Until I received my Pieathalon challenge, I’d never seen a Burns and Allen Show.  I totally understand now though, why it’s an institution, for those who are into their retro classics.

burns and allen 1

I made my acquaintance with George and Gracie last weekend because of this:


a page, not strictly speaking related to the recipe, but full of PROMISE for an archivist type like me.  Thank goodness Bitter Sweet Susie thought to include this with the cover of the cookbook and the recipe.  I’m guessing it was the back page of the book…

perfect piesPlease note carnations in the corner…

Here’s the recipe…

Pie 1

Yinzerella over at Dinner Is Served 1972 organised a Piefest- the 2nd Annual Pieathalon.


whereby a bunch of food bloggers sent her their favourite vintage pie recipes, she shuffled them up and distributed them at random. Luckily for me, I got one with a silver screen significance.

The Perfect Pies cookbook was produced by Carnation Milk in 1954.  The Burns and Allen show had been on radio since the early 1930s and on TV since 1950.  The real life husband and wife team also appeared in some feature films of the 1930s.  They were a very talented duo.  As I’d never seen a Burns and Allen show I scanned the many episodes on YouTube for a food related one to watch.  I came up with this one…

which turned out to be a doozy.  Gracie and her neighbour decide to go vegetarian, and their husbands are not amused.  The show is full of jokes about health food, steaks and diets, and as I made my Magic Cream Pie I had it on in the background.  I laughed out loud loads of times.

The show was sponsored by Carnation and I counted at least THIRTEEN mentions of the brand name in a 30 minute show.  We Brits never had this kind of intense sponsorship frenzy on TV, so it always seems amazing to us that the advertising is so obvious.  The promotion of this Carnation cookbook throughout the show:


Please note carnations in the middle…

is pretty relentless with Gracie and her friend Blanche drooling over the book saying, “oh Bill, it’s beautiful!” and Bill tells George, “Carnation makes your food taste better… Carnation has more uses than any other form of milk”  The cookbook itself has a fair amount of screentime.

 “I want one of these, how does a person get one?” asks Blanche  The answer is to send your name and address and 35 cents to Gracie Allen, CBS, Hollywood.  Gracie sits and autographs copies of the book during the show.  35 cents would be about £5 in today’s money.  There is currently a copy of the book signed by Gracie on abebooks.com going for about £40.

Mary Blake is mentioned in the show and called the “Carnation Home Economist” and lots of promotional cookbooks were published under her name.  As some historians have pointed out though, food companies often “invented” a persona for their cookbook creators, Betty Crocker being the most famous.  As Laura Shapiro puts it, “Magazine readers may or may not have been aware that Mary Blake, per se,  didn’t exist: Carnation economists wrote her copy, signed her mail and made her speeches.”

On a little trawl around ebay I found the cover of this cookbook which I have in my collection:

mary blake

Please note carnations in the corner…

That thing on the cover is something I am DYING to make…  I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for a “cook the weirdest retro recipe you can find” cookalong so I can make it…

So anyhow, enough banging on about Mary Blake, George and Gracie and Carnation Milk (“from contented cows”).  I made my first ever Magic Cream Pie and here’s a photo:

Note carnations in the corner...

Please note carnations in the corner…

I was VERY impressed with myself!  I made pastry to Mary and Vincent’s recipe in the Treasury (I’m going to post this recipe up soon so will link back when I do).  Then I made the custard and added some coconut (I LOVE coconut so decided to do this variation) and also sprinkled some coconut on top of the meringue (although not as much as “Mary” suggested).

I have never, ever had any success with getting custard type pies to set.  This one was no different.  Here’s what happened when I cut into it…


Runny custard!  Still, it was delicious.  There is no doubt about that.  And as I had more coconutty-custardy mixture than I could fit in the pie, I popped some in a ramekin and stuck it in the freezer for a little treat another time.


GOOD PIE – even if I had to eat most of the filling off the plate with a teaspoon.


Bitter Sweet Susie who selected this recipe is an amazing photographer and I’ve been drooling over her photographs of beautiful vintage folks and their outfits  on her blog.  Susie, I beg you to come over to London and take some pix of me and my Shellac Sisters !


I will make you a Magic Cream Pie Susie, that’s a promise!

Here are links to all the wonderful food bloggers who participated in the second annual Pieathalon.  Get yourself a piece of pie and go on a blog tour – ENJOY!

Our hostess with the mostest Yinerella made the Melton Mowbray Pie from Mary and Vincent Price’s Treasury of Great recipes and did an AMAZING job.

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