The last time I was at my dad’s house, I cleaned out Mom’s cookbook drawer. I was so happy to find her old recipe box, filled with recipes cards written in her hand. Since Dad has no plans of making any of the recipes, he told me to take it home, and any other cookbooks I wanted. I brought home Mom’s big Betty Crocker cookbook that she got in the early 1980s. But the one cookbook I really wanted was nowhere to be found.
When I was just learning how to cook, Mom taught me from the 1965 Betty Crocker’s New Boys and Girls Cookbook. The back cover was missing and the pages were well used. I think the cookbook had been something one of my cousins passed down to my sister, but I loved that cookbook. I hadn’t given it much thought after I went off to college and moved on to more “grown up” cookbooks. Even so, I often thought of that cookbook as my very first, the one that got me so interested in recipes and baking.
I couldn’t have been more than seven or eight when Mom started teaching me how to cook and we often turned to that worn cookbook for ideas. I loved looking through it. The pages were spiral-bound, which made it easy to lay open flat on the counter, or prop upright when we were mixing so it wouldn’t get splattered.
One thing that was fun about the cookbook was at the front, it introduced a group of youngsters who were “test helpers”. It was neat to see their comments and the drawings of their likenesses throughout the book. There was a section about “What Every Junior Cook Should Know” that offered cooking terms, kitchen safety, equipment information, how to measure properly, and even a guideline to good manners.
There were sections for beverages, breads and sandwiches, salads and vegetables, meats and main dishes, cookies and desserts, candies and snacks, special occasions, and summer fun.
When I couldn’t find the cookbook among Mom’s things, it only added to my sense of loss. It wasn’t so much the cookbook, but the fact that it had been included in so many good memories I had of my mom, working side by side with her in the kitchen.
A few days after I came home, I decided to see if I could somehow locate a used copy of the cookbook. After doing a little searching and digging, I finally found one on eBay. It was in like-new condition. Other than a name written inside the cover, it could have been brand-new.
And when it arrived, I cried. It was like I was twelve all over again, sitting with Mom at the kitchen counter, looking through the colorful pages and deciding what I wanted to make next.
Inside the cookbook, I found Mom’s peanut butter cookie recipe that I had tried and failed to recreate many times. There was the drop biscuit recipe we made many times. And the brownie recipe I tried to make and my brother assured me they tasted like liver. With each page I turned, waves of nostalgia washed over me.
I can’t tell you how many summer days I drooled over these frosty treats.
We made these cute little bunnies several times.
I remember Mom letting me make the sandwiches like this. The guys weren’t impressed, but I had fun cutting out the shapes.
Once we had company coming for dinner, so Mom made the radish roses while I made carrot curls. She also made celery fans. We put everything in a bowl of ice water until it was time to serve.
And this spread of ice cream treats was one I always thought was amazing. You have to remember this was back in the days before Pinterest and full-color images of everything were at our fingertips. I just thought it was so neat (and my thing for ice cream probably helped make it a favorite page to study).
Anyway, I can’t begin to tell you how much this cookbook means to me and how many sweet, wonderful memories I have of time spent with my mom as she taught me about cooking and life in our kitchen.
I’d love for one of you to share a similar experience with your child or grandchild. Although I can’t provide this exact cookbook, I did find one similar to it!
For a chance to win this brand-new Betty Crocker’s Cook Book for Boys and Girls (a reproduction of the 1957 cookbook) just post your answer to this question:
What was your favorite childhood treat?
One winner will be randomly selected and notified by August 16.