The Lindley Library has an interesting collection of books on cookery (mostly to do with vegetables, naturally). Among the 800-odd titles, thrown up by the catalogue, are works going back to the early 17th century. But one of the most curious is a little volume published in 1950: '282 Ways of Making a Salad', compiled by Bebe Daniels and Jill Allgood.
Bebe Daniels had an acting career that started in silent films and ended in television. Our most likely chance of seeing her on television today would be in the film 42nd Street, still a popular play, where she played the established actress who has to surrender the lead role to the young Ruby Keeler. She and her husband moved to Britain in the 1930s, endured the Blitz, and apart from brief resumptions in Hollywood, she spent her last decades here.
For this anthology, she persuaded her Hollywood friends to contribute recipes. Bing Crosby contributed a chicken and mushroom salad (see image right), while Mary Pickford went for chicken and pineapple, and Jimmy Durante for cauliflower, tomato and cheese. Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh made a point of togetherness by jointly contributing a recipe for green salad, while another flamboyant couple went their separate ways, Humphrey Bogart going for asparagus with tongue and cheese, and Lauren Bacall for strawberry and peach. You can even, if you wish, try Bob Hope’s recipe for tomato salad (frozen) – Hope probably bought The Can Opener Cook Book when it was published in 1955.
Some of Daniels’ new English colleagues also contributed: Arthur Askey, Joyce Grenfell, and Wilfred Pickles made their offerings, Pickles naming his mixed salad after his radio show Have a Go!.
So how did this book enter the Lindley Library? – it was through the bequest of the late Fred Shepherd (1910-1991), the doyen of Cornish horticulture and author of Seaside Gardening. The book was a presentation copy: Daniels signed it “To Mr. F. W. Shepherd, with best wishes”, and Jill Allgood (a writer, who later wrote a biography of Daniels), added “Me too!”. I do not know whether Shepherd was queuing up at an official book-signing, or whether there was a more substantial acquaintance between them; the fact that Daniels added a curious little sketch to her signature suggests perhaps the latter.
Even if you are not an RHS member, the RHS Lindley Libraries are open to everyone and provide access to modern collections of books and journals on gardening and related topics. Our heritage collections of rare books, photographs, art and archives are accessible by appointment.
RHS members can borrow from the thousands of gardening books held in the Lindley Libraries - visit our online catalogue.