Welcome back! I’m cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay cookbook but I’m taking a detour today to try something a little older. In 1916, Photoplay magazine published a collection of sandwich recipes that were said to be based on the screen personalities of the biggest female stars. This time around, we will be tasting the Beverly Bayne sandwich.
Beverly Bayne’s rise to movie fame was meteoric. In 1912 she signed on with Essanay (one of the big players at that time) and made her motion picture debut. By 1915, she was one of the most beloved female stars in America.
Soon after her debut, Bayne was paired with an actor who would figure prominently into both her career and her personal life. (I don’t normally frame a woman’s story story through the men in her life but these performers worked together so intensely and their fates were so intertwined that it is necessary to discuss the relationship.)
Francis X. Bushman was a model who had turned to acting and his Grecian profile was exactly the sort of thing that appealed to women in the 1910s. He and Bayne had a spark on the screen that was visible to all and they were soon billed as a romantic team, one of the first superstar duos of the fledgling star system.
Bayne appeared with Bushman in over 70 of her nearly 160 silent films. Her elegant features and expressive eyes made her ideal for romantic pictures and she played everything from spunky farm girls to Ruritanian princesses. Bayne and Bushman even played the most famous lovers of all, Romeo and Juliet, in a 1916 version of the famous tale.
Onscreen chemistry turned into offscreen romance. Bayne and Bushman were married in 1918 after six years of screen collaboration. This proved to be a fatal error. There is a myth circulating that audiences were enraged when they discovered the secret marriage because their fantasies of Bushman depended on him being a single man. That’s not true.
In fact, the scandal was that Bushman left his wife of sixteen years and his five children to be with Bayne. There were also allegations of spousal abuse. Remember, even the most mundane divorces were frowned on at that time. Bushman and Bayne found themselves in an NFL-worthy scandal. Forced off the screen, they took to the stage and only sporadically appeared in films.
The marriage didn’t last, though there was a son. The divorce was finalized in 1925, the same year that Bayne made her final silent films. She made a couple of screen appearances after the Second World War but was pretty much retired at this point.
Very few of the Bayne/Bushman films survive and even fewer are available on home media. (At last count, a single film is available on DVD, the 1914 film Under Royal Patronage. Please tell me if you know of more.) Of Beverly Bayne’s solo work, there seems to be nothing at all.
Bayne’s work as an actress has been all but erased but her sandwich remains. Bayne didn’t write this recipe but Photoplay claims that their recipes are based on the actress’s attributes. We shall see.
What the heck is pressed chicken? Nowadays, it’s a method of cooking chicken under a brick or other weight to ensure crisp skin and tender meat. I figured that was entirely too progressive an idea for 1916 and I was right.
Pressed chicken is a chicken loaf made of shredded meat and held together with aspic. Aspic is now mainly seen on the labels of cat food cans but back in the day, it was sophisticated fare. It’s basically meat jello. The Old-Time Brand-Name Cookbook brings out that aspics and other weird jellies were popular in part because they were a way to show off ownership of an icebox (which you could afford to fill with ice) and, later, an electric refrigerator. Of course, now that fridges are seen as a basic appliance, the appeal of showing yours off by serving aspics has declined.
All the recipes for pressed chicken were basically the same. Take a bunch of chicken parts, cover them with water, add carrot, celery and onion. Boil until the meat is cooked through, remove the solids, toss the veg, the bones and the skin. Shred the remaining meat, return to the pot with the broth. Some recipes rely on the natural gelatin in the chicken bones, most call for a packet of gelatin. I didn’t feel like taking a risk so I opted for the gelatin.
And here it is! Behold! I set it in my electric refrigerator. Yes, I have a refrigerator. (No fancy mold. Believe it or not, I do not generally make aspic.)
I tasted a bit before trying it in a sandwich. Reader, I gagged. This is only the second time that one of these recipes refused to be eaten.
Now that the main ingredient in the Beverly Bayne sandwich was complete, I turned my attention to assembly.
Taste Test Video:
Watch to the end for more fun with aspic! (Post-credit sequence! I am totally like Marvel.)
Score: 2 out 5 stars. Shockingly enough, even though the sandwich contained sweet pickles and aspic, I actually managed to eat it. I think the texture of the olives and pickles, combined with their strong flavors, masked the taste and texture of the aspic. Hurrah!
That’s not to say that the sandwich is good. It was just surprisingly edible. No gag reflex! Hey, with this project, you take the victories where you can get them.
Eat this instead: Just a nice chicken sandwich! Maybe with cream cheese, garden tomatoes and alfalfa sprouts. Yum, yum!