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Lillian Hellman's Decent Scrambled Eggs

Compiled by Vicki McClure Davidson


Frugal Celebrities Recipes

The fascinating, often controversial American playwright Lillian Hellman wrote a number of powerful, realistic plays that made her one of America's major dramatists. She explored highly controversial themes, many ahead of their time that reflected her strong, outspoken political and social views. She was born in 1906 New Orleans, Louisiana, which influenced much of her subject matter. Her body of work includes The Children's Hour, In Days to Come, Watch on the Rhine, Another Part of the Forest, and what is considered her most powerful play, The Little Foxes.

Hellman had friendships with many notable authors of the day, including Ernest Hemingway, and was in a long-term romantic relationship with popular detective-story writer Dashiell Hammett (with whom she lived off and on for decades, but they never married). Hammett was a prolific writer and is best known for his stories, novels, and/or screenplays of The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man, and The Glass Key.

Hellman received a number of honorary degrees and awards. She was nominated twice for Broadway's Tony Award: in 1957, as the author of the book for the Best Musical nominee Candide and again in 1960, as the author of the Best Play nominee Toys in the Attic.

Before her death in 1984, Hellman collaborated on the memoirs/cookbook Eating Together: Recipes and Recollections, with writer and acolyte Peter Feibleman. The remarkable reminiscences and opines of food and food preparation frame the recipes in Hellman's half of the book (it's split into "His Way" and "Her Way") in a charming yet firm way; they offer Hellman's opinionated input that typically characterizes her memoirs and plays.

This is one of the most frugal recipes from her book. She titled the recipe "Decent Scrambled Eggs," which thoroughly cracks me up (no pun intended). Since at least 97 percent of home cooks likely know how to scramble eggs, Hellman's name for her egg recipe seems a bit defensive and challenging, as though to say, "Yes, yes, yes, I know you think you know how to make scrambled eggs, but most methods aren't up to my standards. My recipe makes DECENT scrambled eggs. Try it and you'll see I'm right."

And yes, this is a very good recipe for "decent" scrambled eggs... an economical main dish for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.


Lillian Hellman's Decent Scrambled Eggs


Break the eggs in a large bowl and beat hard. Add water, salt, pepper, chives, and parsley. Melt the butter in an iron pan.

When it is thoroughly melted, pour in the eggs and get ready to stand in front of the stove. Begin to beat the minute your eggs cook. A wooden spoon is best. You must continue this beating until the eggs have reached a nice, soft consistency. (There is nothing to mind worse than hard scrambled eggs. They taste like yesterday's calendar).

Have a large platter warm and ready, and the minute the eggs have settled to the right consistency, put them on the platter and sprinkle with additional chives.


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Encyclopedia of World Biography, Lillian Hellman, (
Hellman, Lillian, and Feibelman, Peter, Eating Together: Recipes and Recollections, Little Brown & Co., Boston, MA, 1984., Lillian Hellman, (