Anecdote.)