skygiants: Mae West (model lady)
[personal profile] skygiants
I was browsing through the nonfiction available from Open Road Media's free-books-bonanza a few months back, and a book caught my eye immediately and held it -- Marlene Dietrich's ABC: Wit, Wisdom and Recipes.

I immediately did the internet equivalent of grabbing the people I'd been chatting with by the collar in order to shout, "Marlene Dietrich* WROTE A COOKBOOK?!" I don't think I've ever pressed a "Purchase" button so fast.

*early film icon, notorious femme fatale, one of the first women to kiss another woman onscreen

It turns out Marlene Dietrich's ABC isn't exactly a cookbook, although it does contain recipes. Written in 1962, when Dietrich was 61, it's exactly what it says on the tin: an alphabetical index of Things Marlene Dietrich Considers Interesting Or Important. This means that any given page is likely to contain a miscellany of Marlene Dietrich's thoughts on such subjects as Backseat Driving (she's against it), the Beatles (she's for them), Beauty (The Seamy Side), Beef Tea (recipe), and Bergman, Ingmar ("they treat him like a king, and when you are with his disciples you fall right in step"). The book overall is exactly as weird and fascinating as you are likely to imagine from this. Some of the time Dietrich is playing the role of Sophisticated Screen Siren, sometimes she's playing the role of Your Kindly Grandma, and sometimes she just wants to tell you her Feelings About Poetry. Did I need to know that Marlene Dietrich thinks about Atticus Finch as "someone she might have married"? Yes, I ABSOLUTELY DID. (Also, who's going to write me that fanfic for next Yuletide?)

Of course there's all the parts where she gets very kindly and domestically gender-essentialist at you; Dietrich may have been bisexual, but she's certainly not letting any of that show here, and would much rather tell you about how important it is to be a good helpmeet to your husband without henpecking him.

But then, on the flip side of this, there are all the parts where she slides in an offhanded comment that abruptly reminds you that she's a German woman who watched her country become something she didn't recognize, renounced her citizenship, spoke out vocally and consistently against fascism, and performed so tirelessly for the USO during WWII that she ended up on the front lines more than Eisenhower.

The entry for Hate, for example, sandwiched in between entries on Hardware Stores and Hats: "I have known hate from 1933 till 1945. I still have traces of it and I do not waste much energy to erase them. It is hard to live with hate. But if the occasion demands it, one has to harden oneself deliberately."

There are times in this book when I found myself abruptly identifying very much with Marlene Dietrich.

Date: 2017-02-12 09:33 pm (UTC)
watersword: Keira Knightley, in Pride and Prejudice (2007), turning her head away from the viewer, the word "elizabeth" written near (Default)
From: [personal profile] watersword
Wait wait wait, what is Marlene Dietrich's recipe for Beef Tea? I NEED IT.

Date: 2017-02-12 10:41 pm (UTC)
aella_irene: (Default)
From: [personal profile] aella_irene
That seems like a lot of steak

Date: 2017-02-16 05:03 am (UTC)
kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kathmandu
It does seem like it, but I once made an approximation of beef tea by accident: 7 lbs peaches and nectarines, with 7 lbs meat, baked in a covered pan until eventually I remembered that I should go check.

The pan was nearly brimful of juices. I drained off the fat, and fished out the meat solids, and then there was two cups of nonfat juices which I poured into a Pyrex measuring cup to cool.

The meat solids had become entirely flavorless.

The juices settled, during cooling, into exactly one cup of clear golden consomme-like broth and one cup of dark brown liquid with many little shreds of meat in it. I froze them separately.

The one cup of clear golden (non-fat! I'd drained off the fat first of all, remember!) meat-and-fruit juices I thawed one day when I had back-to-back meetings and no time for a real supper. I thought I would swig it down as a snack. In actuality, it was hard to finish the whole cup. I started feeling full around the half-cup mark.

Since then, my rule of thumb has been 1 lb meat -> 1 oz beef tea. That also means it's a very expensive process; I can see why the stuff was reserved for invalid food.

Date: 2017-02-12 09:52 pm (UTC)
genarti: ([fma] EYEHEARTS!!!)
From: [personal profile] genarti
omg this sounds AMAZING.

Date: 2017-02-12 11:06 pm (UTC)
sovay: (Rotwang)
From: [personal profile] sovay
(Hardware stores, stationary stores, and bookstores open until 4 AM are all places that Marlene Dietrich considers to be heaven on earth.)

I agree fully with one of those! Hardware stores are useful, but I don't have a lot to say to stationary stores. If I cared more about handwritten letters, though, I can see it.

(Does she name any bookstores open until 4 AM?)

Date: 2017-02-13 03:02 am (UTC)
sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
From: [personal profile] sovay
It may be a relic of a bygone era.

*moment of silence*

Date: 2017-02-13 06:25 am (UTC)
thistleingrey: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thistleingrey
oh, wow. That's so great.

This whole book sounds pretty great.

Date: 2017-02-14 12:16 am (UTC)
pedanther: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pedanther
I love stationary stores. There's so much easier to deal with than the ones that keep moving about. ;)

Date: 2017-02-24 05:45 pm (UTC)
moon_custafer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] moon_custafer
Apparently Stan Laurel loved stationary stores too. He always said if he hadn't gone into show business he'd have run one.

Date: 2017-02-12 11:05 pm (UTC)
monanotlisa: alex and maggie next to each other (Default)
From: [personal profile] monanotlisa
Oh, cool! Thanks for sharing.

Date: 2017-02-12 11:07 pm (UTC)
sovay: (Rotwang)
From: [personal profile] sovay
"I have known hate from 1933 till 1945. I still have traces of it and I do not waste much energy to erase them. It is hard to live with hate. But if the occasion demands it, one has to harden oneself deliberately."

Well, I will find a copy of this.

Date: 2017-02-13 08:11 pm (UTC)
lizbee: (Random: 1920s (smoking))
From: [personal profile] lizbee
Given that Dietrich and her husband had an open marriage, that is HILARIOUS. As is the picture of her marrying Atticus Finch, and maybe, more specifically, the picture of Scout's face.

(The only way I can see it working is if it's not Dietrich herself, but one of her stock characters -- exotic, world-weary European woman rolls into Alabama and gives it all up for the love of a righteous American man, but also gets herself and Scout matching suits.)

Date: 2017-02-14 01:05 am (UTC)
obopolsk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] obopolsk
Did I need to know that Marlene Dietrich thinks about Atticus Finch as "someone she might have married"?

!!!

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