Cooking with the (Silent) Stars: Ford Sterling’s Lentil Soup with Frankfurters

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 more controversial comedians of the silent era.

Ford Sterling is one of those comedians with no middle ground among the critics: they either adore him or despise him. He is most famous for playing over-the-top villains in early Sennett comedies but he also took on more subtle character work in the 1920s.

Proof positive that silent films regularly featured bearded men threatened with dynamite! (sarcasm)
Proof positive that silent films regularly featured bearded men threatened with dynamite! (sarcasm)

I am a well-known Sterling fanatic. I just adore his crazy expressions and his zany fits of rage. More, please, more!

muddy-romance-gunSo, Mr. Sterling was funny but could he cook? That’s what we’re about to find out!

Ford-Sterling-Lentil-SoupWould you like to see my soaked lentils, she asked coyly. Here they are!


I did need to add more stock to the soup twice. It’s just as well as the cooked down stock added to the soup’s flavor.

I was not in my own kitchen and did not have a sieve to create the lentil paste Sterling describes. I did try to mash the lentils a bit but here is the result. I’m not going to pretend that it’s a thing of beauty but it smells divine.



Taste Test Video:

Score: 4 out of 5. Haute cuisine this ain’t but it sure succeeds as VERY American comfort food. Legumes + protein + broth + slow cooking will never go out of style and this version is rather nice. It’s hearty but not so heavy that it will make you groggy.

Of course, its success depends on the quality of your ingredients. I used beef Better than Bouillian, which is a broth concentrate in paste form. The hot dogs were Hebrew National, which, obviously, did not have to be skinned. If anyone is interested in cooking this recipe, I recommend just using your favorite brands.

This recipe also lends itself to alteration. It can easily be made vegan by using vegetable stock and whatever plant-based protein the cook prefers. I can see this being delicious with chunks of smoked tofu.

For meat eaters, using Italian-style sausage, ham or kielbasa could also be yummy options. And, of course, turkey sausage can be used for a lighter soup.


  1. popegrutch

    Although “the lowly hot dog” is certainly a very American dish today, I wonder if he wasn’t also playing off of his famous “Dutch comedian” (which could also be code for German) identity, here! Interesting to note that he says the soup “deserves to be more widely known in this country.” Glad to hear we had a winner!

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      It’s possible that this was his intention, though this cookbook was published in 1929 and Sterling had long since moved on from his Sennett days. I should clarify that the italicized notes at the bottom of the recipes are from the editors of Photoplay, not from the stars themselves. I noticed the “in this country” reference as well, though I wonder what the country of origin is supposed to be. The Netherlands, as you say? Germany? I mean, it’s a pretty standard legume dish. Maybe Photoplay people didn’t get out much? That I believe. 😉

  2. Marie Roget

    I’ve made many a version of lentil soup, but this one really grabs me for some reason- will try it with some turkey kielbasa (the smoked tofu sounds tempting, too). Thanks much for posting it!

    On Easter Tuesday my partner and I were stuck in miserable downtown L.A. traffic (what else is new) when we both saw the Echo Park exit coming up- Eureka! Took a detour to Echo Park Lake and environs, site of so many Keystone shorts, including Sterling’s A Muddy Romance. A lousy afternoon in traffic detoured happily into a walking exploration of the former Edendale environs. The park and lake have been spruced up since I last saw them- nice! Ford, Mabel, and the whole gang’s old stomping ground is really evocative (seedy, but evocative), even after so many, many years……good times!

  3. geelw

    Heh. Those lentils look as if they’re chatting away in the first two pics as if they knew it would be at least a 4-star recipe. Annnnd, hey – look at those pics closely. There’s a little lentil “hand” in both that made me laugh way too much (better seen in the second pic, top right).

  4. Birgit

    You know, this food reminds me of the food my dad would talk about and the old fashioned way of cooking. They ofte. Used food that was cheap, available and could be made quickly. Usually it was also good even if it doesn’t look good:)

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