Cooking with the (Silent) Stars: Marie Prevost’s Beverly Hills Salad

Welcome back! I’m cooking my way through every recipe in the 1929 Photoplay cookbook and this time, we’re looking at a fan favorite and veteran of both comedy and drama.

You can read all my past taste tests here.

Marie Prevost was a charmer and a scene-stealer. From swimsuits on the Keystone set to the gloriously mad DeMille studio, Marie was always a welcome addition to any film. (She made talkies too!)

We know that Marie Prevost was a vibrant talent on the screen but can she woo us with her salad skills? We’re about to find out!

Another fruit salad. I have had good success with silent era fruit salads but the dressing… hoo boy. A CUP OF VINEGAR? Oh my! What are we on the Lord Byron diet?

The sad thing is, this jest may actually be near the truth. Hollywood’s obsession with weight is not new and fan magazines of the silent era were full of catty whispers that actresses had “put on flesh.”

Well, this has gotten a bit depressing, so let’s jump back into the recipe.

The recipe does say that the vinegar should be “diluted to taste” but I have no idea what this means or what I am to dilute it with. For a recipe of this size, a few spoonfuls of vinegar would be the maximum I would consider suitable. We’re not pickling veggies here.

Filberts, filberts, filberts!

The recipe calls for filberts, which are more commonly called hazelnuts in the U.S.A. They tie with Brazil nuts as my favorite shelled, plant-based food. (I only knew them as filberts until a pretty late age but most branches of my family are not too far removed from the old country. I guess it’s a European thing. Please share what you call these tasty little critters.)

My non-Royal Anne cherries. They are, however, German.

Marie is very specific on her fruits and after a bit of research, I realized why. Canned pineapple is, of course, a lovely golden color. Royal Anne cherries are also golden with splashes of pink. I looked into Malaga grapes and found that some of them are, you guessed it, golden. So if one were to obtain all these items, the result would be a lovely monochrome salad in an attractive golden hue.

I did not obtain those exact items. Well, the canned pineapple was easy enough to get and I assume that slices have not changed dramatically in size since the 1920s. The filberts were easy to find as well, pre-shelled of course. The best grapes in the store were red seedless, so I went that path.

Full ingredient spread.

The Queen Anne cherries were more challenging. They’re available but I would have had to order a case and, truth be told, I absolutely detest traditionally canned cherries and artificial cherry flavors in general. However, I found a bottle of Morello cherries at Trader Joe’s, which are imported from Germany and contain only cherries, water and sugar, no artificial colors or flavors. They’re a bit on the sour side, which suits my family’s palate just fine. (And only around $4 for 24 ounces!) If you like the traditional canned cherry taste, I am sure that any bottled cherry will work here. And if you can find Queen Anne cherries, by all means! Be sure to send pictures, I want to see this thing in its golden glory.

For non-U.S.A. readers, Trader Joe’s is the American branch of the German Aldi Nord supermarket chain (ALDI Süd is here as well under the Aldi trade name) and specialize in affordable imports, gourmet and health foods and wine. (I try to explain these things once in a while because I have a decent readership in foreign parts and some chains, brands and terms are not universal.)

Ahem.

The recipe calls for me to stuff a filbert into a cherry but either hazelnuts have gotten bigger or cherries have gotten smaller because that certainly is not happening. Anyway, it’s just as well. You run the risk of your guests spitting out perfectly good filberts because they mistake them for cherry pits.

The vinegar dressing… Ugh. I halved the recipe because I knew it would be trouble. I used to full amount of vinegar but I am not sure even diluting it by half would have helped. I also used powdered mustard because I assumed Marie would have specified “prepared mustard” if she had wanted it.

Disney may sue me for copyright infringement.

I followed the instructions, the dressing thickened up after about five minutes and I let it cool before stirring in the whipped cream. (I assume that the recipe meant half a cup of WHIPPING cream, not whipped cream.)

Foamy vinegar. Yum.

What I find strange about the recipe is that we go to all the trouble of tracking down matching fruits and stuffing the cherries but then we slather the whole thing in opaque dressing and slam it on a lettuce leaf? Forget that! Plus, I wasn’t wasting either lettuce or this good fruit so I served the salad on a plate with the dressing on the side. (My tasters opted for the sweetened whipped cream that I offered in place of the vinegar dressing. I don’t blame them.)

Score: 2 out of 5 with the vinegar dressing. 4 out of 5 with whipped cream.

This is an absolutely stellar combo of fruits and nuts and in just the right proportions. The pineapple adds just a bit of tang to contrast with the rich flavors of the grapes and cherries. The filberts are delightfully earthy and add an extra layer of complexity. I love walnuts in a salad but I think their astringent flavor would be too much here.

With whipped cream, this is a triumph. With the vinegar dressing, you taste… vinegar. What the heck is the point of eggs and butter and cream if you’re going to disguise it with an acid bath? I try to be open minded about these classic recipes but they did not understand salad dressings and I am jolly glad that I live in the age of Roquefort cheese and balsamic vinaigrettes.

Yes, I did taste some of this with the dressing. Yes, it was vile. Yes, I finished it with whipped cream.

This recipe is vegetarian, of course, but if you want to go vegan, all you have to do is substitute your favorite plant-based sweetened cream. I can also see cashew or coconut yogurt being a tasty option here.

Enjoy! It’s a combination that I plan to use again and an ideal bit of freshness using fruits available in the winter. Just skip the acid bath.

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6 Replies to “Cooking with the (Silent) Stars: Marie Prevost’s Beverly Hills Salad”

  1. Well, speaking to the need for silent ladies to diet, Nita Naldi was constantly being ribbed for her Junoesque figure. In numerous interviews/articles she was on the lamb chop and pineapple diet. I have yet to find an actual menu entry for that particular weight loss scheme.

    1. Ooo, interesting. I am sure you have seen the Hollywood diet, which features a lot of lamb and cabbage soup.

      Naldi looked amazing and was even more stunning with a fuller figure. One of the great beauties. 1920s people could be nutty at times.

  2. This is a gorgeous little fruit and nut salad! Has to be really tasty with yogurt or whipping cream, maybe a tiny squeeze of lime atop. I never make mayo dressing with any more that a couple of tablespoons of lime or Meyer lemon juice. Six whisked yolks battling it out with an entire cup vinegar (diluted to taste or not), non puis non.

    Why Beverly Hills Salad, I can’t help but wonder. A salad too swank for even the West Adams District? 😉

    1. Thanks so much! Yes, I agree, Meyer lemon would have been so much nicer and there’s no excuse seeing as how this was Hollywood, er, Beverly Hills. 🙂 Citrus everywhere!

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