Cooking with the (Silent) Stars: Ed Wynn’s Shrimp Wiggle

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 a beloved character actor who is famous for his voice.

Ed Wynn (or, rather, Ed Wynn’s voice) will be familiar to anyone who has seen the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland. As the Mad Hatter, Wynn was suitably zany and his distinct delivery made the wacky dialogue all the more hilarious. Wynn was also a fixture in live action films, usually lighthearted fare like Mary Poppins, though he did venture into more serious productions from time to time. (Most notably the 1959 film version of The Diary of Anne Frank, which netted him an Oscar nomination.)

mad hatter

Wynn’s status as a stage and radio personality ensured his career as a character actor in the motion pictures but he did try his hand at silent film. In 1927, he made a crime comedy entitled Rubber Heels, which co-starred Chester Conklin and Thelma Todd. Future talkie character actress Ruth Donnelly had a supporting role.

Wynn during his early stage days.
Wynn during his early stage days.

How did Wynn’s stage persona, which relied on his voice, translate to the silent screen? We may never know. In spite of the IMDB review by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre (who had the bizarre habit of claiming to have personally viewed lost silent films, muddying the research waters terribly), Rubber Heels is missing and presumed lost.

What is known is that Wynn made Rubber Heels a few months before the start of the talkie revolution and did not return to films until 1930, when his voice could be heard by all on the screen.

Wynn is a beloved performer but can he make a tasty shrimp dish? That’s what we’re about to find out!

Mr. Wynn’s recipe is called Shrimp Wiggle. Oh dear, oh dear.

Ed-Wynn-Shrimp-Wiggle

As you can see, the recipe basically consists of shrimp, peas and a simple white sauce. Photoplay assures us that it is easy and filling, ideal for luncheons! I do not feel assured but here goes nothing…

I followed the recipe exactly and it is indeed easy. The main trick is to mix all the lumps out of the flour/butter mixture and add the milk slowly so that the sauce does not become chunky. I would suggest using white pepper as the black pepper made the sauce look like it had little bugs in it.

Aaaaaaand… Here is the result! Yum?

Err...
Err…
Umm...
Umm…
Ew?
Ew?

It doesn’t look promising but how will it taste? Here’s the video.

Score: 2 out of 5.

The single biggest shock? This recipe is not completely repulsive! I mean, I wouldn’t serve it (ever) but considering some of the nastier things I have tasted during this experiment (looking at you, Victor MacLaglen) it was a relief not to be made ill by some archaic food combo. It looks nasty, to be sure, but is only semi-gross to eat.

While the recipe is not completely disgusting (I managed to swallow a bite without gagging) it is also not good by any means. It tastes like shrimp and peas in a simple white sauce; in short, the flavors do not blend particularly well. There is nothing about the recipe combination that improves the ingredients. I would rather just serve steamed shrimp with peas on the side as a light meal.

How to improve it: I can see a shrimp stir-fry with snow peas being quite tasty. Plus, it would be much healthier without the butter/flour punch of the white sauce.

16 Replies to “Cooking with the (Silent) Stars: Ed Wynn’s Shrimp Wiggle”

  1. I stopped liking shrimp years ago due to an incident where shrimp juice was spilled onto the apholstery of the family minivan and we were stuck with it for days.

    But even if I did like shrimp, this does not seem appetizing.

  2. Oh dear, indeed. I almost choked on a mouthful of water when I read that title in my inbox. Let’s just say from here on in “Shrimp Wiggle” can be a funny dance that never caught on or an obscure Borscht Belt comedian and not what popped into my head. I’ll never be able to watch that classic Twilight Zone episode “One For The Angels” again and not think of this dish!

    Anyway, wow… that looks pretty icky in a Campbell’s Cream of Somethingonsale manner. As noted, a stir fry of some sort would work better (and with a brown sauce, not a white one). I need to lie down now as my sides have split and I almost pea’d myself laughing. Wow.

  3. Googling “Shrimp Wiggle” brings up a fair number of recipes, including one from the NYTimes. It also brings up commentary that suggest that one is most likely to find this in Maine. Sometimes served over saltines – or other crackers, bread, rice, etc. Now all that’s left is figuring out when Ed Wyn went to Maine …..

    1. The cookbook is an interesting mix of recipes that seem authentic and others that were clearly not created by their alleged author. I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that Ed Wynn didn’t really write this one. Some Photoplay employee was probably put in charge of finding a goofy recipe for Wynn and this is what they stumbled on.

  4. It looks like that weird stew that Thulsa Doom’s goons were making in the movie Conan the Barbarian. What we have here is prop food fantasy and sci-fi programs. I imagine the Shrimp Wiggle would not look out of place in the mess hall of a Klingon Bird of Prey, or maybe the brig.

  5. Something tells me the use of “wiggle” as a title was more appealing in an earlier age. I recall something called “tuna wiggle” being served at a school cafeteria – none of my class ever touched it. Google informs me there’s also “salmon wiggle” and “chicken wiggle.” I always assumed the “wiggle” came from including noodles, but apparently not in this case. Thanks for having the courage to try it for us!

  6. Yeah, I’m sure Mr. Wynn never made Shrimp “Wiggle.” One, it sounds, looks, and (looking at the video) tastes awful! Two, it doesn’t seem like anything anyone with any cooking skill would actually cook. I could see a sort of cream of shrimp soup, but this? Nah. No amount of smoking can excuse these flavor combinations!

  7. 1- I forgot to thank you for the wonderful Classic Movie History Project Blogathon 2015! I need to start thinking about a topic for 2016 😉
    2- I know why people lived less a century ago: the food was just awful! It may not be totally bad, but this shrimp recipe didn’t appeal to me since I read the title!
    Kisses!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it!

      Yes, American tastes have done nothing but improve over the past century. We used to have such bland, horrid food! Some was tasty (desserts, mostly) but so much was bland and they treated garlic like it was the devil. I’m glad I’m living today when kimchi is for sale at major grocery stores. 😀

  8. Okay, this is not as horrifying as I expected it to be — which is a relief for you, as the taste-tester, and for my opinion of Mr. Wynn, which was sure to sink! With “Wiggle” in the name I was convinced it would be some type of strange gelatin-heavy recipe. I’ll take bland over one of those famous 20th-century aspic “salads” any day, haha.

Comments are closed.