Cooking with the (Silent) Stars: The Alice Joyce Sandwich

Welcome back! I’m cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay Cookbook but I am taking a slight detour to prepare a sandwich recipe from 1915. This sandwich was inspired by one of the great beauties of the silent era.

In the mid-1910s, a movie writer named Lillian Blackstone took to creating “echoes” of screen personalities in food form. Wallace Reid, Antonio Moreno and Charlie Chaplin had salads, William S. Hart had ice cream and several major leading ladies had sandwiches. Alice Joyce is the featured star this time.

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

Alice Joyce had a solid twenty years on the screen between 1910 and 1930 and was one of the nickelodeon era stars who made the jump to success in the features. (The conversion was actually more of a shift in the industry than the talkie transition, in my opinion.)

By the way, the absence from the screen mentioned in the recipe was likely due to Joyce’s pregnancy; she gave birth on November 23, 1915. She was married to Tom Moore, which made her the sister-in-law of Mary Pickford. Her daughter, Alice Moore, had a brief film career of her own in the 1930s.

Joyce’s sandwich is pretty simple, as you can see.

Bread! Butter!
Lettuce! (I used butter lettuce, which is the best lettuce.)

And that’s it!

Score: 2 out of 5. Onion sandwiches are not popular for a reason. They’re harsh in flavor and give one bad breath but aren’t tasty enough to be worth it. This sandwich feels unfinished. Slices of egg, chicken, cheese, marinated tofu, tomatoes… SOMETHING to beef up the flavor of the thing. I do not think that dainty Alice would have eaten too many of these things.

As sandwiches go, this is just deadly dull and stinky but not in a fun way. Pass!


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  1. Marie Roget

    Even as a veggie tea sandwich this is such an immense fail. Lovely Alice Joyce deserved a better echo! I’ve had really nice finger sandwiches with some diced strawberries in them over lettuce with mayo topping, hold the onion. The onion…who suggested that!

    Personally, with this recipe I’d completely go with your suggestion of sliced boiled egg to absorb and blend with the strength of the onion (switching out the onion for a shallot or scallion tips might be a help). Wondering what Joyce might have thought of her sammie had she ever tasted it.

    By the way, of those I’ve happily visited, the Huntington Library in San Marino CA has one of the best tea rooms to be had anywhere excepting in Merry Old You-Know-Where:

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      Oh yes, scallions for sure! Maybe a thin slice of avocado with scallions and butter lettuce? And a sliver of beet for added zip?

      Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. donnahill441

    Well, James Beard was famous for his love of an onion sandwich. I think a key is the type of onion you use. Vidalia would be sweeter, naturally. A standard spanish yellow will be pretty harsh. Of course, you can always deflamando the onion by rinsing the cut/sliced onion under water or soaking for 10 minutes then rinsing it. A light pickling would be a good thing, too. Avocado in place of the mayo would be great, too. I’m going to try this over the weekend with other finger sammies (egg, onion and caper being a fav). Thanks for the inspiration!

      1. Marie Roget

        Speaking of onion sandwiches, in A.E. Hotchner’s bio Papa Hemingway Hotchner notes that Hem really liked peanut butter and red onion sammies. I’ve made a couple (Ernesto fan here) and they were actually really tasty, though gargling afterward with industrial strength mouthwash is a personal recommendation 😉

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