My Life According To Oscar or, How To Make A Donald Crisp

I have this thing that I do. Some people find it annoying; others, fascinating.

People tell me when they were born, I tell them who won Oscars that year.

It’s one of my little quirks. And a rather lame party trick, if you ask me.

When I tell someone he’s A Man For All Seasons, I mean that he was born in 1966. And then that same person will look at me and ask, “Why the hell do you even know that?”

I just do.

When I was 11 years old, I came down with a very nasty strep infection, which is not typically good subject matter for a food blog, but stay with me here. My tonsils were so swollen that, at one point, I could feel them touch each other at the back of my throat. I couldn’t eat or drink without discomfort, nor could I sleep because, every time I swallowed heavily, I would wake up in pain.

Those were good times. No cable television, no computer games to distract me, no talking, no singing of show tunes. Whatever was a pre-Information Age boy to do?

Fortunately, my father came to the rescue. He stopped by the house to see how I was doing and gave me the book that was to set me on a remarkable path of trivia absorption from which I have never strayed: 50 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards by Robert Osborne.

To both entertain myself and to keep my mind off the pain, I decided to play a little memory game. I wound up memorizing every Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Director, and Song listed in that damned book. Surprisingly, most of that information has never left this little head of mine.

And so… at some point I just started telling people who won Oscars the year they were born. I think you get the (best) picture. It’s sort of like my own version of the zodiac. I’m a 1969 baby, so I see myself as a Midnight Cowboy with Maggie Smith rising. A little bit Goldie Hawn, a little bit Gig Young, but not a trace of John Wayne in me.

Of course, it got a bit boring being stuck with the same film year in, year out, so I started to look at my life in terms of films that won the Oscar for the year that correlated to my age. For example, I deemed my 39th year on this planet as my Gone With The Wind (1939) year because it was so full of melodrama and seemed to go on forever.

As for 40, though I could not afford the upkeep of a deranged housekeeper, I felt as if much of the year, in a sense, was spent coming into my own and out from under shadows of others, not unlike Rebecca‘s (1940) unnamed heroine.

On Wednesday, I turned 41. If I am to continue living my life according to Oscar, I must look to the film How Green Was My Valley. I’m not certain what that’s supposed to mean, but I fully expect to get very nostalgic and, perhaps, date a Welshman. I hope it doesn’t mean I’m going to have a love affair with a minister. Or die in a coal mine.

I am cautiously optimistic. And, for some reason, it has inspired me to bake something:

A Donald Crisp. No, really, it did.

And why a Donald Crisp? Why not bake a Donald Crisp? He won the award for Best Supporting Actor in 1941 as a stern-but-loving father (always Oscar gold) in, conveniently enough, How Green Was My Valley. The decision to bake him into a dessert follows my own, particular path of logic. I could not have made anything else under the circumstances.

I considered other Oscar winners for the year, but they just didn’t inspire cooking. Yes, I could have made a Sergeant Yorkshire pudding, but that seemed ridiculous. And under no circumstances was I about to make anything with the name Suspicion in it. In terms of baking, I firmly believe that anything Joan Fontaine-inspired is to be avoided, since the result will either be weepy or worse, too bitter to eat.

Truth be told, I’m a little disappointed that Barbara Stanwyck didn’t win for Balls of Fire. I could have made something really, really interesting.

All this thought about how I might life my life according to the Oscars has really gotten me thinking about my future. For example, I can’t wait until I turn 42 so that I might start suffering nobly like Mrs. Miniver. Of course, she had to deal with severe wartime rationing, so I’d better start saving my flour and eggs for next year’s birthday recipe.

Until then…

Nectarine Donald Crisp

There is absolutely nothing about this crisp that screams the name Donald. Nor is there anything particularly Welsh about it either, but I wasn’t about to put leeks into my dessert. It is what it is, which is good. And easy. Worthy of an Oscar, in my book. Or, at least a nomination.

You decide. Please submit your votes to Price, Waterhouse & Coopers. Thank you.

Serves 4


For the fruit:

4 firm (but not rock hard) nectarines, pitted and sliced

1 tablespoon of sugar (taste the fruit, if it is sweet, add less. If not sweet enough, add more, got it? Good.)

1 teaspoon of grated orange zest

1 tablespoon of Maraschino liqueur or kirschwasser.

For the frangipane:

3 ounces almond paste

3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 egg

For the Topping:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 white sugar

1 cup slivered almonds

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 tablespoons of butter, melted


1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF.

2. Melt butter for the topping and let cool. Add all other topping ingredients and combine well. Place topping in the freezer as you prepare the rest of the ingredients, which will make it nice and clumpy, which is to be desired.

3. To make the frangipane, combine all ingredients until smooth. Set aside.

4. Slice your nectarines and toss in a bowl with sugar, orange zest, and maraschino liqueur. Look at bottle of liqueur. Notice that it roughly the same size as an Oscar. Clutch it to your bosom and practice your acceptance speech when no one is looking.

5. Arrange fruit in a shallow layer along the bottom of a small, oven-proof baking dish. Dot the fruit with spoonsful of frangipane, then top the whole thing with crisp topping, which you have sensibly removed from the freezer. There will be much left over topping, which you will want to have on hand when people command you to make more of this recipe.

6. Place your crisp-filled baking dish on a foil-lined baking sheet because the juices from the fruit will bubble and spill over the edges of your dish. If they don’t then you don’t have a proper crisp in my book. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until fruit is a-bubble and the topping is browned.

7. Serve warm on its own or with vanilla ice cream. Or eat it cold from the refrigerator for breakfast. It’s even better-tasting the next day, though the topping will more than likely not be crisp, which might cause one distress, given the fact that the dish is called a “crisp.” Feel free to rename it something else if this is a major concern.

8. Accept applause, but please keep your speech to less than one minute, otherwise the orchestra will try to drown you out and the teenage daughter of a celebrity will walk into your kitchen in a rented evening gown and usher you offstage.

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About Michael Procopio

I write about food and am very fond of Edward Gorey. And gin.
This entry was posted in Celebrities, Stage, Film, and Television, Sweets and the Like and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to My Life According To Oscar or, How To Make A Donald Crisp

  1. Sean says:

    But what I want to know is how to make a Quentin Crisp.

    • michaelprocopio says:

      I’d have to give it a lavender rinse. And I hate lavender in my food– makes me think I’m eating soap, which brings back some terrible memories.

  2. Jay Floyd says:

    OH. MY. LORD.

    This is the funniest thing I’ve read in a while.

  3. Susan says:

    Happy Birthday! May you live long and prosper and continue to write entertaining posts.

  4. jodi says:

    Happy Birthday! No leeks? Damn. And…uhm, you know you can “always” do a Balls of Fire anytime you want to right? Not that it’s a hint or anything. 🙂

    • michaelprocopio says:

      Oh, I think Balls of Fire may just have to be on the menu at some point. But there has to be a story behind it. Doesn’t there always have to be a story behind everything with me?

  5. michaelprocopio says:

    Okay, so my friend Barbara sent me this email that I feel I just HAVE to share here:


    1943 I was born in L. A. and taken home to “Casablanca” in Hollydale, Ca.
    1957 Graduated from 8th grade and remember seeing “Bridge on the River Kwai” at the theatre, wasn’t allowed to see Joanne Woodward in “3 Faces of Eve”.
    1961 Graduated from high school and it wasn’t a “Westside Story” it was in Downey, Ca. I saw this movie in Hollywood with Tricia’s Dad. Most of the actors and actresses weren’t even Latino, but everyone got the message…
    1964 Married @ 20 years old and my husband didn’t call me “My Fair Lady”, but rather, “Mary Poppins”. I’m not sure I remember why. Maybe I was too happy.
    1966 My personable Paul was born. That is how he described himself in Junior Hi. He is by your accounting “A Man for All Seasons”.
    1969 You may have been born a “Midnight Cowboy”, but my Tricia was born in the morning.”Hello, Dolly”. I had my girl!
    1974 My marriage collapses and “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”.
    1975 Feeling like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” I quit waitressing and went to work at JCPenney’s.
    1980 We “Ordinary People” buy a house in Anaheim, and it is registered on the deed as belonging to an unmarried women and not “A Coal Miner’s Daughter”. Richard moved in with us and luckily he wasn’t a “Raging Bull”. I used to tell him he was strong like bull. He still is.
    1997 I am transferred to Ventura with 6 years until retirement. We buy a house with a view, and life is “As Good as It Gets”.

  6. ann west says:

    Seriously funny stuff and I love a good crisp! Thanks – so glad to have discovered a lighter side of food blogging (not talking calories here!) cheers.

    • michaelprocopio says:

      When you put it that way, you sound like a documentary on the life of a hip-grinding Welsh singer. Not that there is anything wrong with that. See: sub-theme, hot Welshmen.

  7. Mary says:

    What fun! I’m new to your blog and have spent some time reading your earlier posts. I’m glad I did. I love your recipes and the food you feature here. I’ll be back. No one could play a Welsh coal miner better than Donald Crisp. He deserves to have a dish named specifically for him. I hope you have a great day. By the way, I think yours is a unique talent. Blessings…Mary

    • michaelprocopio says:


      Your comment is the very first thing I read this morning– it totally made my day. Thank you. And thank you again!

      P.S. Your Watermelon Limeade has given a whole new meaning to “Pink Saturday”, which is a very specific holiday here in San Francisco. I am going to serve it next year both with and without rum.

  8. That looks outrageously delicious.

    And suddenly I’m feeling all Liz Taylorish.

    • michaelprocopio says:

      Ah, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” De-lightful family fun. Remind me to tell you about the time I had with Edward Albee sometime. I’ve been dining out on it for years…

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