Cooking with the (Silent) Stars: Aileen Pringle’s Pineapple Fruit Salad

I’m cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay Cookbook and I’m inviting you to tag along. This time, we’ll be testing out a fruit salad from one of the silent era’s pricklier leading ladies.

(You can catch up on all my taste tests here.)

Aileen Pringle was originally credited as Aileen Savage and, as was the case when Elda Furry became Hedda Hopper, the replacement is not nearly as good as the original. In any case, she shot to fame as the leading lady of Three Weeks, which was based on one of Elinor Glyn’s shocking novels. (I have no use for her as an author but she has my total respect as a marketer. Brilliant!)

Pringle continued playing duchesses and society dames, most for MGM. I mourn the fact that Adam and Evil is lost because the title alone would be worth the price of admission.

Pringle did starring work for Columbia and RKO, along with assorted budget concerns, through the early to mid-1930s and then slowly slid into supporting roles and, finally, uncredited work. Her last film work was in 1944 but she did a bit of television in the 1950s. Reasonably typical career.

Every time you read about Aileen Pringle, you have to hear about what a brainiac she was and how she read books– unabridged even!– and rubbed this fact in her co-workers’ faces. Pringle was indeed well-educated but this sounds very high school and jocks vs. nerds and I’m already snoring. Grow up, Aileen! (A good number of Hollywood stars of this era shared similar tales: Their fathers absent, alcoholic or dead, they turned to the stage and then the screen because they were desperate to support their families. Pringle flaunting her privilege just rubs me the wrong way.)

On the other hand, Pringle does get points for sporting a kind of Princess Leia bun-head look (with optional curtain rod) and I am absolutely dying to know if you can read her lips as she says, “If you drop me, you bastard, I’ll break your neck,” to co-star Conrad Nagel as he romantically sweeps her to the bedroom in Three Weeks. The film allegedly survives in Russia and if some lovely archive person manages to get it out for home video release, I will love them forever.

So, we know that I would probably pelt Aileen with jellybeans if I ever met her but how are her recipe skills?

Okay, we know the drill here. The bed of lettuce is not going to happen because it’s a waste of perfectly good lettuce that I could use to wrap samgyeopsal, so that’s that. Also, Photoplay has this weird notion that whipped cream is a billion times more caloric than salad dressing. It isn’t. It’s mostly air and will always save you calories over full-fat dressings. (Of course, if you have a yummy yogurt-based dressing or something like it, go for it.)

Set, curse you, set!

I must confess that I made a mistake. I bought cream cheese in a tub instead of a block. When it’s in a tub, it’s cream cheese SPREAD and doesn’t get firm the way block cream cheese does. So my little spheres didn’t sphere and I had to blob. Please forgive the blobs.

I dipped the apples in the mandarin juice to prevent browning. Aren’t I clever?
The sunburst look.

I also used jarred mandarins because (I think I’ve shared this before) removing membrane from citrus is my idea of hell and we’re going for peak retro with this dish anyway. The pineapple is Dole from a can, the apple is a Cripps Pink from New Zealand. Crunchy and tangy. I like it a lot but, obviously, use the apples you like best.

Is that…
No, it isn’t. Please don’t call the police.

The cherries are Tillen Farms Bada Bings. My local market carries them but if yours doesn’t, here’s a link. I hate artificial cherry flavor almost as much as membrane removal, so natural jarred cherries are a lifesaver. Obviously, if you have fresh cherries, those would be the tastiest. (Do you have any idea how hard it is to be a sickly kid and hate cherry flavoring? Do you? Every medicine is cherry. It’s horrendous.)

I did not dry my cherry sufficiently, which explains the rather gory appearance. I did not bring my A game this time, it seems. Don’t tell Aileen.

More drips

Score: 4 out of 5. This is a very nice fruit salad that gets bonus points for its mad mid-century appearance. The only thing missing is a smoking jacket and a letter to congress asking them to ban that awful, vulgar Elvis.

I had the brilliant notion of turning the plate at this point.
Bloodless cherries.

I did feel that the cream cheese mixture was a bit much and would probably reduce it by half next time. It adds some tang and some astringency from the walnuts but I ended up wanting more fruit and less cheese.

All in all, though, this salad balances nicely between soft, crunchy, acidic and creamy. Plus, it’s fun to arrange the fruits on the plate. Definitely recommended.

If you’re vegan or dairy-free, you can substitute your favorite non-dairy whip (coconut would be very nice) and the vegan cream cheese of your choice. Easy!


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  1. Paul Davenport

    Not related to cooking, but maybe worth remembering: Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the death of beautiful silent film star, Florence LaBadie on October 13, 1917. Most readers here probably know that she died 6 weeks after a terrible car wreck. She was 29 years old.

  2. harriedcostumer

    I have to tell you that the Conrad Nagel story is not quite true. Conrad himself denied it in a 1969 letter to the NYTimes, which I would attach if I could attach things through this commenting system, and in an interview with that piano guy, Aileen said it actually occurred on a different set, with a different leading man. (I would have to get that book again through interlibrary loan, so sorry I can’t give you the names. The book is this one, though: Conrad said the whole thing was a silent-movie myth. I would love to see “Three Weeks”, too, just to check! BTW, you might actually enjoy Elinor’s earlier books, like “The Visits of Elizabeth.” That one’s pretty funny.

    Stray note: I realized I referred to the man in my comment by his last name, and the women by their first names, so I went back through and equalized. (Maybe I should have done it the reverse way?) The patriarchy dies hard.

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