Photoplay Cookbook: Joan Crawford’s “French Banana Salad”

Welcome to the first entry in my new series! I am going to be cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay cookbook (recipes of the stars!) and you are invited to tag along. (I will be listing all the recipes I test on this dedicated page. Check back often.)

I will be rating the recipes in stars from 1 (inedible, strange, and/or wrong, like Sandra Lee’s Kwanzaa Cake.) to 5 (awe-inspiring, addictive, insanely delicious, like Julia Child’s Dry-Brined Corned Beef or Cook’s Illustrated’s Flourless Chocolate Cake).

First up is a star whose sound stardom outshone her silent work.

Joan Crawford, skinny of eyebrow and floppy of hat.
Joan Crawford, skinny of eyebrow and floppy of hat.

Joan Crawford remains a controversial figure in silent and classic cinema. Her mental health has been called into question by some and staunchly defended by others. As I have stated on this site before, I am not an enormous fan of seeking out famous people’s dirty laundry. That being said, I am not really sure that this recipe will help Joan’s case.

In 1929, Crawford was extremely popular but mostly known as a flapper. She was one of 150 stars invited to contribute (or, I suspect in many cases, “contribute”) to Photoplay’s cookbook.

The recipe that she chose (or was chosen for her) might be reasonably described as… unusual. I present you with the French Banana Salad.

Joan-Crawford-French-Banana-Salad

I am not sure what is supposed to make this salad French, unless the French have a love for peanuts and mayonnaise that I was unaware of. Prepared at the last minute? Uh, yeah, it only calls for slicing a banana. And leaving the skin on. Oh dear.

I was suspicious of this recipe (wouldn’t you be?) so I decided to cut my losses. I made it with half a baby banana. No point in wasting good fruit. Besides, baby bananas (or lady finger bananas, the nino or whatever you may call them) are really delicious and have a more pleasant texture the full-size bananas, at least in my opinion. They are moister, denser, and richer in flavor than “regular” bananas and are more suitable for fruit salads. For the rest of the ingredients, I used Kraft olive oil mayonnaise (not a mayo fan by any means), green leaf lettuce and the store brand of peanuts.

This is what it looked like.

Oh. My. Gravy.
Oh. My. Gravy.
Dare I approach?
Dare I approach?

It’s even scarier up close.

Blech.
Blech.

And here is the taste test video:

My Rating: 1 out of 5. This is insanely disgusting and I certainly hope it is not a foretaste of things to come.

This is a salad for someone either very drunk or very crazy. It’s just nasty. The mayonnaise went to war with the banana and my taste buds were civilian casualties. The peanuts were there, I guess. Removing the skin as I ate was strange and awkward. I cannot even imagine trying it with the thick skin of a regular supermarket banana.

This salad is basically the worst thing I have ever eaten that was made with fruit. You think I’m exaggerating? You try it. I dare you.

Oh well, the other half of the baby banana (the half not slathered in mayo and peanuts) was as tasty as could be.

Can it be improved? No! The concept is so wrong that there is no saving it.

Eat this instead: Skinny Peanut Butter Banana Muffins. Similar ingredients. Similar goal (Winter recipe). Actual food.

Next time, I will be sampling another salad, this one from a very famous screenwriter.

Recommended

40 Replies to “Photoplay Cookbook: Joan Crawford’s “French Banana Salad””

  1. Joan Crawford? No. The French Banana Salad looks like a dish that would be made by Oscar the Grouch. It’s from an alternate dimension where all sorts of things are wrong and this is their version of a banana split.

    Your taste test video was funny.

  2. You are a very brave soul. Just looking at that makes me gag! I hope the rest of the recipes go better for you.

  3. About the same time that recipe came out, the Beverly Hills Woman’s Club came out with a celeb cookbook, then followed with a 1930 edition. It was in this latter book that two recipes credited to Joanie’s old Cocoanut Grove dance rival Carole Lombard were published — one for lettuce soup (meh), the other for spinach soup (ding-ding-ding-ding!). If Lombard and Crawford had participated in a cook-off, Carole would have captured the trophy.

    Learn more about Lombard’s recipes at http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/469753.html; here’s Carole’s recipe for the aforementioned spinach soup (I’ve tried it and it’s delicious):

    For spinach soup, mix together 2 tablespoons butter, 4 tablespoons flour, 2 tablespoons grated cheese, salt and pepper. Add two cups of milk, 2 cups of water and one cup of cooked spinach. Let simmer for about twenty minutes over a slow fire.

  4. I assume you cook on something resembling a regular basis? The way you wrote this, it sounds like you do.

  5. Oh lordy, this sounds HORRIBLE. Oh no no, I don’t need to try it, my imagination is vivid enough, thank yew. Do you think it might’ve been meant to be served with the skin side down, rather than up?

    1. I wasn’t sure. I assumed it was served skin side up to keep the exposed side from browning but logic is not something I expect from this recipe.

  6. Oh, you should see MY face. I’m reading this in the library here and trying SO hard not to lose it. And failing. Oh. My. Banana. No wonder she was so slim back then! I think if they showed her making this dish and eating it in Mommie Dearest instead of the “No wire hangers” scene, people would have rioted. Rioted, I say! I bet that WAS a recipe from Joan… but a gag one, as she probably thought they wouldn’t USE it. Wow…

    1. That would be pretty fun to do, come to think of it. “My recipe is chocolate, liver and apricot pie! All the chic people are eating it. And the pie is upside down!”

  7. Well that just made me feel a whole lot better about some of my failed culinary attempts. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series – I hope it gets better for your sake, but for the sake of my inner chef ego, I hope they stay this ‘inventive’ and inedible πŸ˜‰

  8. You are very brave! One of my cookbooks is from the 1950s, a Betty Crocker’s kid’s cookbook and a teensy bit similar salad is their “Candle Salad”. On a leaf of lettuce, place a pineapple ring, a dab of mayo inside the ring, then place an upright banana-peeled-and on top of the banana, a cherry-I think you attach it with a toothpick. Btw, I have never heard of the lady finger bananas you have described.

    1. Oh my goodness! That Candle Salad was in a “cooking for kids” book I had as a kid. Never made it, though. πŸ˜‰

      The lady finger bananas are started to trickle into supermarkets in my neck of the woods. Otherwise, I have mainly seen them at Filipino markets. I hope they hit the mainstream big time as they are completely delicious. They are to full-size bananas what tangerines are the oranges.

  9. Though I had a blast reading this, and watching the video, I’m going to have to pass on trying that…that. I’ll show more bravery when you post ‘Harold Lloyd’s Ultra-Cheesy Chili Fries’.

    1. Just a warning, the “chili” recipe in the book calls for a cup of flour. You may want to reconsider πŸ˜‰

  10. Sounds gross! But it could easily be fixed. Mayo at the time was probably a textural precursor to something like Cool Whip/whipped cream/even ice cream, which would adjust to a much better option. Easy swap-out. And the peanuts should add salt to the whole thing, which is always nice. They sure did use mayo on everything back in the day, though.

  11. Oh my goodness, I have the 1927 version of this Photoplay recipe book, and Joan’s banana salad is in there, too. Oy, what a mess. I briefly thought about doing a series of posts on the recipes but my first attempt was the shrimp wiggle and my resolve completely vanished after one bite. I swear, some of these recipes have to be jokes. You are a brave, brave woman. I can’t wait to read more!

    1. Thanks so much! Yes, some of them look a little scary and I am saving them for days when I feel particularly courageous. Like, all the tripe recipes.

      I would not put it past some of the stars to hand over joke recipes. I certainly would have done it. πŸ˜‰

  12. This is a joy — thank you for braving the elements, or at least the ingredients. (One thing: shouldn’t the mayonnaise have gone on the cut side of the banana? That’d have made it easier to eat — at least in theory.)

    1. I debated as to the construction of this salad (there were no pictures or diagrams) but ended up going cut side down in order to keep it from browning while I worked. In theory, if I used enough mayo, I could have covered the cut side completely and prevented browning that way but I really didn’t feel like wasting more food than was necessary. Besides, makes for better pictures.

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