Welcome back! Today, we’re going to be baking some chocolate cookies from Linda Arvidson, a Biograph actress more famous today for her crumbled marriage than her acting roles. This recipe is from a 1916 charity cookbook. You can catch up on all the taste tests in the series here.
This cookie recipe has an important silent film figure in the mix, namely D.W. “We call it the War of Northern Aggression!” Griffith. (That last sentence works best if you say it in a Foghorn Leghorn accent.)
At the time this recipe was published, Linda Arvidson was signing her name as Mrs. D.W. Griffith. Casual movie fans would be forgiven for not realizing that he was married; Arvidson does not often come up in conversation. When she is mentioned, the modern perception of her is often colored by the mean girl shade Lillian Gish threw her way. Why, the wretched woman was receiving a very healthy and regular chunk of cash due to the nature of their separation agreement. The wicked vampire!
I am almost always on the side of the spouse who stands by their partner in the lean days and then gets dumped the moment fame and fortune come knocking. Surely there must be more to the story.
I don’t normally like to delve into the private lives of silent film personnel but, as it was in the cases of Mildred Harris and Natacha Rambova, nasty gossip has taken over the memory of a woman who is not alive to fight back. The real story of the “cruel” separation agreement? Griffith wrote when he should have telephoned, you see, and admitted in a letter that he had stepped out on his wife many times. You hear that sound, Mr. Griffith? That’s your bank account saying buh-bye.
Come on, if your significant other confessed to serial unfaithfulness and was also making a mint as a famous film director, wouldn’t you be tempted to make them pay through the nose? Don’t get mad, get everything!
Okay, who is with me in wanting Linda, Gloria Swanson and Mary Pickford and other silent era women with horrid exes to form a 1910s First Wives Club? (This gives me an idea for a poster!)
I strongly recommend heading over to 11 East 14th Street and reading their excellent and highly detailed article on this maligned woman. You will learn the real story of Linda Arvidson, which proves to be much more interesting than the fiction.
So, we know that Arvidson was not too happy in love, will she be happier creating sweet treats? That’s what this taste test is all about!
I took “the usual way” of mixing to mean: Soft butter is creamed with the sugar and then the egg and milk are added. Once these are mixed well, fold in the melted chocolate. The remaining dry ingredients are mixed in a second bowl and then added to the chocolate mixture.
(Per the 1918 edition of Fannie Farmer’s iconic cookbook, one square of baking chocolate is one ounce, the same way it is packaged in the modern United States. I melted the chocolate in the microwave, which is terribly anachronistic of me. Promise not to tell?)
The texture of the dough was nice but I was concerned about the light color. Could these anemic-looking cookies live up to their chocolaty name?
As for oven temperature and timing, keep in mind that oven technology varied and temperature was very much a matter of opinion. I just used my go-to temperature of 350 degree Fahrenheit. The cookies were firm and had browned bottoms in about twelve minutes but do keep an eye on them if you are trying this recipe for yourself.
Taste Test Video:
Score: 2 out of 5. The cookies are not bad but they are certainly not chocolate. They are basically sugar cookies with the tiniest hint of chocolate flavor; there simply is not enough chocolate in the recipe to give it suitable oomph. A better use for the chocolate would have been to make a glaze for the tops of the cookies or shave it and sprinkle it over them. (Chocolate chips were invented in the 1890s but the chocolate chip cookie was not invented until the 1930s.)
The cookies do have a nice, tender texture and they hold the shape of the cookie cutter very well. It’s a shame that they didn’t deliver on flavor as every other element of these cookies is a success. Alas for Linda Arvidson, Sidney Drew remains the silent film cookie champion.
Try this instead: Chocolate chocolate chip cookies with chocolate icing. Hey, we were promised chocolate, right? Alternatively, perhaps substituting white chocolate in the original recipe would create a creamier, less disappointing treat.