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””

Photoplay Cookbook: Constance Talmadge’s Grape Nut Pudding

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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 major stars of the silent era and one half of the “other” acting sisters duo.

Constance and Norma. Constance is on the right.
Constance and Norma. Constance is on the right.

Constance Talmadge’s career is usually summed up as follows: While her sister, Norma, focused on dramas, Constance Talmadge was known for her light comedies. Of course, this doesn’t take into account that Norma did dabble in comedy and Constance’s most famous role, the Mountain Girl in Intolerance, was tragic in the extreme.

Constance reigns.
Constance reigns.

Constance specialized in romantic comedies, some of them co-starring a guy named Ronald Colman. Of all the major silent stars, the Talmadge’s are among the most forgotten. It is ironic that Natalie, the least famous sister in the silent era, is now the most viewed and discussed of the three due to her marriage to Buster Keaton and her starring role in one of his films.

Constance could do comedy but could she do dessert? That’s what we are going to find out.

CAR-N985

The curiously-named Grape Nut Pudding is just that. You make a pudding out of Grape Nuts cereal. If you are unfamiliar with it, it is basically hard little beads of whole wheat. It contains neither grapes nor nuts. It’s one of the oldest cold cereals on the market. I like whole grain cereals but this one looks and tastes like a building material.

Constance-Talmadge-Grape-Nut-Pudding

The recipe calls for you to soak the cereal in boiling water for quite a stretch. Either I mis-measured or too much water is called for because the resulting mush seemed entirely to wet. In any case, it took almost four times the allotted baking time. The edges crisped but the center remained raw and un-pudding-like. I kept stirring the cooked portion back in. Finally, it started to resemble a moist bread pudding.

Here it is plain. Didn’t look too promising but smelled good.

constance-talmadge-grape-nut-pudding2

And here it is with the whipped cream. A big improvement. Whipped cream makes most desserts better.

Big improvement.
Big improvement.

And here is the taste test video:

(Excuse any quality issues. It was late and I was tired.)

My rating: 3 out of 5. The pudding tasted like bread pudding made from very wheaty bread. In fact, it tasted so much like bread pudding that I failed to see the point in making it. Why take the extra step of soaking the cereal when I can just slice up a loaf and make a pudding that is just as good? Photoplay describes that as a “pantry” recipe, that is, a recipe you can make with ingredients found in any kitchen. Well, as I do not much care for Grape Nuts, I think I am not the intended audience for this.

If you love both bread pudding and Grape Nuts, I can see giving this a try. It’s tasty enough and the classic pudding spices are excellent. It just seemed like it was a lot more work than it should have been.

Make this instead: Your favorite bread pudding recipe.

Photoplay Cookbook: Pauline Starke’s “Pepper Eggs”

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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 relatively minor silent star who nevertheless enjoyed excellent company in her filmography.

Pauline Starke in a very perky hat.
Pauline Starke in a very perky hat.

Pauline Starke’s movie career started when she was just a teen. Supposedly, she was one of the many, many dance extras in Intolerance. (I always take those claims with a grain of salt. For a while, everyone in Hollywood claimed to have been discovered by D.W. Griffith.) Starke is probably best remembered for two films that bookended her silent career. She had a supporting role in Eyes of Youth, a 1919 Clara Kimball Young vehicle that also featured Milton Sills. It was one of the few times he would play an unrepentant jerk. Of course, Starke, Sills and Young were all overshadowed by a certain young Italian actor, who stole the show as a smooth gigolo.

The other famous Starke title is the 1928 MGM color film, The Viking. It was about vikings.

Starke carried on in sound films in progressively smaller roles (a familiar story for mid-level silent performers) and made her last screen appearance in 1943.

For her recipe, Miss Starke chose to go for a breakfast/brunch/luncheon dish. The name is not promising, you must agree.

Pauline-Starke-Pepper-Eggs

I followed the recipe exactly with one exception: I substituted a yellow bell pepper for a green one. I prefer yellow, orange or red to the green, especially in cooking. For toast, I used some whole grain honey wheat bread. This had less to do with taste and more to do with the fact that I forgot to buy sourdough or potato bread, either of which would have probably worked better. (White breads generally work better as the toast for this sort of recipe, at least in my experience.)

The recipe was extremely easy and fast. The pepper, catsup and cheese did not look very pretty but they smelled promising as they cooked. Once added, the eggs scrambled up nicely and had a fluffy texture. Onto the toast they went. Here is the result:

The whole shebang.
The whole shebang.
Up close.
Up close.
An unpromising beginning.
An unpromising beginning.
But it smelled yummy...
But it smelled yummy…

And here is the taste test video:

My rating: 3 out of 5. While it’s not exactly gourmet dining (despite what the recipe description may say) Miss Starke’s recipe is fast, tasty and filling. It’s a nice little lacto-ovo vegetarian breakfast dish (a meal that tends to be quite meat-centric if you don’t count pancakes) and is a great way to use leftover bits of vegetable. I could definitely see myself making this again.

Variations: The addition of some finely chopped onions would add a bit of zing, as would some jalapenos, if you like that sort of thing. If you have hardcore carnivores about, some shredded ham or diced bacon would probably be a welcome addition. I would suggest draining any fatty meats before adding them in.

Photoplay Cookbook: Gloria Swanson’s “Cream Fudge”

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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 someone who is considered to be one of the symbols of silent film.

Gloria Swanson started in comedy, jumped to drama and was one of the top stars in the world throughout the silent era. Her career took a dip when she accepted career advice from her lover, Joseph Kennedy, compounded by the fact that the extravagant dramas that she was associated with were no longer stylish. She had an excellent voice, both for singing and speaking, but did not enjoy the same level of success in talking pictures. That is, until she was cast by a certain Mr. Wilder…

The glamorous Miss Swanson.
The glamorous Miss Swanson.

Swanson was a star and she knew it. She embodied the glamor of the silent era and always knew how to rock an ensemble. She also wrote a memoir that is pretty much the gold standard of silent actor tell-all autobiographies. (Swanson on Swanson should be part of a welcome package for new silent movie fans.) While her Sunset Boulevard role made her an icon to a new generation, never forget that she was amazing in her prime.

Later in life, Swanson became an advocate for all things health-foody, macrobiotic, raw and sugar-free. So, it is not without a bit of irony that I present her recipe for the cookbook, a faux fudge that is pretty much all sugar.

Gloria-Swanson-Cream-Fudge

A pretty simple recipe, as candy recipes go. Perhaps a little too simple? See, candy is wonderful but I like my sweets to have a bit more complexity, especially if they are home-made. Just sugar and cream? In theory it should work but would it be good enough to warrant an entire pan-full of the stuff?

I’m not going to lie, candy making is not my favorite kitchen activity. There is so much stirring and testing and beating. I keep thinking that I could have whipped up a batch of cookies or a cake in half the time. However, Gloria Swanson beckoned so I gave it a try.

I think it’s a mistake to call this a fudge. It hardens up quite crispy (notice that the recipe says to “break” the candy, not slice it) and is really heading into butterscotch territory. I think my version ended up a little grainy but I blame myself and not the recipe. However, the texture was not unpleasant. It may have been better if I had added the optional pecans.

The stuff took forever to firm up. I just ended up storing it in the cold oven and going to bed. The recipe was not kidding about the buttered dish thing, by the way. I greased a 9×13 baking dish with a few tablespoons and the fudge still stuck.

Here is the result:

I don't pretend it is a thing of beauty.
I don’t pretend it is a thing of beauty.
Yup, definitely not a glamor girl.
Yup, definitely not a glamor girl.

And here is the taste test video:

My rating: 2 out of 5. This stuff is the very essence of sickeningly sweet. Basically, the first bite is okay and then when you take the second one, you start to feel more than a little lightheaded. By the time you take a third bite, you are fairly certain that diabetes is imminent. If you manage to take a fourth bite, you will probably be sick.

I can see it being better in tiny portions but the recipe produces an incredible amount of candy. It more than filled my 9×13 dish and likely could have slopped over into a smaller dish as well.

All I can say is that if Gloria Swanson was really eating like this, she needed to go on a sugar-free diet. One session with this fudge and you will get your sugar intake for the month.

Can it be improved? Not really. Not without turning it into a whole other candy.

Eat this instead: 4 Ingredient Peanut Butter Fudge. No cooking required, this is a truly fast faux fudge.

Photoplay Cookbook: Virginia Valli’s “Eggs with Pate de Foie Gras”

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 that I have tested on this dedicated page. Check back often.)  This time, we are trying a recipe from a silent leading lady who may no longer be a household name but who had a solid career under her belt, Virginia Valli.

Continue reading “Photoplay Cookbook: Virginia Valli’s “Eggs with Pate de Foie Gras””

Photoplay Cookbook: Betty Bronson’s “Waffles”

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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.) This time, we are going to be trying a recipe from Betty Bronson, best remembered today as the first onscreen Peter Pan.

Bronson in Pan mode.
Bronson in Pan mode.

I have to admit that I am somewhat immune to Miss Bronson’s appeal. I don’t dislike her, I just don’t see what all the fuss was about.

Miss Bronson’s recipe is for waffles. I am a huge fan of quick breads and general breakfast food. In fact, pancakes were the very first “real” cooking that I ever did. (As opposed to making salads and other safe activities.) I think I was maybe five or six. Waffles quickly followed, as did biscuits. Not a fan of Bisquick. I just don’t think it saves all that much time.

Here is Miss Bronson’s recipe:

Betty-Bronson-Waffles

I usually make a buttermilk vanilla recipe that is killer. The main differences between Bronson’s waffles and the waffles I am used to are the low amount of butter (only one tablespoon) and separating the eggs before adding them to the batter.

I have to say that this recipe was a huge disappointment. The texture and the flavor left much to be desired. Here are pictures. (Please excuse the paper plates, when one is getting over a flu, one does not enjoy dish washing.)

Misshapen edges
Misshapen edges
Weird, shiny texture
Weird, shiny texture
Will syrup help?
Will syrup help?
Nope.
Nope.

Here is the taste test video:

My rating: 1 out of 5. How can you ruin waffles? Betty Bronson found a way!

My first clue that something was wrong was the texture. Waffle batter is usually pretty loose but this batch had the texture of Silly Putty. It also did not spread on the iron, making the waffles a little misshapen.

The cooked waffles looked okay but were curiously… rigid and shiny. Rubbery texture and the flavor was just so-so.

I knew something had gone very wrong when one of my tasters got a steak knife to cut his waffles. Another helpfully said that they weren’t “that bad.” I have to admit, these waffles can come in handy for repairing flat tires but they are not much fun at the breakfast table.

While this recipe is not disgusting like the infamous banana salad, I am giving it only one star because it represents the first time in my life that my waffles were not gobbled down at the breakfast table. That’s pretty incredible since, as mentioned before, I have been making these things since my Raggedy Ann days.

Can it be improved? In retrospect, the lack of butter is really what kills this recipe. Fluffy, tender waffles are the result of lots and lots of fat. My preferred recipes all call for a half-cup or more. A little bit of sugar would have also helped browning and flavor. But why bother with this recipe when there are dozens of other, better recipes?

Eat this instead: Classic Buttermilk Waffles. Lots of butter, plus vanilla. Yum!

Recommended

Photoplay Cookbook: Jeanie Macpherson’s “Stuffed Tomato Ravigotte”

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 that I have tested on this dedicated page. Check back often.)   This time, we are trying a recipe from a popular screenwriter, Jeanie Macpherson. She is most famous for her work with Cecil B. DeMille but she was also a pioneering director and actress.

Continue reading “Photoplay Cookbook: Jeanie Macpherson’s “Stuffed Tomato Ravigotte””

The Silent Life in 1922: Sandwiches that Time Forgot

I think it is safe to say that American tastebuds have changed since the silent era. Items that we commonly enjoy today (yogurt, chocolate chip cookies, hummus, sushi) were either exotic items or not yet invented. Good luck finding that quinoa! And some common foods of decades past (aspic, anyone?) have fallen out of favor with most mainstream eaters.

Here is my mission: Take some sandwich recipes from The New Home Cookbook (1922) and see if they can please the palates of modern American eaters. I selected three recipes that seemed the most odd by modern standards. (I have lived in California all my life so it is possible that these sandwiches still dwell in other parts of the country, I’ve just never seen them in my neck of the woods.)

A note on ingredients: I used good-quality commercial white bread with some heft to it. The butter is just plain supermarket butter. I made some effort toward accuracy but I did not go out of my way to track down oddball ingredients.

I also enlisted the help of a panel of tasters. And by “panel of tasters” I mean the friends and family I roped into doing this.

Sandwich #1: The New Sandwich

1922-sandwiches-1This one is by far the weirdest. Peanut butter. Water. Ketchup. Yum?

I used Laura Scudder’s natural peanut butter (the only ingredients are peanuts and salt, no added stabilizing fats or sugars) and classic Heinz.

My ingredients
My ingredients

Of all the sandwiches, this is the one that made everyone say, “Ewwww!” But in practice, it actually was not too bad. The proportion of ketchup to peanut butter was such that it really did not taste too tomatoey. In fact, I really don’t know that anyone would have known it was ketchup if I hadn’t told them.

Not too promising...
Not too promising…

My tasters all greeted this one with a resounding so-so.

The sandwich
The sandwich

As you can see, the result of this sandwich was an orange-ish peanut butter. It’s mildly sweet.

I wouldn’t make it for fun but it’s not nearly as scary as you might think.

Taste Score: 6/10

Sandwich #2: The Picnic Sandwich

1922-sandwiches-2This one sounded like the most agreeable to modern tastes. Olive spreads are sold at major supermarkets so the concept of spreading chopped olives over bread is pretty appealing. My main concern was that this would turn into a salt lick.

The ham was not this neon, the lighting in my kitchen is bad.
The ham was not this neon, the lighting in my kitchen is bad.

I was in a hurry so I didn’t mince the ingredients as finely as I should have. Also, I was pretty generous with the butter, which I think muted the saltiness of the olives and the ham. The tasters were pretty happy with this one and the sandwiches got scarfed up pretty quickly.

Not-so-fine chop
Not-so-fine chop

I actually think this sandwich would work nicely as a spread and I almost think I could do without the ham. All in all, this is a pretty decent sandwich.

Pretty darn good.
Pretty darn good.

Taste Score: 8/10

Sandwich #3: The Indian Sandwich

1922-sandwiches-3The cookbook does not specify whether it means “came from India” or “based on the recipes of Native Americans” so I cannot enlighten you. Neither culture is known for sardines, right? Let me know if you have the answer to this riddle.

In the beginning...
In the beginning…

The recipe calls for cooked salad dressing. The only dressing flavor in the book that I recognized was Thousand Island so that’s what I used.

Sardines are a divisive food. You either love them or hate them. I am in the “love” camp so this sandwich was not as nasty a concept to me as it was to my panel of tasters.

In fact, the concept proved to be so nasty that my entire panel jumped ship. Uh oh,

It tastes exactly how it looks...
It tastes exactly how it looks…

I wish I had joined them. This sandwich is vile. The egg and sardine fight and the salad dressing gives everything a weird, slimy texture. If they served this in prison, it would be considered cruel and unusual punishment.

Vile.
Vile.

Taste Score: 0/10

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Are these sandwiches familiar in your neck of the woods? Be sure to leave a comment and let me know the details.