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.