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Pearl Bailey's Pork Chops with Green Apples Recipe and Mama's Cabbage Recipe

Compiled by Vicki McClure Davidson


Frugal Celebrities' Recipes

Singer, actress, dancer, and composer Pearl Mae Bailey had a long and successful career in entertainment. Born in 1918 in Southampton County, Virginia, she began performing in vaudeville in Washington, DC as a teen. She toured the Pennsylvania mining towns as a dancer. She starred in the film St. Louis Blues opposite Nat King Cole, which was the biography of W.C. Handy.

Bailey made her Broadway debut in St. Louis Woman in 1946. She won a Tony Award for the title role in the all-black stage production of Hello, Dolly! in 1968. In 1986, she won a Daytime Emmy award for her performance as the fairy godmother in the ABC Afterschool Special, Cindy Eller: A Modern Fairy Tale.

Bailey recorded many popular singles, and her recording of "Takes Two to Tango" hit the Top Ten charts in 1952.

In 1967, Bailey and Cab Calloway headlined an all-black cast version of Hello, Dolly! The touring version was so successful, producer David Merrick took it to Broadway where it played to sold out houses and revitalized the long-running musical. Bailey was given a special Tony Award for her role and RCA made a second original cast album. That is the only recording of the score to have an overture which was written especially for that recording.

The following year, she sang the national anthem at Shea Stadium, prior to Game 5 of the 1969 World Series. Bailey was appointed as a special ambassador to the United Nations in 1975 by Pres. Gerald Ford. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Pres. Ronald Reagan in 1988.

Bailey's brother was also an entertainer, Bill Bailey (1912-1978). He is generally credited with being the first to perform the "moonwalk" dance step on film in the classic film musical Cabin in the Sky (1943). Pearl Bailey passed away in 1990 at age 72.


Bailey once said of herself, "I am not a gourmet chick." The thrift-minded recipes here are conversational rather than in standard cooking instruction format.

These two recipes are from her 1973 autobiography-cookbook, Pearl's Kitchen, an Extraordinary Cookbook by Pearl Bailey, reflect her simple, thrifty, down-home-cooking style of cooking.


Pearl Bailey's Pork Chops with Green Apples

I had a dinner a few nights ago that was more exciting, actually sexier, than a best-selling novel. What, you may ask, does sex have to do with food? Darlin', I am not going into that right now. Just let me tell you tht what got me so excited was pork chops, buttered rice, and Mama's cabbage.

I always fry chops very slowly in 1/4 pound (1 stick) of butter. I brown them very well, but I do not bread them. I very seldom put flour of any kind in cooking; to me meat is meat and bread is bread. Breaded chops in restaurants around the theatrical circuits broke me of the habit. The fact is in some of those places, you get a lot more flour than meat.

When the chops are about 3/4 done, I throw in some sliced green apples. Then I add some salt and pepper, a dash of sugar (brown is great), and sometimes a bit of nutmeg. I cover the whole thing with aluminum foil and fry it the rest of the way.

My daughter Dee Dee and my nieces, Pearlie Mae, Mary, and Candy were at the table. At one time or another all of these girls have had a problem with not being good eaters, and it really gave me a thrill to see them sit there and eat in silence. Candy ended up so full that her stomach was practically hurting. There was nothing wrong with her really except that she was just all puffed out. Pearlie Mae finally gave up and Dee Dee and Mary just kept on. It was a real joy for me to see them go after it that way—their little mouths sealed except for a little peephole to keep shoving that food in.



Pearl Bailey's Mama's Cabbage

Mama always quartered a cabbage. She put it into about 1/4 pan of water and boiled it without a top. In the water, use a small piece of bacon (or some bacon grease), or some ham or salt pork.

For smothered cabbage, cook it like greens in plain water until almost done. In a frying pan, cook bacon or salt pork, then add the cabbage and a little water. Cover and simmer until done. Yum!


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Bailey, Pearl, Pearl's Kitchen, an Extraordinary Cookbook by Pearl Bailey, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., New York, NY, 1973.
Internet Movie Database, Pearl Bailey (, Pearl Bailey (