Cooking with the (Silent) Stars: William Boyd’s Salad Bowl with Anchovies

Welcome back! I have been cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay cookbook but I sometimes take detours. In this case, I will be preparing a recipe from a 1950 recipe book that Bebe Daniels co-authored entitled 282 Ways of Making a Salad and it features recipes from both British and American stars. The star in the case was a silent veteran who was one of the first and biggest television stars at the time.

I refer, of course, to William Boyd. He had been a dress extra when Cecil B. DeMille decided to promote him to leading man in The Road to Yesterday and The Volga Boatman, both of which are absolute blasts to watch, by the way. Boyd continued to be cast in affable, all-American boy parts with occasional detours. (Like when he was inexplicably cast as a German aristocrat in Lady of the Pavements.)

Okay, so he was a pretty good Russian revolutionary too.

After a rather shaky talkie debut in High Voltage opposite Carole Lombard (do check the film out if you think initial talkie awkwardness was a death sentence), Boyd found his calling once again when he was cast as Hopalong Cassidy. He understood the appeal of the character to children and was one of the first movie stars to realize that television was a new frontier starving for content. By repackaging his Cassidy films and shooting new episodes for television, his place in the mid-century pop culture landscape was assured.

William Boyd’s salad.

I have to tell you, I am unspeakably amused by Boyd’s selection here. You see, throughout the silent era and into the talkies, he always seemed to submit the same recipe: an artery clogging fried chicken cooked in three kinds of fat. However, after he married the wonderful Grace Bradley, his recipes showed more variety and less likelihood to cause an immediate heart attack. Good job, Grace!

Anchovies are one of those things you either love or you hate. They’re used a lot to add a savory zip to even non-fish dishes (they’re the secret ingredient in Worcestershire sauce) but as themselves, all bold and salty? Definitely a divide there. I absolutely am Team Anchovy and have been since I was a kid (I was a weird kid) but I understand that this recipe isn’t going to be for everyone.

You see, while it is called a salad bowl with anchovies, it would be more apt to say an anchovy bowl with salad. Anchovy lovers, this one’s for you.

I bought the curled ones because they’re cute. That’s a caper in the center.

Okay, confession time: I didn’t rub the inside of the bowl with garlic. As one British author put it, you’re eating the salad, not the bowl. My great-grandmother, who was one of those large bosomed society matrons you see in 1930s films, rubbed the inside of her bowl with garlic. My grandmother (on the other side of the family) was a former flapper who did not scrimp on flavor and so she merrily stuffed entire cloves into small channels she cut into legs of lamb. You can tell which side I take after.

Anchovies unfurled.

I crushed that garlic and added it right to the dressing, oh yes I did! However, the whole thing looks a bit chunky and, frankly, vomit-like, so I blitzed it in the blender. I assembled the ingredients on a bed of baby spinach and butter lettuce. (The bottle is fancy root beer. Hopalong Cassidy drank sarsaparilla but this was the closest thing I could find.)

Score: 2 out of 5. It was okay but lacked the balance and complexity of a caesar dressing. Also, this is a really, really ugly salad. I mean, even with the dressing blitzed up, it still had an odd, oobleck-like texture.

I liked the flavor well enough but it was kind of one note. I kept imagining it with more Parmesan and maybe some prepared mustard rather than dry… but that’s a  caesar dressing!

Still, I must say I was happy to see Boyd out of his fried chicken days and into something a little more healthy. This salad will probably be heaven for hardcore anchovy fans but while I like them, I found that I wanted more variation in flavor than this recipe provided.

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10 Replies to “Cooking with the (Silent) Stars: William Boyd’s Salad Bowl with Anchovies”

  1. Hmmm. I do love anchovies (yes, I am THAT person when ordering pizza), but admit to being on the fence about William Boyd’s recipe. By the way, if you’ve ever had (or made) a Caesar salad with anchovies…heavenly! It’s a special order at a wonderful L.A. restaurant, The Stinking Rose, and well worth it. In my family, unfortunately, you would be eating it all alone, though 😀

      1. Definitely agree with that. I prefer my anchovies whole or not at all. For those who are #TeamGarlic with a vengeance, The Stinking Rose restaurants (L.A. and San Fran) are the eateries for you. Their motto: We Season Our Garlic With Food!

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