© SOD August 21, 1990
by Carol Bialkowski
Soap characters can often be seen munching sandwiches in the hospital cafeteria, nibbling hors d'oeuvres at a swank party or supping at the favorite local haunt. But where does all the food come from? Do soaps pop into the corner supermarket, call in a caterer or frequent the studio commissary? According to Jim Balzaretti, production property manager for ALL MY CHILDREN, the answer is: all of the above.
When AMC characters dine at the Valley Inn, a prop department assistant shops for the ingredients and whips up the meals (usually salads) right on the set. However, the delicious-looking pies and cakes on the dessert cart aren't even real. "Fresh cakes can't take the heavy lights, especially for twelve hours. So I get these fake desserts from a distributor in California," Balzaretti explains.
For scenes that require fancier foods, like hors d'oeuvres and wedding cakes, Balzaretti calls in a local caterer. Several years ago, while flipping through The New York Times food section, he came across an article about a gourmet baker, Sylvia Weinstock, who specializes in creating unusual cakes. Balzaretti visited her and described the show's needs. She's been baking all of AMC's wedding cakes time after time," he recalls. "Sylvia's cakes are different. She'll do things like latticework with roses and ivy on a cake to make a strong visual statement."
Weinstock also baked the perfect souffle that helped Cecily win the title of Mrs. U.S.A Homemaker. To be exact, Weinstock baked fifteen souffles -- from the best to the worst -- for four consecutive days, in order to show Cecily's progress in the kitchen.
Simple food items, such as sandwiches used in hospital cafeteria scenes, are often obtained from the studio commissary. "Essentially, we do what's easiest for the particular situation," he notes. Sometimes, however, the job isn't always easy, as in the case of Tad and Dixie's famous chicken finger feast. "There's no such thing as chicken fingers, so we used Mrs. Paul's Fish Sticks, " he says. The fish sticks actually worked better, according to Balzaretti , because they were so moist they didn't stick to the actors' teeth -- an important consideration for those who must eat and speak at the same time. Balzaretti disguised the "fingers" in a white bucket emblazoned with the logo "Major's Chicken Wings." Why "Major"? Because the name "Colonel" was already taken.