Actress with a wooden spoon – Mariska Vízvári’s surprising solutions from the turn of the century

“Heavily salt an old hen on the inside and out…” This is the opening phrase of Mariska Vízvári’s Hundred specialties cookbook released in 1914. Anything goes! Not only do we respect the talent of the lifetime member of the National Theatre we also respect her exceptional cooking skills. Her every gesture was unique and her dishes could put a smile on anyone’s face.

The actress

 Today the exceptional actress (born Mária Viszkidenszky 1877-1954) is only known by her black-and-white happy ending movies. Cranky wife, know-it-all mother-in-law or funny old lady, she played them all. Acting was inherent to her, not only because of the talent of her ancestors but because of the way she spoke and carried herself. These traits made sure she still has her own chapter in the book of Hungarian actresses. József Szigeti, her grandfather was a well-known actor, while her mother, Jolán Szigeti and her father Gyula Vízvári were both comedians. Her father was one of the leading comedians of his time at the National Theatre. Knowing this, it’s no wonder that she was offered a role by director Ede Paulay at the age of 13. Along with her theatre appearances, she also had movie roles. Nem élhetek muzsikaszó nélkül, Légy jó mindhalálig, Gyurkovics fiúk, Beszterce ostroma are just a few of the movies she was in. She found happiness in life with her second husband, György Kürthy a successful caricaturist and stage designer.


A kép: a szerző, Csontó Sándor gyűjteményéből

Photo: from the writes, Sándor Csontó collection

Her great role in the kitchen

Countless cookbooks were published in the first few decades of the previous century that featured recipes from noblewomen, not just chefs. Andorné Festetits, Nándorné Urmánczy, Fanni Malatinszky, Erzsébet Hunyadi, Lenke Mokry, Rezsőné Rajczy, Ferencné Móra, Teréz Szekula and Adolfné Hatsek just to mention a few. (It’s was the same as it is today. To be honest, anyone can publish a cookbook.) Mariska probably decided to share her knowledge of cooking with the public during the descent of her career while she was taking care of her two children. As she wrote in her book “you’ll find unknown or little-known recipes here as well as recipes I learned abroad or in the countryside. Small, easily preparable dishes, foods that taste good, bourgeois meals and better plating methods and more are all in here.” Most of the recipes we read about in most of the chapters are products of classical French cuisine. That means they’re variously spiced and easily digestible. (The chapters in order: soups – fish, crustaceans – appetisers – meat dishes – salads and pickled vegetables – stews – sauces – mixed)

The mixed chapter contains recipes like paprika jam, fruit palinka or layered toast bread. She encourages vegetables or fruit as side dishes for meats and makes beans stews without a roux. The recipes are short, precise and to the point but are recommended for experienced housewives.

She showcased her recipes in her own column as part of Theatre Life magazine. Her readers had the opportunity to enjoy her easy yet sophisticated recipes. Her book was published in 1931 and contained 1000 collected recipes from the magazine. This handy collection has had many editions since then and still offers a hearty and jovial experience for any reader.

According to her friends, she was exciting and funny and always had a good tale to tell or a story for a certain occasion. As a housewife, she was cordial and always cooked a meal for her colleagues after a show at the Theatre. She could amuse anybody. Her last performance was in the 1953 edition of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. She left us a legacy of fantastic recipes and unforgettable performances.


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