Photoplay Cookbook: Lupe Velez’s “Spanish Chowder”

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Welcome back! I am cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay cookbook (recipes of the stars!) and you are invited to tag along. (I have listed all the recipes I have tested on this dedicated page. Check back often.) Today, we will be testing a recipe from one of the most vibrant personalities of the silent and sound eras.

Lupe Velez’s career has been overshadowed by her tragic death. No one can say for certain why she chose to take her own life and the record has been further muddied by cruel rumors regarding the exact circumstances. I will not dignify them by repeating them here.

Instead, we are going to talk about Velez’s career as one of the hottest starlets of the late silent era and her subsequent rebirth as a comedienne.

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Born in Mexico, Velez got her big break when she was cast as Douglas Fairbanks’ leading lady in The Gaucho. Fairbanks was energetic in the extreme but Velez was more than a match for him. She followed up this success with a loan-out to Cecil B. DeMille’s studio and was cast as Rod La Rocque’s lady love in Stand and Deliver. She also won a part opposite Lon Chaney in Where East is East.

Lady of the Pavements (1929) D.W. Griffith, Lupe Velez, Jetta Goudal, William Boyd
An on-set anecdote.

Velez was the lead in D.W. Griffith’s final silent film, Lady of the Pavements (originally entitled The Love Song), in which she wrested William Boyd from the clutches of Jetta Goudal. The behind-the-scenes story was much more interesting. Griffith liked to dominate and bully his actresses (the better to get them to hop, twirl about and kiss birds) but Velez refused to be dominated. Griffith tried to tire her out but ended up exhausted himself. Hurrah for Lupe! The film was not the blockbuster everyone had hoped it would be but Velez and her singing voice were widely praised.

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Velez made a successful transition to sound and after a career slump she was back on top with her zany Mexican Spitfire series. She made her final appearance as Carmelita Lindsay in 1943, one year before her death.

Miss Velez was a vibrant talent on the screen but how about her recipe?

Lupe-Velez-Spanish-Chowder

Hmm. It seems that according to Photoplay, Mexico does not exist. All Mexican and Tejano dishes are re-labeled as Spanish and “Spanish” recipes are invented out of whole cloth. I think the latter is true in this case. I am going to take a wild risk and wager that this recipe is 100% American.

Ben-Hur is just a brand name for black pepper. I am not sure why Miss Velez is so specific. The recipes says that the hamburger can be either raw or cooked. I opted for cooked as browning meat before adding it is almost always the right choice. I didn’t have a green pepper so I used a yellow one. They have a nicer flavor anyway.

As promised, the whole thing was ready in just a few minutes. Here’s what it looks like:

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And here is the taste test video:

My rating: 3 out of 5. This recipe is lighting fast but it is also not particularly interesting. It’s not bad, it’s actually pretty tasty. It’s just that you can taste the shortcuts. The vegetables and meat would have tasted much nicer if they had been allowed to simmer together or if more interesting spices were added. Still, if you have sudden company, this recipes uses staples and is not that bad. You could do worse.

Can it be improved? I think some time in the slow cooker could probably do wonders. It would allow the meat to stew in the tomatoes and really pick up some flavor. Adding the peppers near the end would preserve their flavor.

Photoplay Cookbook: William S. Hart’s “Stuffed Summer Squash”

Welcome back! I am cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay cookbook (recipes of the stars!) and you are invited to tag along. (I have listed all the recipes I have tested on this dedicated page. Check back often.) Today, we will be testing a recipe from one of the biggest players in early features of the wild west.

Continue reading “Photoplay Cookbook: William S. Hart’s “Stuffed Summer Squash””

Cooking with the (Silent) Stars: Richard Dix’s “Toad in the Hole”

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Welcome back! I am cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay cookbook (recipes of the stars!) and you are invited to tag along. (I have listed all the recipes I have tested on this dedicated page. Check back often.) Today, we will be testing a recipe from a versatile leading man.

Think silent leading men were all sheiks, comedians and male flappers? Richard Dix probably is not what you had in mind. With his craggy features and intense stare, he specialized in rugged adventures and dramas. Dix also made the jump to sound, starring in The Whistler movie series.

Richard Dix in all his glory.
Richard Dix in all his glory.

Dix’s silent work was diverse. He played one of the men vying for Eleanor Boardman’s love in Souls for Sale, the good son in the original version of The Ten Commandments and a Navajo man battling racism in the provocatively titled Redskin. As mentioned before, sound and Richard Dix got along just fine. He earned his only Oscar nod for the 1930 western, Cimmaron.

(You can read a lot more about Dix’s diverse career over at Immortal Ephemera, which has one of the largest selections of Dix movie reviews on the web.)

A rare shot of Dix's grin.
A rare shot of Dix’s grin.

So, we know that Mr. Dix could act but could he cook?

Like most of the male stars featured in the cookbook, Mr. Dix chose to stay in the meat category. His recipe is for Toad in the Hole, the English version. (Some parts of America use this name for the dish Eggs in the Basket but the recipes have nothing in common.)

Here is the original recipe:

Richard-Dix-Toad-in-the-Hole

This is where I noticed something odd. Toad in the Hole is generally reckoned to be a sausage dish but here were are with one of the leanest cuts of beef. Further, sausages would add their herbs and spices to the flavor of the dish but this recipe calls for nothing stronger than salt and pepper.

Oh well. Here goes nothing.

Bubble bubble
Bubble bubble
Done!
Done!
On the plate
On the plate
On the plate (slightly different angle)
On the plate (slightly different angle)
Hulk smash!
Hulk smash!

As you can see, this is a very plain dish. Classic Toad in the Hole is served with gravy but this is just plopped onto a plate, per recipe instructions.

So, how was it?

Surprisingly okay.

Here is my taste test video:

My rating: 3 out of 5. It’s basically just the sum of its parts, no more and no less. The biggest sin of the recipe is attempting to cut down on the fat. However, in a dish with limited ingredients, every single one counts and the biggest contributor of flavor in a meat dish is the fat. If Dix had opted for a fattier cut of meat or the traditional sausages, the recipe would have been far more successful. Photoplay’s twee proclamation of “yum, yum” seems a bit overstated.

That being said, if you cook meat, butter and batter in the oven, you are never going to end up with something inedible. That’s just how food works. So even though this recipe is as bland as they come, it is still not terrible and, anyway, isn’t this what the salt shaker was invented for?

Can it be improved: Yes. Either using a fattier beef cut or the traditional sausages would improve matters greatly. More spice and an onion gravy would take this into the realm of true comfort food. A vegetarian option could easily be obtained by substituting mushrooms for the beef and bumping up the fat content (either with butter or olive oil) to compensate. Alternately, soy sausage could be used but be sure to really oil the pan. Those little suckers are sticky!

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New Feature: Cooking with the (silent) stars

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Readers, I am the proud owner of the 1929 edition of Photoplay’s Cook Book: 150 Favorite Recipes of the Stars. The slim volume is packed with recipes from silent stars, famous to obscure, and with recipes that are an equally mixed lot. The first edition of the cookbook had only 100 recipes. I am thrilled that the revised and expanded edition came up at a reasonable price. (Some sellers were asking $45-80USD. Yikes!) From what I can see, the 1929 edition has all the recipes of the first edition, plus 50 more.

150 recipes. You just know we’re going to have to get busy with these!

Here is what I propose to do:

I will go through the booklet and cook as many recipes as I can. It’s going to take a while but it will be a fun long-term project.

I do reserve the right to skip recipes that force me to buy appliances (I do not own an ice cream maker), contain unobtainable ingredients (I do not know any hunters and have no access to game meats), or call for illegal items (I live in California and foie gras has been banned in the entire state, quite rightly too).

I love you guys but not enough to shell out cash for an ice cream maker or engage in smuggling engorged duck liver. I also refuse to eat tripe and frog legs are all but impossible to get in my neck of the woods. Finally, I am not going to cook anything super weird or inedible. I know that it would make an amusing post if I did but it’s my digestive tract, not yours and there is no way on earth I am eating a Chili Con Carne recipe that calls for a whole cup for flour. Ew. However, I will publish any uncooked recipe along with an explanation why it was skipped.

A cup of flour? Seriously?

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Many of the recipes were designed for a family with 2.5+ kids. I reserve the right to cut them down in order to minimize waste.

Where possible, I will be as accurate as I can. However, in the interest of my digestion, I will use lower fat alternatives where possible. I will make a note when I do this.

The book is categorized by recipe. I have created a special page for the project that will link to the recipes by the name of the star who provided them.

(By the way, I find it highly unlikely that the stars really made these items. They likely just signed their names and allowed Photoplay to do the rest.)

Here is what you can do:

If you make one of the recipes that I share, be sure to send over pictures and/or comments. I will also link to your blog or website (subject to approval, nothing NSFW) as a way of saying thanks.

To start things properly, here is an excerpt from the original introduction:

Introduction

“A good complexion comes from correct eating. A good figure is largely a question of diet. An attractively served dinner reflects charm on its hostess. And I never have heard of a good cook who failed to find a husband or who had any trouble in holding him, once she had married him… As all the recipes are furnished by men and women whose first regard must be for their health and appearance, you will find that most of them fit in nicely on any sane schedule of eating.

This is, of course, in no sense a book on HOW to Cook. It is merely a guide of WHAT to cook. Most of the recipes are not beyond the skill of the average housewife or capable servant. Very few of them call for in delicacies not in stock in every kitchen cabinet.”

So there you are. This cookbook will help you catch and keep a man! (It makes men sound like very determined hamsters who must be locked in hutches and bribed lest they escape.) It will also be easy for your capable servant to cook and it will fit into a sane schedule of eating. Such wonders!

I love to cook but I hope to amuse readers who never set foot in the kitchen if they can help it. This is going to be a fun trip back in time, a sample of the cuisine of our grandparents. I am very much looking forward to this.

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