Cooking with the (Silent) Stars: Francis X. Bushman’s Mushroom Soup

Welcome back! I am cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay Cookbook but today, I am taking a little break in order to prepare a 1916 recipe from the #1 male star of the time: Francis X. Bushman.

(You can read all my past taste tests here.)

Bushman as the baddie in “Ben-Hur”

You probably know Bushman from his role in the 1925 version of Ben-Hur but that role was actually a comeback attempt. The height of his popularity was in the ‘teens when he was the idol of millions. Bushman lived like a film star too, driving about in a lavender car with a lavender light to show off his profile and smoking lavender cigarettes.

Bushman during his reign as the King of Hollywood.

I covered Bushman’s rise and fall in my article about the top stars of 1917 (he was #1 that year too) so let’s move onto the cooking!

We know Bushman was an important star but was he also a skilled soup maker? That’s what we’re about the find out!

What? You were expecting something lavender?

Ingredient Observations:

(For the convenience of international readers, I will be explaining and linking to information and products. I hope this is useful!)

Sago is almost impossible to get where I am but tapioca is generally reckoned to be a very good substitute and it is fairly easy to come by. (I used Bob’s Red Mill Small Pearl Tapioca.)


White Stock is a lightly-seasoned stock made of chicken or veal. I used chicken but vegetable stock would also be suitable, assuming it is mild in flavor. Basically, any light stock or broth should do the trick.

Mushrooms are sold by the half pound in the local supermarkets. Yay, convenience! I used standard white mushrooms.

While the mushrooms cooked away in the stock, I boiled the tapioca. The mushrooms smelled amazing and the tapioca was… well, about what you would expect.

Sweating mushrooms.
Dry pearls.
This is probably a delicacy on Cardassia Prime.

The recipe calls for rubbing the mushrooms through a sieve but I have a blender and I’m gonna use it! A few pulses reduced things to a fine grind.

Mushrooms await their fate.

I added the cooked tapioca and mixed the yolks into the cream before pouring it in. The result was… savory mushroom tapioca pudding? Ewwww! Into my trusty blender it went again. As you can see, it’s not exactly attractive:

I found the secret of yamok sauce. There have to be, like, ten wrappages in there!

Score: 3 out of 5. While not exactly pretty, the soup has a pleasant flavor, especially after the addition of salt and pepper. It’s still not very pretty but it is quite edible.

Are you sure?

The soup feel insubstantial and not in a pleasant way. I realize the chew of the sago/tapioca would have helped this but there was no way I was eating it that way. If I make this again, I will probably thicken with cornstarch or arrowroot flour and add another half-pound of sliced mushrooms for texture. Top the thing off with a dollop of sour cream, some chives and a few croutons… yum!

This recipe is not as bad as it looks but that’s not much of a compliment, is it?


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  1. Michael Kuzmanovski

    The tapioca pearls in water would make a great “spider egg soup” for Halloween. The soup looks disturbingly frothy.

    I’m used cream of mushroom soup. There’s a pub nearby me that makes a delicious homemade cream of mushroom soup. Thickening Mr. Bushman’s soup and adding some more mushrooms sounds like a good way to save this recipe.

  2. Birgit

    Yeah…I think I will pass. I have always been intrigued by this man and didn’t know he was all that into lavender. I knew he loved birds…..and Betty Blythe….right?? I’m going by memory. Now if only I could be near him to rip off some of his clothes:)

  3. geelw

    Hmmm… I wonder how savory mushroom foam added to espresso would taste? I’ve had plenty of bubble tea, so I’d probably make the lumpy version… and be the lonely guy eating an entire pot of soup. Ah well…

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