Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Last night, while sorting through some boxes, I came across Genevieve's Grandmother's "Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook".

My mom had one of these, I'm sure my grandmother did as well. It seems that every woman of a certain age range (i.e. currently older than 50) has one of these plaid patterned beauties stashed away somewhere. As if they were issued to everyone when they turned 18. (Genevieve corrected me and informed me that they were probably more-than-likely issued as wedding presents for soon-to-be housewives). I'd be willing to bet that anyone reading this knows a mom or grandmother who has one.

Opening the book, the first things to spill out were the clipped recipes, mostly from newspapers and magazine ads. Except a few of them which were handwritten on cards and miscellaneous pieces of paper. I remember these in my own mother's cookbook as well (it's those scraps that, I believe, contain the mysterious tuna rice pie recipe ;), except this cookbook's were filled with, among other things, variations upon variations of instructions for kugel.

Cooking, especially home-cooking, has progressed by leaps and bounds since Better Homes issued this book about 50 years ago. Most of the recipes come across as kitchy, dated, even a little gross (one, in particular, involved cutting a hole in a hamburger bun, sticking a solitary egg in there, then baking it at 350 for 25 min, placing a slice of cheese on top and baking for another 5, until melted. It was called "bunny.."something). It's full of ultra saturated pictures of the idyllic family table, filled with turkey, waldorf salads, and Jell-O molds. One, of a woman with 8 arms, each holding a dish, looking up at the clock (I assume, waiting for her husband to come home) was particularly of a certain time-period.

I have to give credit though. Most of the basic cooking techniques still hold up today. (Their instructions for making fudge were dead-on what we did last week.) So, as such, I can say that I feel, to an extent, the book holds up today. Not that everyone exactly *wants* a recipe for the perfect grape Jell-O mold anymore, but as a reference source, it works very well. Either way, in these days of a million cookbooks for every taste and ethnic variety, it was an entertaining glimpse into what was supposed to be the "perfect meal", decades ago. I joked that it would be a fun to do a themed dinner party, sourcing the meal just from that book. Of course, I've seen those dresses the cooks are supposed to wear and I just don't think they'd be flattering on my waistline.