One day recently I decided I needed to find some new recipes. Our menu plans were getting tired and similar. I pulled down my vintage Betty Crocker's New Picture Cook Book, the one my mother used for some of the meals she served to our family when we were growing up. Usually I turn to the index to find something specific but this time I decided to peruse the book from the beginning.
This book was printed in 1961 and it was a charming if amusing jump back in time. It started right out on a page on kitchen know-how. "Write meal plans for the week." Well, I felt I could follow that advice--it seemed like solid logic. Then we started getting into the real differences between 2012 and 1961. It read, "If you have a freezer, make several cakes, pies, cookies and main dishes or sandwiches at a time and freeze some for future use." Really? Several cakes, pies and cookies? My family is lucky if I make just one of these items once a month.
Then I was amused by the general life guidance that you wouldn't normally find in a cookbook. "Refresh your spirits. Every morning before breakfast, comb hair, apply makeup and a dash of cologne. Does wonders for your morale and your family's too." Makeup before coffee? In what alternate universe?
"Think pleasant thoughts while working and a chore will become a 'labor of love.'" I guess that's just another way of thinking positively but, really, what positive thoughts could I have about some chores? I'm so pleased that I am going to start the day with my husband's dirty underwear and I happily encourage him to wear a clean pair each day. Three loads of laundry later, wasn't it lovely that my cat vomited on the hardwood floor instead of the rug? She's always so thoughtful that way.
"Have a hobby. Garden, paint pictures, look through magazines for home planning ideas, read a good book or attend club meetings. Be interested and you'll always be interesting." Yes, I can see how that would make me so much more interesting. I'll get right on that.
There is a lot of good information in the book -- how to measure, equivalent weights and measures, substitutions, how to prepare vegetables and garnishes. At the beginning of each chapter is a page on "historical significance" to quick breads, cakes etc. It has a charming chapter on menus-- Eisenhowers Enjoy Life on Gettysburg Farm, United Nations Leader Chooses Dinner Favorite of Many Men, Supper Party at Mount Vernon, or Alaskan Salmon Stars in Governor's Menu. Who knew?
I loved the part about table service. "The most suitable for the average family--The first course such as fruit juice or soup is on the table when the family is seated. For a change of pace, you might like to serve this first course in the living room or on the patio." First course? Of how many? I do understand eating in the living room as we enjoy having meals in front of the TV. As I read on I became aware this might not be what they were referring to. "When ready for the main course, the meat and potatos are placed in front of the host." Main course? Again with the courses. There is only one course at my house, and I'm lucky if I just get it on the table, let alone in a specific location.
My husband loved the piece about appetizers that I read to him. "The thoughful wife has a simple beverage (cold in summer, warm in winter) ready for her weary husband when he comes home at night." My husband's exact quote was, "I think you need to start doing that."
There are many more little tidbits scattered through the book. Little notes to the reader -- "A good company vegetable (stuffed eggplant)." "One of the earliest pies (mince)." "They may not make your hair curl, but they will protect your health (carrots)." "For a glamorous touch, Mrs. So-and-So adds 1/2 cup brandy (cherries jubilee)." "The chosen dessert to top off a mountain trout luncheon at that charming, steeped in tradition resort, the Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, Colorado."
While parts of the book are quite the hoot, I did actually find some recipes that I am going to try--waffles, quick buttermilk rolls, savory meat pie, and Yankee Doodle Macaroni. Sorry, Betty, I won't be making any of it in my pearls and pumps.