Welcome back to the test kitchen! I am cooking my way through Photoplay’s 1929 cookbook but today, we’re taking a little detour. I’m going to be preparing a 1916 recipe inspired by one of the most popular leading men of the 1910s.
Wallace Reid was at the height of his fame when he died suddenly. His drug addiction soon became common knowledge and inspired his grieving widow, Dorothy Davenport, to direct a film on the subject of substance abuse.
I won’t dwell on the topic but I did want to mention an oddity. Wallace Reid’s Wikipedia entry names the transition from shorts to features as a factor in his morphine addiction. (“Reid soon became addicted but kept on working at a frantic pace in films that were growing more physically demanding and changing from 15–20 minutes in duration to as much as an hour.”) Um, guys, Reid’s addiction is generally reckoned to date from 1919 (during the production of Valley of the Giants) and features had been commonplace in American film from 1912-1913. Lasky, the studio where Reid was rocketed to stardom, was called the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company. Feature. And not just an hour in duration either. Sigh. Why do I bother?
Like so many other stars who died young, the manner of Reid’s passing has overshadowed his talents as a performer, which is a shame. Reid represented the future of the American leading man. Many of the nickelodeon idols were more of the Grecian statue or Byronic poet mode but Reid’s boyish charm had the sort of all-American appeal that would be so popular in the feature film era.
That’s not to say that Reid only made racing pictures and adventure comedies. His pairings with Geraldine Farrar were in a darker style and his character always seemed to end up getting her killed. Darn it, Wally! (In fact, Farrar held no ill-will and actually requested Reid as her regular co-star.)
This recipe was created by Lillian Blackstone as part of her “Echoes of the Screen” series. Basically, she would take a star and try to replicate their personality in edible form, usually involving ice cream. Blackstone stepped off the beaten path for this salad excursion. Let’s see how well she does.
A challenge! Is this salad truly divine? Will only women love it? Let the recipe test begin!
We start with what Blackstone describes as the “inevitable” leaf of lettuce. I think this tradition is silly as I do not like inedible garnished. But for the sake of accuracy, a crisp leaf of fresh butter lettuce, which is objectively the best lettuce.
“White grapes” are just green grapes. I used seedless because I am not insane. (Also, I don’t think the stores in my area even sell seeded grapes.) I sliced them in half with a paring knife. They look rather pretty, don’t you think? They’re in season in my neck of the woods so they are very crisp and yummy.
As several of my tasters are taking medications that cannot be mixed with grapefruit, I made a variation with mandarins. (Please check your medications before preparing any grapefruit recipe.)
Because removing the flesh of citrus fruits from the membrane is my idea of hell, I opted for jarred oranges and grapefruit. If you do this, be sure to get light syrup or sugar-free so that your salad doesn’t end up sweeeeeeeeeeeeeet!
For the whipped cream, I opted for the old-fashioned approach: I made my own. In the first place, I like it better. In the second place, Reddi-Whip is a post-WWII invention and it looks and tastes totally different from the real deal, at least to me. I used a pint of regular whipping cream (not heavy) and two tablespoons of white sugar. I dolloped about a tablespoon and a half of cream onto each salad.
Score: 5 out of 5. Assuming you don’t drown the fruit in whipped cream, this is a light and pleasant bit of sweetness on the side. The grapes and grapefruit marry extremely well (the mandarins were tasty too) with the nuts adding some nice texture. Everyone cleaned their plates and declared it very tasty. The tasters proclaimed the salad “cute” and all gave it 4 or 5 stars. (Also, half the tasters were guys and they liked the recipe just as much as the gals did.)
This is a simple and delicious combination and I can see it working nicely as a side for pork, a savory veggie stew or anything with a touch of natural sweetness that the salad can play off. (I served it alongside a dry-brined roasted chicken with rosemary.)
I will say that I believe one of the secret’s to the recipe’s success is the use of real whipped cream, not the canned stuff. Real whipped cream holds its shape and has a richer flavor than the aerated stuff. So no short cuts in the cream department, kids!
I would eject the lettuce leaf as it’s not really very nice after being soaked in cream and fruit juice. Save your lettuce for a green salad and just present the Reid Divinity on a pretty plate. The recipe can easily be made vegan with the substitution of your favorite non-dairy whip for the cream.