Thursday, August 25, 2005

How I learned to cook

My mom was a superb country cook.  She excelled at pies, cakes, and fried chicken.  She made wonderful pickled beets and 14-day sweet pickles, canning dozens of jars of such goodies each summer.  At Christmas-time, our house smelled like a bakery, a delightful place to enter if you'd been out making snowmen or sledding.

The trouble is, I didn't learn much from her.  I was a self-willed, lazy, rebellious kid, especially once I hit my teens.  And I think it was easier for Mother to bake without me underfoot, anyhow.

When I graduated high school, I got my own apartment and fended for myself.  It was nothing for me to have a half-box of raisins for my evening meal.  Or pancakes.  Or corn bread and milk.  I did fine like this for a couple of years, but every once in awhile there were things I'd get hungry for, but have no idea how to make.  My sister, always a great cook, had a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook I'd seen her refer to when making cookies, and I figured if I had a cookbook like hers, I'd be able to cook like she did.  I worked for minimum wage, so coming up with the money for my Better Homes And Gardens cookbook took awhile.  But I finally managed, and bought one exactly like this:

  I still make apple pie exactly the way I learned it back then.  And my dinner roll and cinnamon roll recipe came from these pages. 

This is NOT the same cookbook, though.  I'm a sloppy cook, and after using it diligently for about fifteen years, it was in horrible shape.

In 1980 I received a brand new Better Homes and Gardens cookbook for Christmas, and found out that there were some of the same recipes, but many had been changed or discarded.  I learned this just in time to cut out a few of my favorite recipes from the old book before I tossed it in the trash.

The new book had good recipes too, and I learned to cook some different things.  Still, I missed the old familiar tastes.  I regretted throwing away my old stand-by.

OK, now fast-forward twenty-three years.  I discovered Ebay, and found out there were many editions of Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, going all the way back to 1930.  The first thing I did was buy the 1960's edition, just like the one from which I learned so much.  Then, one by one, I got every single edition... I think.  Oh, you'll notice a couple of Better Crocker cookbooks there, too.  Sometimes I get carried away.

When a new edition hits the bookstores, I buy it too.  My favorite meat loaf recipe is in the 80's book, and I can never quite remember which one that is.  So I look through three or four until I find it.

But at least half the time, I find myself going back to the sixties-vintage cookbook I started with.  In the newer, health-concious versions, peanut butter cookies just aren't the same, and the recipe doesn't make enough cookies to pass around to all my grandchildren.


msecz said...

I love your collection of cookbooks and it is so like mine... I started out learning how to cook with my Fanny Farmer cookbook... my Dad didn't want us cooking because he said he had to get though enough burned food when my mother was learning how so I had to wait until I got married. I worked at Fanny Farmer candy store at the time so I got a late 50's version of the book and my copy was getting really beaten up too so I got a new one... not the same but really nice and then I went to antique malls and found others and every time I see one for sale I buy it... aren't we funny? Of coarse I have a Betty Crocker reprint of the 50's book and a Better Homes and Gardens plus about 50 others. I guess I became obsessed and then the church cook books too. :>)  Sandra

marainey1 said...

I still have my 1960's edition of that cook book.  I got it for a wedding present in 1965.  I love some of the recipes and still haul it out even though I should know them by heart.  How nice to have the whole collection!  Now adays I rarely cook for me so have stopped buying cookbooks or collecting recipes the way I used to.  My book is falling apart and is held togethey by a paper bag book cover.  I know I should do something with it all put I hate to part with it.  'On Ya' - ma

amy122389 said...

I got shooed out of the kitchen as a kid, too... so by the time I got married, I couldn't cook to save my life.  It's a good thing Jesse cooked as a kid or we'd have eaten TV dinners for the first 2 years of our married life!  LOL

Isn't it funny that I have a huge collection of cookbooks, myself, now, too...??!!

Ryan has a love of cooking now that I try to encourage as much as I can.  (Ok...ok...I have an ulterior motive.  If SHE offers to cook dinner, then I don't have to.  LOL)


firestormkids04 said...

My favorite, too, although now I don't get to use it as often as I did.  I just don't cook that much anymore.  Bummer.  Penny

ryanagi said...

LOL You remind me of my mom. When she had her kitchen redone, she actually had a bookcase built in to the side of her kitchen island just for her cookbooks. She has a couple editions of that same Better Homes book too. Me? I'm a Joy of Cooking kind of gal. ;-)  But have you ever heard of recipe cards and a recipe file? LOL That way you can write down your favs and you don't have to go hunting through multiple volumes of cookbooks to find them.

memes121 said...

Oh my goodness! What memories! My mom had one of those. It got gone somehow. Thank you for bringing back such wonderful memories....I'm off to ebay!

tc01hm said...

Ah, the shelf of a cook! When my husband's Grandmother passed away, I had the job of sorting out her things. I ran across a box of cook books and receipes that were all stained and smudged, notes written in the margins. Those where the ones I kept because those were her favorites. Thanks for bringing back that memory!

lmitc89854 said...

How funny! I started out with the Good Housekeeping Cook book like my mother used, wore it out almost, bought the newer one, was not satisfied and my daughter bought me and her 2 sister's and herself the same books off of Ebay and we all use it the most of all our cookbooks!

robinngabster said...

I LOVE LOVE old cookbooks! One of my favorite places to find them is at garage sales and thrift stores. I was just at a thrift store today looking at them. For me the older ones are best...the tried and true recipes my Grandma used.  I just love your journal!!! Happy Cookbooking! Robin

ksquester said...

Gosh Mo, I'm going to check mine out. I am sure it's from the 60's. Anne

bookncoffee said...

Hey...........the exact cookbook (in your first pic) that Hubby learned to cook in.  He says it has everything in it to teach you what you need to know.
I had the Columbia Academy cookbook as my first cook book (LOL!)  So he does the cooking.
That should tell you by comparison.