A Daughter Cherishes Vincent Price’s Appetite For Living
Iconic actor Vincent Price’s distinguished career spanned nearly six decades. While he was and still is best known for his performances in horror films, he also appeared on stage and television in almost every genre—film noir, drama, comedy, mystery, and thrillers. His deep voice and perfect elocution were legendary, and he used both over the years to great effect, whether delivering creepy invitations to haunted houses, introducing episodes of PBS’ “Mystery,” or narrating Michael Jackson’s 1982 music video for “Thriller.”
Just as impressive as his career achievements however, were his wide-ranging interests. Price was a true Renaissance man with, in the words of his daughter Victoria Price, “an omnivorous appetite for life and for food.” What many of his fans may not realize is that he was as talented a cook as he was an actor. A dedicated gourmand, or what we now call a foodie, he and his wife Mary wrote a series of cookbooks beginning in the mid-1960s. The first, A Treasury of Great American Cooking, was a best-seller and has since become a cult classic.
Victoria Price has made it her mission to get all of the Price cookbooks back into print and to share her father’s legacy and love of life with Price fans around the world. We caught up with her recently to ask about the work she’s done to retrace her parents’ culinary footsteps and her journey to keep the Vincent Price legacy alive.
American Senior: How did your parents decide to write A Treasury of Great American Cooking? Was it something they initiated, or were they approached by a publisher?
Victoria Price: It was definitely a collaborative effort. In the 1960s, there was an executive at Sears who was a wine connoisseur who was great friends with my parents, so it was really a collective effort, a great passion project.
AS: So it grew out of his work as an art consultant for Sears Roebuck and the work he selected from the “Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art” to encourage public
access to fine art?
VP: Yes. Sears sold prints of the works of fine art my father chose and worked with him on a design project.
AS: You’ve said that you’ve distilled the essence of your parents’ philosophy of living down to three words: Explore, savor, celebrate. Furthermore, this philosophy is expressed throughout “A Treasury.” Do you think they were conscious of communicating this, or did their spirit just shine through the book?
VP: Absolutely. I think the essence of [the book] is just
who they were. They were unusually curious, open-hearted, open-minded, and generous people, and that’s what really came through in the cookbook. It was a thread that ran through everything they did, whether it was art, cooking,
AS: What spurred you to embark on your journey? You’re a self-described Daddy’s Girl who’s written a no-holds-barred biography of your father. What made you decide to write about him and to carry on your parents’ legacy and philosophy?
VP: My dad and I worked together on a book about the visual arts during the last years of his life, which was a shared passion. Then after he died, everyone said, “Gosh, we wish you would do a biography” and I thought, kids really can’t write their parents’ biography. How objective can they be? Not very! But at the end of the day, I would have regretted not doing it, and so, that was really the impetus.
That happened and I went on with my life. Then, in celebration of my dad’s 100th birthday in 2011, a bunch of fans put together these amazing events they cleverly called the Vincentennials all over the world, and I was invited to speak at each one. As it happened, I had had a big epiphany a couple of months before these events and decided that I hadn’t shown up to my own life and made a contribution to the world.
It was in this context that I decided my talks at the Vincentennials would not focus on what my father did with his life but instead on how he lived his life—on his joy and generosity of spirit. This meant I ended up standing in his shoes and remembering how I felt as a child. This was key to changing my own approach to life. What I remembered was the immense joy, open-mindedness, and open-heartedness he brought to his own life, and I decided this was the legacy of both of my parents worth promoting and carrying forward. In fact, I have a book coming out in February entitled The Way of Being Lost: A Road Trip to My Truest Self that elaborates on my journey and the idea of legacy as a virtue—something that’s vital, vibrant, and lived forward.
If I can give people even the tiniest glimpse of how joy-filled, generous, and inspirational my father’s legacy was and remains, then I am carrying that legacy forward and giving it back to the world. In our current age of celebrity, all of the emphasis is on fame itself rather than the gifts of fame, of the fact that you’re recognized because you’ve done something that mattered to people. I’ve found my calling in the sharing of his joy and inspirational way of living. All of the many hats I wear, whether as a public speaker, interfaith minister, designer, or writer is always about inspiring people to go out and live their best lives, to shine their own lights on the world so they can encourage everyone else to do the same.
AS: What advice can you give others in these challenging times to help them remain open-hearted, open-minded, and adventurous? What words of wisdom do you have for them?
VP: Coming back to the idea of “Explore, savor, celebrate,” I would encourage others to approach life as though embarking on an exotic and adventurous journey. Traveling to other countries and continents opens our eyes to other cultures so we find common ground. It helps us celebrate rather than be frightened of difference in whatever guise it comes in. We can practice this spirit of adventure and open-mindedness close to home by spending time in neighborhoods next door that we’ve never driven through.
One of the best Saturdays of my life, for example, was as a 12-year-old when my dad said to me, “We’re going to go out to find the best taquito in Los Angeles.” I didn’t even know what a taquito was, so Dad explained it to me and off we went. We drove 200 miles, stopping at every taquito stand, which in those days were often found at old huts attached to car washes. Dad chatted up everyone at each place, and they ended up giving us recommendations for other places and so on. We ended up trying different sauces, then ate tamales, saw several street murals during our drive and so many different stores. I was introduced to a whole world that day that I had never known even existed!
AS: It seems that your father’s way of life grew out of the creative process that made him so successful in his career. As you’ve said, he had such an appetite for life that he was always looking for ways to share this with others. His spirit was contagious, wasn’t it?
VP: Yes. Here was a person who in his own era was comfortable being somebody who fit in everywhere. That’s a real gift, but he used this to help other people feel like they belonged.
AS: And food was his birthright, wasn’t it?
VP: Yes. His grandfather invented baking powder, and his father was one the of the biggest candy makers in the United States.
AS: Have all of the cookbooks been reprinted at this point?
VP: All but the five-volume set are back in print. A Treasury of Great American Recipes came out in a 50th anniversary edition in 2015, Mary and Vincent Price’s Come into the Kitchen was reprinted November of last year, and Cooking Price-Wise, based on the British cooking series of the same name, was just reintroduced this month as Cooking Price-Wise: The Original Foodie. All of the books are doing great because of all of his many loyal fans. He even has 242,000 Facebook followers!
Audrey Barr is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer.