Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cook Book Love

We all know I love to cook. I love food, I love cookbooks, and I love kitchen tools. I just love food. My favorite time of the week is Friday mornings. I wake up start coffee and randomly select a stack of cook books. I pour my coffee, sit in my arm chair and start selecting delightful dishes for the coming week. I always allow myself one exciting dish, something fancier, maybe a little more expensive and a bit of a challenge. I usually have one comfort dish, something familiar, from my childhood, simpler and cheaper. And then there are usually a few quicker meals for busier week nights. Thus my cook books fall into these categories. I have my fancy exciting cookbooks: Barefoot Contessa, Julia Child, Cooking with Capriel, and of course Jamie Oliver.

I have my standard cookbooks these are full of good and interesting dishes but a bit simpler, easier and more affordable: William Sonoma’s Easy Entertaining, Dave Lieberman, Paula Deen, Martha Stewart’s Great Food Fast, and Ellie Krieger.

Then there is the comfort food. This section of my cook book collection is probably the most vital. Here we have Better Homes and Gardens, my Southern cookbook, Farmhouse cooking, my grandmother’s Joy of Cooking and the most important cook book I own: the 1979 edition of the Betty Crocker Cookbook.

Lately, a lot of my friends have been getting married and I’ve been buying them cookbooks along with their wedding gifts. For me cooking was the highlight of newlywed life. You suddenly have wonderful cooking tools, and a husband eager to eat and adore anything you make. You can make pies, cookies, pastries, and he will eat them, thus allowing you the fun of baking without the calories of eating it all yourself. You can plan dinner parties and set the table with your new china. You can send out invitations that say delightful things like “Mr. and Mrs. Potter invite you….” It’s wonderful! Once I got married I started my menu planning routine. I pick some books, make a menu, go grocery shopping Friday after work and am ready to cook delightful dishes in the week to come. But as I started choosing my favorite books for each of my bride-to-be friends I came to realize the importance of the Betty Crocker Cook book. I decided to share with all of you my #1 newlywed cooking tip.

Ask your Mom which cook book she had when she got married. It’s probably only one or two and it was probably, The Betty Crocker Cookbook, the Better Homes and Garden’s or the Joy of Cooking. Then beg her for it. If she won’t part with it, this will probably be the case, then find that book in the same edition. If she had the 1966 Joy of Cooking then find a 1966 edition of Joy of Cooking. This is very important because they change them.

I begged my Mom for her 1979 Betty Crocker Cookbook and she adamantly refused. Instead she went out and bought me a new edition of the book. I eagerly open it up thinking I’m going to make chicken crepes (a recipe I grew up eating) only to find there were no chicken crepes. Not only were there no chicken crepes but there was no tamale pie, there was no chicken rice salad and the recipe for enchiladas was wrong and so was the one for spaghetti sauce. Further they suggested you bake chicken fried steak in order to cut the calories! This was not going to do at all. So my sweet sweet Mother looked through antique stores and used book stores for months until she found another copy of the 1979 Betty Crocker Cookbook and it is my greatest cook book treasure. Because their will be those days when you want spaghetti exactly like you remember it from your childhood. And there will be days that you want the exact muffins your mom made or the chocolate cake from you birthday when you were 8. And sometimes your Mom won’t answer the phone and you will be very upset. Trust me I know.

Some mornings I wake up and I don’t want to eat risotto with lemon thyme and goat cheese. I don’t want super healthy whole wheat pasta and I don’t want to go buy fresh herbs. Sometimes I just want plain old American spaghetti with ground beef and steamed broccoli on the side. Or I want peanut butter cookies exactly like I used to make with my mom when I was a kid. And on those days I turn to my Betty Crocker Cookbook and I am comforted by the familiar pictures and the 70’s orange mixing bowls and the dorkey way the food is garnished with radish flowers. Now I want to know: what is your favorite cook book and why?

Mrs. P


  1. I loved this post. Unfortunately I don't have a cookbook favorite, but that's only because I'm just beginning to dive into the world of cooking. In fact, this is the first week I've actually made a simple menu for each night's meal, gone shopping for the week's ingredients, and I've had so much fun! Tonight I'm going to make spaghetti sauce....and I've never done it before so this is so fun for me. :o)

  2. Laura, you are SO right about older cookbooks.My mom had a cookbook produced by the Friends of the St. Louis Art Museum that had two priceless recipes: Blueberry Streusel Coffeecake and the authentic recipe for St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake. I now have that cookbook and treasure it.

    Finally, if you're up for a laugh go to James Lilek's "Gallery of Regrettable Food."

    He can be pretty acerbic, but I remember some of the stuff he has dredged up and maybe that's what makes it so humorous. Anyway, be sure to check out the "Other Other White Meat," "Knox Gelatin" and below, "Potpourri." Enjoy!

  3. oops, the final part of the address for the gallery got cut off. Add:


    after the "gallery/"

  4. Way to be Mrs. Betty Crocker last night! My mom most probably has the same edition of the Betty Crocker cookbook, yet I have become attached to the Joy of Cooking. I was unable to find that year's Betty Crocker at Smith's Book store so I settled on the Joy of Cooking and I find it to be quite exciting. I like the brief synopsis it gives on each vegetable, grain, or meat and how to best cook it- as well as the classic recipes. From squash Blossom, to Rye, to Turtle what more could you want!?

  5. New to your blog...over from Casey's! I love that Friday morning routine! Sounds lovely. I am sitting here dreaming of such a fun thing like that! Just lovely.

  6. I came over from Casey's. I love cookbooks too. My favorite cookbook was put together by the bank that my mom works for.

  7. I wish I loved cookbooks. I have some really cool ones, but I don't even like touching food! How about you come over and make stuff for me? :)