Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A Nostalgic Look Forward

The Broadway HollywoodAnother New Year, and despite looming economic woes, I do feel happy.  I hope you do too.

There may be a recession, but I know how to keep it from becoming depression!

I have a secret weapon that helps me through these uncertain days. And I’ll share it with you today.

In tough economic times, hopelessness and depression can encroach on our energy and optimism. It’s natural to begin to feel overwhelmed, perhaps even lost and frightened.

But there are simple (read cheap) pleasures in life, and these can be powerful tonics that need not scratch and claw their way through what’s left of your 401k.

Food is one of these for me. I don’t need white truffles to be happy. Okay, okay, I’m busted. White truffles might indeed make me deliriously happy, but right now I am talking about regular ole happy.

I say this because there really is a lot to look forward to. Looking forward to better times (read white truffles) is a great way to chase away the blues. But it’s also OK to look back. This, for me, has always been another simple pleasure.

I am sure you know the bittersweet longing of nostalgia. That certain feeling that is common to so many of us this time of year. Maybe it’s your unjustifiable affinity for fruitcake. Maybe you find yourself thinking, “Gosh, I have a hankering for goose!”

Or perhaps it’s a simpler tug of the heart that can only be answered with star-shaped sugar cookies left on a plate by the fire.

Whenever we start to feel this way the most common advice is “don’t dwell on the past”. Well, I am here to say – I think that advice sucks!

And this year (finally) there’s proof in my figgy pudding! I read an article in the LA Times recently that completely validates what I have always felt about nostalgia. In it, Shari Roan, opens with these words: Long derided as wimpy and a waste of time, nostalgia nonetheless often sweeps in this time of year and settles in for the holidays. In calling up memories of people and celebrations past, it can evoke feelings buried by time and daily life. Now psychologists are rethinking the purpose of that peculiar sentiment — and are drawing some surprising conclusions.

Well, these surprising conclusions are not that surprising to me. Nostalgia is beneficial. I’d even go as far as to say that nostalgia is mandatory for good mental health! And I’ll take it on step further while I’m at it! I do not limit these bold proclamations to personal memories of your gramma Mathilda and her nearly inedible goulash.

No, n – there is also the equally beneficial sentiment known as cultural nostalgia. Cultural nostalgia can explain so many things that are just wrong in the fashion world. But it can also explain so many wonderful cultural traditions that relate to food. And guess what? I can be obsessed by almost all of them.

I build entire vacations around eating “culturally”. How else can you explain my cravings for Fijian Rourou (Taro Leaves) boiled in Cocoanut Milk! It also explains the ridiculously long lines at Pinks Hot Dogs right here in Los Angeles. I mean nobody actually likes those things, do they? (Oh if you are going, hold a place in line for me – kay?)

But there is also a lot of enticing mythology built around food, dining, and the general mirth of Old Hollywood! And by Hollywood, I mean HOLLYWOOD, the worldwide phenomenon not that charming old neighborhood in Los Angeles that I happen to call home.

Because of the folklore attached to the movie industry I love to seek out the old dining-a-saurs of Hollywood’s Golden Age. The places frequented by the stars of tinsel town. So many of them are extinct now. But when I can, I love to dine like Errol Flynn! Yep, I’m in like Flynn!

Movie stars are of course a key element in the mythology that is built up around some of the iconic Hollywood restaurants. I don’t know who first figured it out, but getting movie stars around to all the right places was (is) a great way to develop the product. Being seen at the right place at the right time was (is) how things were (are) done.

So it makes sense to me. If movie stars need to be seen living a certain glamour life, then they need places to live this life! Thus the Hollywood Hangout was born.

The Cocktail at The Cocoanut Grove
could make or break a career. Glamour eats like The Brown Derby’s Grapefruit Cake, and places like Perinos and La Rue, brought out the stars in their mink, ermine and pearls where they enjoyed Tournedos de Boeuf with Madeira sauce. 

But lower-end spots caught on with the Hollywood elite as well. Tick Tock, Schwabs, Mama Weiss (and her “must have” Cheese Noodle Casserole), all had simple home-style charms that were affordable to boot!

And we can’t forget the bigger than life late-night spots like the “Troc”, Macambo and El Cid. They all helped groom the worldwide reputation of Hollywood and the burgeoning movie industry! Who wouldn’t want to relive those times? Think how fabulous I would look scarfing down Oysters St. James with a gin martini. Ohhhh, I want Oysters St. James and a gin martini right now!

And what’s not to like? America was recovering from a depression in a big way. The war was still years away. It’s fun to look back at these times, these foods, and these American traditions and find hope in them.

Some of the foods may seem downright foreign to the way we eat today. But nostalgia can be a potent anti-depressant. A lot of people, including me, will put away dietary constraints for a little of the good old days (in moderation, of course)! There is a certain amount of strength that can be drawn from realizing that as a country we have gone through tougher times than these. So pass the Rumaki because I need another Mai Tai!

A Sippity Suppers New Years Eve Party Menu for the Food Buzz 24/24/24 event: HAPPY NOIR YEAR


Cocoanut Grove Signature Cocktail

Trader Vic’s Original Mai Tai

Classic Gin or Vodka Martini


The Cocoanut Grove’s Oysters St. James

Don The Beachcomber’s Rumaki

  First Course

Old Fashioned Shrimp Cocktail 


 Delmonico’s Crab Imperial

Main Course

La Rue’s Tournedos of Beef and Madeira Suace

with Mama Weiss’ Cheese Noodle Casserole


The Brown Derby’s Original Cobb Salad (no meat for our veggie friends)


The Brown Derby’s Grapefruit Cake with Grapefruit Cream Cheese Frosting

Champagne at midnight

Note: Betty Goodwin’s LOST RECIPE’S OF LEGENDARY HOLLYWOOD HAUNTS was an incredible source in planning the menu for this party. Thanks Betty!


Greg Henry


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