Photoplay Cookbook: Constance Talmadge’s Grape Nut Pudding

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Welcome back! I am cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay cookbook (recipes of the stars!) and you are invited to tag along. (I have listed all the recipes I have tested on this dedicated page. Check back often.) Today, we will be testing a recipe from one of the major stars of the silent era and one half of the “other” acting sisters duo.

Constance and Norma. Constance is on the right.
Constance and Norma. Constance is on the right.

Constance Talmadge’s career is usually summed up as follows: While her sister, Norma, focused on dramas, Constance Talmadge was known for her light comedies. Of course, this doesn’t take into account that Norma did dabble in comedy and Constance’s most famous role, the Mountain Girl in Intolerance, was tragic in the extreme.

Constance reigns.
Constance reigns.

Constance specialized in romantic comedies, some of them co-starring a guy named Ronald Colman. Of all the major silent stars, the Talmadge’s are among the most forgotten. It is ironic that Natalie, the least famous sister in the silent era, is now the most viewed and discussed of the three due to her marriage to Buster Keaton and her starring role in one of his films.

Constance could do comedy but could she do dessert? That’s what we are going to find out.

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The curiously-named Grape Nut Pudding is just that. You make a pudding out of Grape Nuts cereal. If you are unfamiliar with it, it is basically hard little beads of whole wheat. It contains neither grapes nor nuts. It’s one of the oldest cold cereals on the market. I like whole grain cereals but this one looks and tastes like a building material.

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The recipe calls for you to soak the cereal in boiling water for quite a stretch. Either I mis-measured or too much water is called for because the resulting mush seemed entirely to wet. In any case, it took almost four times the allotted baking time. The edges crisped but the center remained raw and un-pudding-like. I kept stirring the cooked portion back in. Finally, it started to resemble a moist bread pudding.

Here it is plain. Didn’t look too promising but smelled good.

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And here it is with the whipped cream. A big improvement. Whipped cream makes most desserts better.

Big improvement.
Big improvement.

And here is the taste test video:

(Excuse any quality issues. It was late and I was tired.)

My rating: 3 out of 5. The pudding tasted like bread pudding made from very wheaty bread. In fact, it tasted so much like bread pudding that I failed to see the point in making it. Why take the extra step of soaking the cereal when I can just slice up a loaf and make a pudding that is just as good? Photoplay describes that as a “pantry” recipe, that is, a recipe you can make with ingredients found in any kitchen. Well, as I do not much care for Grape Nuts, I think I am not the intended audience for this.

If you love both bread pudding and Grape Nuts, I can see giving this a try. It’s tasty enough and the classic pudding spices are excellent. It just seemed like it was a lot more work than it should have been.

Make this instead: Your favorite bread pudding recipe.

10 Replies to “Photoplay Cookbook: Constance Talmadge’s Grape Nut Pudding”

  1. I saw Connie in “East Is West” a few weeks ago and was enthralled; like Colleen Moore, her skill at romantic comedy (a silent-era genre that tends to be overlooked) deserves further investigation. As for the recipe…it has potential (unlike you, I enjoy Grape-Nuts), but I’d probably make my version without raisins, which are only good with bran or eaten out of a Sun-Maid box.

  2. Well, kudos to this recipe for finding a way to make Grape Nuts edible. That stuff is otherwise useful as biodegradable ammo for bb guns.

  3. Hmmm. 1 or a half cup less water and a packet of ground up dried horse hoof (gelatin) or some aspic may have helped this look more appetizing and hold a shape. Amusingly enough, as a kid I always thought Grape Nuts were just grape seeds even after I tried some (once and only once). I haven’t seen them in the stores around here in a while… but I don’t buy cold cereal anymore save for one time I picked some up for a friend who asked me to look for a budget brand they didn’t stock at the market she lived close to.

    1. Grape Nuts still are going strong in my neck of the woods but I live in a community with a strange mixture of retirees and hippy-types so this would be right up their alley. Yeah, I think most of us got mixed up on the Grape Nuts thing as kids. I remember being bitterly disappointed that it did not taste at all grapey.

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