David Wade, Gourmet: Have Ascot, Will Travel
by Paula Bosse
by Paula Bosse
A few years ago, when I was a bookseller, I posted the following on a personal blog — it turned out to be the most commented-on and most clicked-on post I’d ever written. I wrote it a bit snarky, but I was amazed by the response it elicited: people (both in Texas and beyond) apparently have a strong affection for — and a seemingly deeply personal attachment to — local TV gourmand David Wade.
I just received an order for a David Wade cookbook I’ve had listed for four years:
DAVID WADE’S KITCHEN CLASSICS (Dallas: David Wade Industries, 1969). 300pp. Photographs, index. The ascot-clad TV gourmet presents recipes as well as photos of himself with celebrities such as Mickey Mantle (page 99, opposite the recipe for Crabmeat Tetrazzini). A couple of small splotches to fore-edge; one rubbed spot on cover. No dust jacket. Inscribed by Wade. $12.50
I don’t know if people outside of Texas (and maybe outside of Dallas) would be familiar with David Wade, described, tellingly, not as a “chef” but as a “food demonstrator.” He had a local TV show that must have started in the ’50s or ’60s, but I saw him in the ’70s and into the ’80s. And, yes, he DID wear an ascot, and a blazer, as seen above, from the front cover of another cookbook from the David Wade oeuvre.
He had a catchy theme song (which compared him to Rembrandt and Edison) and he had his very own coat of arms, which I have vivid, rather frightening memories of from my childhood (I always imagined that poor pig being whacked over the head with the rolling pin and then hacked apart by the cleaver — Bon Appetit, little piggie!):
I was just a kid, but I remember cringing a bit at his deep-voiced cheesiness. I don’t actually remember much about the food or the actual program, but I can still hear that unnaturally calm, deep voice oozing around inside my head. But what did I know? He was an incredibly popular local TV personality. Yeah, he might have used an over-abundance of big words (…words like “over-abundance”), but, to be fair, he also had a folksy charm and was pleasantly inoffensive.
I’m not sure the same can be said for his food, however. Here are a few of the recipes which some lucky lady in South Carolina who bought the cookbook might be whipping up in a few days:
- Squash Loaf
- Citrus Surprise Steak
- Liver Yucatan (featuring grated American cheese (can you actually grate American cheese?), macaroni, canned mushrooms, and sugar)
- Baked Stuffed Fish with Pecan Grape Sauce
- Deep Sea Loaf (made with canned tuna, gelatin, sweet pickle juice, avocado, and three tablespoons of sugar … among other equally distressing ingredients)
- Salmon & Green Olive Casserole (with cream and “salmon liquid” straight from the can)
- Apple & Banana Soup (these are the ingredients: chicken stock, apple, banana, potato, onion, cream, curry powder, chives)
- Kidney Bean Tuna Salad
- Meat Loaf Pizza
- Pineapple Mint Cake
- Quick Clove Jelly Cake
- Sahib Eight Boy Chicken Curry (…I have no idea…)
- Yam Peanut Puffs
After I wrote that post, I was inundated by people looking for information on where to find all sorts of much-loved David Wade recipes (especially his famed “Turkey in a Sack”) and where they could find his apparently quite popular Worcestershire Powder (links are at the bottom of this post). There were also many, many comments from people who just wanted to share personal memories of David Wade, invariably describing him as a warm and gracious, down-to-earth, gentle man. “Classy, but not pretentious.”
Wade began his TV career in Dallas at WFAA in 1949, hosting a 15-minute show about dogs (?!) called “Canine Comments” — it became so popular that it was syndicated around the country. He won awards for that show. It was VERY popular. In 1952, Wade was also appearing on WFAA radio as “The Hymn Singer,” singing religious songs and talking about each song’s history and composer. Along the line he made the switch to food.
He was “demonstrating” food preparation at personal appearances and on local television by 1957, and in the early 1960s he became a nationally-known figure when he commuted to New York from Dallas to tape regular spots for a show called “Flair” in which he frequently appeared with celebrities, guiding them through the preparation of a dish.
With Gregory Peck, 1960s
Eventually his Dallas-based TV shows were syndicated all over the U.S., and he was so popular locally that he decided to run for mayor in 1971 (he lost to Wes Wise). He continued in his role as a cooking instructor and media figure until his retirement.
David Wade, a much-beloved man who lived and worked in Dallas for the bulk of his career — died in Tyler in March of 2001 at the age of 77. He had been a fixture on Texas television and had published numerous cookbooks. And in between rhapsodizing on good food and wine, he even taught untold thousands how to cook fish in the dishwasher and how to roast a turkey in a paper sack.
The famed David Wade Worcestershire Powder can be purchased from the above website, here. (It may also be available at Brookshire’s groceries in Tyler.) UPDATE: I’ve just been alerted that it is also available at Central Market in the bulk spice area.
David Wade’s obituary is here.
An interview with Wade conducted by Carolyn Barta during his mayoral campaign — in which he expounds on his vision for the future of Dallas — can be read in a Dallas Morning News article (March 21, 1971), here.
Next: The little-known devastating and traumatic childhood event that resulted in David Wade becoming an orphan at the age of 5. Read “David Wade: Overcoming Childhood Trauma” here.
Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.