What is it?
Maxwell, Jeff. Secrets of the M*A*S*H Mess: The Lost Recipes of Private Igor. Nashville: Cumberland House, 1997.
Why should M*A*S*H fans care?
Jeff Maxwell delivers a comedic book as our favorite cook, Private Igor. He takes the character from the series and creates a more dimensional Igor that we never got in the show.
As a M*A*S*H fan, what part(s) should I watch?
All of it! The recipes sound tasty, the letters from Igor to his mother are hilarious, and the behind the scenes stories and photos from Maxwell are my favorite part.
Maxwell serves up a fun book with real recipes that you can try at home! Igor’s recipes and letters home make up the majority of the book, but the main course in this book comes from Maxwell himself. We get a behind the scenes look at M*A*S*H from his point of view, an overview of his comedy career, and Maxwell’s personal photos from the set of M*A*S*H. This book is one of the most fun written by a member of the cast.
When you think of Private Igor from M*A*S*H, you probably think of creamed weenies, creamed corn, or that damned choice of liver or fish. But in Jeff Maxwell’s Secrets of the M*A*S*H Mess: The Lost Recipes of Private Igor, we learn that there is a lot more to Igor than meets the eye. He is, in fact, a great cook, but he was limited by the Army’s food and the location of the 4077th at the war front. In this book, we get a collection of Igor’s best recipes, some of Igors letters home from the Korean War, and we get a great behind the scenes look at M*A*S*H from the perspective of Maxwell himself.
Maxwells book opens with some mock praise from his former M*A*S*H mates, forwards by Alan Alda and Larry Gelbart, a preface by Gene Reynolds, and an introduction by Maxwell himself. That is quite the opening act! The rest of the book is organized by meal: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and then some “M*A*S*H-ellaneous” with appetizers and desserts. These sections are all in Igor’s voice, but the book concludes with Maxwell giving us a behind the scenes look at how he became Igor and a collection of his personal photos from the set.
What will likely surprise most M*A*S*H fans is that all of the recipes in the book are real. Yes, you can make Creamed Weenies at home! There is a large selection of other recipes with a M*A*S*H theme including “Klinger’s Section 8 Omelet,” Sherman’s Great Caesar’s Salad,” “Sorry ‘Bout that Father Creamed Corn,” “Spam Lamb,” “River of Liver,” “Hunnicut’s Homesick Cookies,” and many more. Each recipe has a full list of ingredients, preparation instructions, and cooking directions. With this book, you can eat the M*A*S*H life!
Scattered throughout the recipes are a bunch of extra fun items including screenshots from the show and line quotes. The mixture of the photos and the quotes brings the book to life as they are all relevant to the recipe on the page. Then there are the letters. These are created by Maxwell as Igor and written to his mom They are the highlight of the book. We see Igor’s time at the 4077th from his perspective. We even learn that his original job wasn’t anywhere near the kitchen, but he was later reassigned as the cook because there was an opening in the mess tent. Maxwell’s creativity with these letters really brings Igor to life.
Finally, we learn more about Maxwell himself. Of course, the bulk of the book is dedicated to Igor and his recipes, but we cannot forget about the man who brought Igor to life for nine seasons. Maxwell tells the story of how he got the role of Igor and recounts some behind the scenes stories from the set. My favorite part, however, are his personal photos of the cast and crew from the set. Maxwell would bring his camera to Stage 9 and The Ranch to take photos, and he shares several with us. His captions highlight members of the crew that we never saw on camera, but made the show possible week after week. It was great to be able to put faces with the names that we often read in the show’s credits.
Many members of the M*A*S*H cast have written memoirs and books, but none of them are like Secrets of the M*A*S*H Mess: The Lost Recipes of Private Igor. What Maxwell does with his book is take a beloved character from the screen and add more dimension. That is no easy task. The letters from Igor and behind the scenes materials are worth the price of the book alone, but you also get a M*A*S*H recipe book! I highly recommend adding a copy to your collection, but I caution everyone to wait. There are used copies available from the original printing, but Maxwell himself has warned fans on the M*A*S*H Matters podcast that any copies still being sold as “new” are of poorer quality. He is currently working on an updated version of the book that he hopes to release in the next year. I will post an update once the updated version of the book is available.
3 thoughts on “From the M*A*S*H Library 19: “Secrets of the M*A*S*H Mess””
Where can I order or pre-order Jeff’s book?
Nothing is available right now, but I assume that it will be available through the M*A*S*H Matters store! I’ll post an update once the book is available. He has just said it’s coming, but no date has been announced yet.