Glenn Ford will tell you that even though he attended the Cordon Bleu school of cooking twice, he is no cook. ``I can make an excellent omelet though,'' admits the actor, somewhat sheepishly. But that is not to say that he doesn't have some decided - and very interesting - ideas about seasonings and such.
Many of these sprang from his love for vegetable gardening. About 15 years ago, he wrote a book on the subject, ``Glenn Ford RFD Beverly Hills.''
When Mr. Ford began the fruit and vegetable brigade on the acre-plus yard surrounding his 14-room house, he had in mind teaching his only son, Peter, to enjoy a balanced diet.
So long as ``Daddy'' grew it, Peter would try it. Soon he had over 100 kinds of fruit trees and a very complete vegetable garden, grown in planting beds of enriched topsoil held in place with redwood siding (his own invention). He grew grapes and berries too.
Today, Ford admits, his gardening interests tend more toward raising roses than vegetables. Travel and long stints of living abroad largely account for this.
Nevertheless, he still prefers fresh vegetables to frozen. (Canned are a definite ``no-no'' in his opinion.) ``They are so easy to grow,'' he insists, ``and even if you live in an apartment, you can get great tomatoes from plants grown in tubs.''
He is especially fond of fried tomatoes. Pick them while still a little green, slice, then sprinkle them with brown sugar, and fry, he recommends. Or you can dredge the slices in seasoned flour, fry two slices of bacon for each tomato, then fry the tomatoes in the bacon fat. Homemade cream gravy is poured over the tomato slices, which are garnished with the bacon and served with hot biscuits.
Corn on the cob, says Ford, should always be eaten within 20 minutes of being picked, before its natural sugar turns to starch. ``The taste is far superior to any other corn.'' He has also ``smeared corn on the cob with sour cream, wrapped it in foil, and roasted it.'' And cucumbers are another favorite with sour cream.
Vegetables shouldn't be overlooked at the barbecue, either. Ford suggests placing sliced carrots, celery, and green peppers on heavy aluminum foil. Sprinkle them with dill, 1/4 cup salad oil, two teaspoons of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper (preferably fresh ground), and three tablespoons of brown sugar. Then seal the foil and place the package on the grill. Cook to taste, probably about an hour.
For something really different - that Ford says ``no one ever told me about'' - let onions go to seed, then cut off their creamy white blossoms and add them to potato salad or cole slaw. They have a fresh, mild ``oniony'' taste. Not content with this invention, Ford is trying the same experiment with an asparagus plant. He also advocates using onion seeds in dips and sandwich mixes. And a Ford tip for slicing onions minus tears: Place them in the freezer a half hour before handling.
Fruits are served in both traditional and unorthodox ways in the Ford household. He favors peach preserves, cobbler, and fresh peach sherbet. Simpler to prepare but similar to sherbet, he says, is a dessert made from sugared strawberries mashed with a little water and frozen in ice trays.
Oranges from Ford's trees might be used in the following manners: grated rind sprinkled in pancake batter, string beans, or baked beans. Roasting chicken is basted with orange juice, which is also sprinkled on codfish balls or on pork chops. And sliced bananas might be added to liven up peanut butter sandwiches.
Ford grows mint between his flowers and boasts of a rosemary plant that's taller than he is. He uses the herb to flavor chicken and all kinds of Italian foods.
The mint, he says, can be stored in a jar in the refrigerator, as can fresh parsley. ``It's good in mint sauce to serve with lamb, and in jellies.'' And both mint and dill can be dried by hanging sprigs upside down in a dry place like a closet or pantry. He hangs them in a paper bag, closed with a rubber band, with the stems sticking out the top.
Tarragon, says Ford, is good with any tomato dish, in salad, and with chicken. Chives are another favorite seasoning, and for Ford they have a special relationship with his one claimed dish, the omelet. ``I am an omelet fancier,'' he says, ``and chives make omelets fancier.''