Cooking with the (Silent) Star: Alice White’s Fresh Peas on Toast

We’re back to cooking! It’s been a while so here is a refresher on the project: I am attempting to cook my way through the 1929 Photoplay Cookbook (recipes of the stars!) and I am sharing the results. You can catch up on all my previous attempts here.

This time, I will be preparing a luncheon dish from one of many starlets who glowed brightly for a time and then faded away. Alice White is probably best remembered as Dorothy in the original version of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. (Alas, that film is lost.) She was a hotsy-totsy number who made pictures with names like Show Girl, Broadway Babies and The Naughty Flirt. Oo-la-la!

alice-white-2

While Alice White’s silent films are hard to come by, you can see her in red hot action in Picture Snatcher, James Cagney’s pre-Code tabloid journalism film.

So, we know that Alice White was a spicy number on the silver screen. Will she be equally enticing in the kitchen?

Alice-White-Peas-on-Toast

I’m gonna say that’s probably a no. I found this recipe to be a bit scattered. First it tells me to drain the peas and add the cream and then it acts like the peas and the sauce are separate. Since I didn’t want to sauce to get watery from pea juice (yum yum), I decided to prepare the veg and sauce individually. I used approximately one tablespoon of unsalted butter and one tablespoon of white flour in the sauce and made the whole thing in the standard white sauce manner. (Melt butter with flour, slowly add the cream, gently thicken, season to taste.)

Here is my poor, innocent slice of toast:

alice-white-recipe-7And here it is be-pead:

alice-white-recipe-6alice-white-recipe-5Okay, is everyone ready for the saucing? Are you sure? I’m only going to issue one warning, you know.

(There’s still time to save yourself.)

alice-white-recipe-4TA-DA! Is it a food or is it something that a Farscape alien upchucked? I think we need another angle!

alice-white-recipe-3GAAAAAH! And, yes, I did eat this.

alice-white-recipe-2Hey, you wanted pictures!

alice-white-recipe-1Score: 2 out of 5. It actually tastes better than it looks but that’s not saying much. It’s bland white sauce with peas, nothing more and nothing less. I’m not really sure what the point of all this is as I would rather have eaten the peas with butter and had the toast on the side. It seems like a lot of wasted effort.

Attractive dish? Feh! What were they smoking at Photoplay? Don’t answer that!

mystery-of-the-leaping-fish-cocaine

Verdict: When you think of things that can go on toast, I’ll wager that peas are not at the top of the list. I do like my little savory sandwiches but I will usually go for something more in the cucumber and dill line. This dish is weird, ugly and not very flavorful.

I like that we are supposed to appreciate this as vegetarian fare. With food like this, it’s no wonder Americans went gung-ho for mmmmmmmeat! Vegetarian cuisine can be amazing, both satisfying and flavorful. This dish isn’t going to win any converts.

24 Replies to “Cooking with the (Silent) Star: Alice White’s Fresh Peas on Toast”

  1. Hmmm. You know what this dish needed (don’t hit me!)?: ASPIC.

    Gelling that pea sauciness together on toast would have helped at LEAST keep it toast shaped once sliced into toast-sized squares. I’d probably add ham or seasoned tofu to this as well, so it would be at least more interesting looking (and be kind of a solid pea soup sandwich thing).

    1. You’re right! The world always needs more aspic! πŸ˜‰

      I think this recipe just needs to be a soup with croutons. Maybe add red onion and some bacon (real or veggie) for flavor.

      1. Ooh, ooh! Take that idea, add the aspic and make a reconstructed pea soup with the toast as the crouton, maybe ten total sliced into quarters and serve it at your next party. Provided your friends have NOT seen this post, you’ll be seen as a genius and will suddenly need to drop everything and open a restaurant. Aspic Gardens is a nice name! πŸ˜€

  2. Perhaps someone envisioned the possibility of a veggie alternative to Chipped Beef on Toast, or as my Army Dad referred to it, “Sh(fill in vowel)t on a Shingle”? There may be that veg-alt recipe out there somewhere, but this so isn’t it.

    What is it anyway with prior generations of cooks and vegetables in plain white cream sauce? Hides the flavor of the veggies by drowning them in a puddle of bland πŸ™

    1. I think you’re probably right, though chipped beef on toast is pretty horrendous in its own right. Yeah, the cream sauce thing is insane. Carol Dempster knew what to do with peas: slow cook those suckers in butter. The end!

      1. Call me crazy, but I love creamed peas on toast. And, no, mine don’t look like that! I also love creamed asparagus on toast.

      2. Actual creamed veggies can be lovely, especially if they are properly spiced & seasoned to avoid the blandness trap. This recipe was just screaming for some cayenne and some onions. πŸ™‚

  3. I admit to having eaten this some decades back, so it obviously was a “real” recipe. If this recipe’s instructions were better proofread, as in “cook peas, drain peas, add cream, put on toast”, it would actually look better. My memory has it that it wouldn’t taste better. I should point out that this was not a family recipe or cooked by a member or potential member of my family.

  4. Hear, hear for spicing up a plain cream sauce! Jazzing it up even a little makes all the difference in the world. I’ve done a well-received one with garam masala and onions and it WAS for asparagus tips. A small amount of cheese or sour cream helps along plain cream sauce as well. But Alice White’s is just soooo plain, and to my mind unfortunately typical of quite a few previous generations’ ideas on acceptable cooking. Exceptions made for Mom or Gran coming from someplace termed “exotic” (or having a friend who did) πŸ˜‰

  5. Oh dear. At first glance I thought the title said “pears”. You know, maybe some quick, tart-like desert. I was wrong. This dish is like an old joke about hospital food.

  6. Thanks for this post. I am a huge fan of Alice White. She was delightful. Alice actually only made a few silent films – most of her movies were early talkies.

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