Horror movie fans are likely familiar with the haunting legacy that Boris Karloff, Béla Lugosi and Lon Chaney carved in the industry.
But they might also be fascinated with what Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolf Man were like around the dinner table. We talked with relatives of the famous „monsters” to find out what some of their favorite meals were, whether they enjoyed working over a hot stove, firing up a grill, dining out or trying new recipes.
Béla Lugosi, Jr., son of „Dracula”; Frankenstein’s „little girl” Sara Karloff; and Ron Chaney, grandson of „The Wolf Man” and great-grandson of „The Phantom of the Opera” open the culinary doors to their family kitchens. All three are scheduled to appearance Friday to Sunday at Hollywood Boulevard Cinemas in Woodridge. They’ll talk with fans and introduce special screenings of their famous relatives’ films.
Béla Lugosi Jr.
It was easy for Béla Lugosi Jr. to fall in love with great food around the family table. „My parents and grandparents were from Hungary and I got spoiled with wonderful food,” Lugosi said. He said his father Lugosi Sr., star of „Dracula,” favored Hungarian dishes. Frequent dishes that graced the table included stuffed cabbage, chicken paprikash, streudel and a rice/duck combination similar to a stuffed crepe. Lugosi Jr. said Dad also liked to eat healthy and chose many dishes with fruits and grains.
„He was very active when he was younger and walked a lot,” he said. Members of the Lugosi family, he explained, had a restaurant in Los Angeles during the 1930s. Specialty dishes there included Hungarian fare and recipes perfected by his aunt and grandmother. „Los Angeles had the Olympics in 1932 and the Hungarian Olympic team was always at the restaurant,” he said.
Lugosi Jr. said though his father didn’t really cook, his mother, grandmother and aunt really pulled out all the stops in the kitchen turning out a surplus of great meals. He said dinner time was special in their house. „Mealtime was always a significant family gathering time.” When Lugosi Jr. steps into the kitchen now he enjoys making stuffed cabbage, his own tartar sauce and also concocting special non-alcoholic drinks for the younger crowd. He said, however, he’s not too versed in ethnic dishes.
„My wife is also a good cook.” Lugosi Jr. and his wife Nancy are the parents of four children. The couple reside in Los Angeles. He said he enjoys paying tribute to his father when making special appearances. „I like to go anywhere where dad is being honored,” he said. Lugosi, Jr., who is an only child, added that Halloween is definitely still his favorite holiday and he’s grateful for the legacy his father created. „Dad has become an icon. His performance was so unique. But he never brought the part home with him,” Lugosi Jr. said.
Hungarian stuffed cabbage
1 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, very lean, ground together with
1/2 pound smoked ham
1 medium onion, chopped and sauteed
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/3 cup rice, cooked
2 whole eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon MSG
2 medium-sized cabbages
2 large cans sauerkraut
1 medium-sized can solid pack tomatoes
Roux (made with 2 tablespoons fat and 2 tablespoons flour and fried until golden brown)
Mix meat, fried onion, garlic, eggs and rice. (Rice should be about 1/3 in bulk as much as meat.) Add salt, pepper, paprika and MSG. Core and boil cabbage until leaves are pliable. Remove from water and gently separate; pare down thick part of leaf. Place about 1/4 cup meat mixture on cabbage leaf, roll up and tuck in at each end. Mix 2 large cans of sauerkraut which has been drained of juice and can of tomatoes; mix in roux. Place a small ham hock in bottom of pan; then a layer of sauerkraut, using about half of it. Then place all cabbage rolls on kraut. Cover with balance of kraut. Cover with enough water to cover contents in kettle. Bring to boiling, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2 1/2 hours. Serve with dollop of sour cream on top of cabbage roll. - From Béla Lugosi Jr.
According to Sara Karloff, her father Boris Karloff was nothing like the gruesome characters he created. „He was the antithesis of the roles that he played. He was a soft spoken, funny Englishman,” Karloff said. Karloff said her father, famous for his „The Mummy” and „Frankenstein” roles, loved to eat and particularly enjoyed steak and kidney pie, pan fried sanddabs (whitefish), meat dishes and a variety of British pub food. He also concocted his own supersonic mustard, which he made with gin.
„You can use that on corned beef or anytime you’d use a horseradish or spicy mustard,” she said. „He didn’t do much cooking but he loved to eat, although he was very slender,” Karloff said. „And he wasn’t compulsive about watching what he ate. He was just fortunate with his metabolism. He ate anything,” Karloff said.
Meals at the family home, which were either prepared by a live-in cook or her mother, weren’t anything unique, just good fare. „My mother was a good cook and I enjoyed her bouillabaise and jellied chicken,” Karloff said. The Karloffs liked to entertain and threw many parties. But Halloween parties were never on the agenda. „Halloween was really an American holiday. But, it was really no different at our house than it was at anybody else’s. Actually people were afraid to ring our doorbell,” Karloff said. She remembers her father taking the family to one of his favorite restaurant haunts in Hollywood.
„We went to the Brown Derby a lot as a family. When I was little, I was terrible there and would always get up on the back of the booth and run around. The waitress would give me lollipops not to do that,” she said. Karloff, who is an only child, added that she now enjoys grilling and barbecuing. She and her husband like various seafood, beef dishes, Thai cuisine and other multicultural fare. Karloff, who was born in Hollywood, is married to William Sparkman. The couple has two sons and three grandchildren.
Colman’s Mustard, a dry mustard, as much as you’d prefer
Gin, as much as you’d prefer
Mix the mustard and gin together until you reach a consistency you like. Use on corned beef sandwiches or anything else you’d like. It’s good on various sandwiches and even as a dressing. - From Sara Karloff
Playing in the great outdoors and eating good food were among favorites of the Chaney family. „If you go back to Lon Chaney Sr., he liked to hunt and fish and passed that down to my grandfather,” said Ron Chaney, grandson of Lon Chaney Jr. and great-grandson of Lon Chaney Sr. „They enjoyed many varieties of wild game, elk, and fish of all kinds,” he said. Chaney said his grandfather Lon Jr. also loved to cook and prepared various meat and fish dishes. Soups and stews were other favorites and starred as family staples at the dinner table.
Because his grandparents had lived through the Depression, he said, his grandfather was a fan of canning his own food as well. In addition, the Chaney family also owned a restaurant at one time in California, he said. The love for the outdoors and hunting and fishing was also passed down to Ron’s father, Ron Chaney Sr. When he’s doing the cooking, Ron Chaney Jr. prefers to grill or barbecue. „My wife is such a good cook and she’s spoiled me,” Chaney said. He said he now owns a few books from his grandfather’s cookbook collection which the famous „Wolf Man” never tired of cooking from.
„He liked ‘The Gourmet Cookbook’ from 1957. You can tell it’s been used a lot,” said Chaney, a native of Borrego Springs, Calif. Lon Chaney Jr. also lived in Mexico for awhile and learned to make authentic tortillas and tamales, his grandson said. „We still make tamales with our family at Christmas,” he said. Hunting and fishing was his grandfather’s way of getting away from Hollywood and being close to nature. Chaney said he’s proud of his family’s film legacy. „I want to continue to perpetuate that legacy. They had such a tremendous impact on a lot of people,” he said.
Famous Chaney pot (vegetable stew)
4 pounds beef with bones
Beans, as much as you’d prefer
Potatoes, as much as you’d prefer
4 small onions
1 large celery stalk
2 quarts corn
1 quart stewed tomatoes
2 pounds carrots
1 pound peas
1 head cabbage
2 tablespoons oil
Mucho (many) seasonings including salt, pepper, seasoned salt and beef bouillon
Cook meat in oil until brown. Add 10 to 12 cups water and seasonings. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer until beef is almost tender. Stir in chopped vegetables including beans, potatoes, onions, celery, corn, stewed tomatoes, carrots, peas and cabbage. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender. You may adjust the recipe quantities to suit your taste. - From Ron Chaney (dailysouthtown)