Film archivist and food lover Jenny Hammerton suggests the perfect dish to accompany your screening of a Hollywood classic. Simply follow the recipe to enjoy a dinner with a twist and dine like a star.
“What Actors Eat – When They Eat” is such a genius title for a book. Were the authors suggesting that actors never really had time to eat? Or that they weren’t particularly interested in food? Or that they were usually on a diet? I’m guessing the latter, for when this book was published in 1939, screen stars were slim, slim, slim.
In the 1930s ordinary mortals looked up to movie stars. Fan magazines were full of details about what the denizens of Hollywood were wearing, what nightclubs they were going to, who they were dating, and what they were eating. Rex Lease and Kenneth Harlen, two actors of the day, decided to gather together favourite recipes from their film star friends, and published a very lovely cookbook.
There are plenty of odd sounding recipes here. Marie Wilson offers “Rice Birds on Toast”, John Payne proposes “Royal Stuffed Tongue” and Olivia De Havilland suggests “Baked Carrot Ring Filled With Peas”. Things that would have made sense in the 1930s, may necessitate some time spent with Google if you wish to attempt the recipes. For example, one of the ingredients in Gary Cooper’s Hot Tamalia Loaf is 15 cents worth of salt pork. How much salt pork would you have been able to buy with 15 cents in 1939? It’s anyone’s guess really.
When I heard that the latest Bibelot Jukebox was kicking off with a song called Buttered Popcorn, I knew it was an excuse to try a recipe from the book that has intrigued me for quite some time. Priscilla Lane’s Popcorn Balls.
You will need a jam thermometer to make these unless you are an experienced maker of sweeties and such things. Plus some plain popped corn. I am sure Priscilla would have loved living in 2016 where there seems to be a million different flavours of popcorn on offer. Back in the day though, you had to add your own flavour to the mix.
4 cups of popped corn (if you are popping this yourself, this is about 3 tablespoons of un-popped corn)
2 cups sugar
⅔ cup water
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup molasses
2 tablespoons butter (or non-dairy substitute)
Pinch of salt
Put the sugar, water and cream of tartar in a saucepan and bring to boiling point. Boil, without stirring, to 280 degrees, or until syrup will crack when tried in cold water. Remove thermometer and add the molasses, butter and salt. Mix thoroughly.
Boil, stirring constantly, until mixture becomes brittle when a tiny amount is dropped into a bowl of cold water. Be very careful that it does not burn. Pour the mixture over the popped corn, mixing thoroughly. Shape into balls; or spread lightly on a buttered slab or large platter, and when firm, break up into little bunches of three to six kernels of corn.
Note: I used two teaspoons to shape the popcorn balls as you have to work while the mixture is hot. I added the molasses mixture slowly to the popcorn until there was just about enough to make the popcorn stick together. As I don’t have a super-sweet tooth, I didn’t use the whole of the molasses mixture. I popped the balls onto a piece of non-stick baking paper to harden up overnight.
Why not listen to the full Bibelot Jukebox selection while you make your popcorn balls? It’s all about food so totally appropriate, and as The Supremes put it:
My baby likes buttered popcorn
He likes it greasy
I said what do you like?
He says you know what I like
I like buttered popcorn
Cruelty free list:
Dairy free margarine – We like Pure and Vitalite from health food shops and most supermarkets.
Most supermarkets now stock their own brands too!
Eating and drinking like the stars of yesteryear…