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HomeCultureWhat I Eat: Behind The Scenes With 'It's A Wonderful Life' Star

What I Eat: Behind The Scenes With ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ Star

“I love to eat,” says Karolyn “Zuzu” Grimes, the actress who played the iconic cherubic young daughter of George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) in the timeless holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. “I like Christmas cookies and I always fix a prime rib roast for Christmas dinner. That’s tradition.”

For Grimes, the holiday season is tumultuous, emotional and full of traveling, yet she still has time to make a big family meal for Christmas, which also includes a green bean casserole.

“I use Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, cheese and French’s dried onions,” she says. “For the cheese, I use cheddar. Tillamook. That’s all I cook with — I love Tillamook!”

For Grimes, the joyous grind of traveling during the holiday season started in 1980 when It’s a Wonderful Life, which had previously been thought of as a flop, earned a resurgence. People started to approach Grimes for interviews and she started receiving fan mail. Then, in 1993, she was hired by Target, which reunited the Bailey children for a holiday campaign.

Now Grimes, 76, is on the road every holiday season, traveling from her home in Port Orchard, WA, to Dallas, Portland, L.A., Indianapolis and many more locations around the country for appearances.

“I like being on the road and meeting the people and enjoying the love that comes from the folks for the film,” she says. “I didn’t realize that anything like that could happen.”

Grimes recalls shooting the film, which debuted December 20, 1946. She says some cast members took on roles to play extras just for the food spread.

“During the swimming pool scene,” she recalls, “they put on the most elaborate catering and some of those kids decided to do the part just so they would eat. Where I worked it was mostly on set and we’d eat in the studio cafeteria.”

But what would she find herself munching on between takes?

“Probably a hot dog,” she laughs. “Though I didn’t like food much when I was little; I thought eating was a waste of time, same with sleeping. Needless to say I’ve gotten over both of those things!”

Grimes’ father, a former manager at a Safeway store, would bring home food for dinners like “lamb chops and pork chops and rabbit and chicken,” she says. “And I couldn’t tell the difference! So I grew up eating a little bit of everything.”

Now, though, she often has her eyes on the next meal. But, she says, despite all her traveling, she is not a happy consumer of airplane food.

“I try not to eat on an airplane,” she says, somberly. “Their food is not the best. But I do love all kids of food! I’ve gotten to know restaurants in the airports and I like to eat the food in whatever region I travel to. Whether it’s Creole or Cajun, I love to try anything new!”

When she goes back to the east coast, Grimes looks for a good steak.

“I like the corn-fed steak, which isn’t good for you,” she laughs. “But that’s okay, that’s okay.”

And when she’s in Chicago, she goes for hot dogs.

“With relish and mustard!”

But the restaurant that gives her the most pause is a place called Parker’s Grille in Seneca Falls, New York — the town that inspired the fictional locale of Bedford Falls in the movie and where a museum for the film exists today.

“Thinking about them, that hits me hard,” she says. “They have really good food.”

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