Monday, May 25, 2020

Stirring up Memories

Back in his bachelor, pre-twin 2 year old girls days, my son did his share of cooking.
Of course, that was when it was a leisurely event of creating a meal, not the current juggling act of getting dinner on the table that it is now for him and my (best in the world!) daughter-in-law.

          He remarked the other day that in this era of recipes on line, he rarely uses his cookbooks anymore. That, plus on one of my posts Steve (at Shadows and Light) commented about old cookbooks from his family and it sent me to my bookshelves.

          I still use most of mine, even if it’s just that one spaghetti sauce here, or the snickerdoodle recipe there. The one I use the most is a loose-leaf binder full of recipes I’ve cut from various places, many of which I’ve then committed to my iPad for ease of travel.

          The Better Homes and Gardens red-checked one was a gift from my stepsister, who I always think about when I grab it to look something up. She must have bought it cut-rate because the index stops abruptly – and annoyingly - at page 396, right after the Scotch Crunchies.

          The front page of the Illustrated Step-by-Step Chinese Cookbook (surprisingly good, considering it uses no ingredient more exotic than soy sauce) says “To Mama, from Ashley 1977.” It was a birthday gift, but since she was only 6 at the time, I have a feeling she had help shopping. My notation next to the recipe for Sweet and Sour Pork that reads “No. Kids hate it!”

      Combining nostalgia with practicality since I really do still use it, is my mother’s Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book, with her notes to add a sliced frankfurter to the split pea soup, or ½ can of Spam and 1 lb of shrimp to Creole Jambalaya. She probably got a lot of mileage out of Spam and hot dogs when my father was a grad student at Princeton or a beginning instructor at U. Mass.  It’s now my go-to for Oxtail soup, and every year I thumb to the back for the Christmas sugar cookies. The first printing was 1942, but just before the Contents page there’s a postscript:

          As this book goes to press our country is at war. Inevitably certain food shortages will develop. We may not be able to buy our usual amount of sugar nor the full line of canned foods to which we have become accustomed. But take it in stride.

. . . . . A healthy nation is the best contribution our homes can make to our war effort. Let us make it constantly, consistently, and cheerfully.



  1. That was a poignant postscript, and since it was the year of my birth, it's very special for me to see that I am not the only thing still hanging around from those days. Have a safe and memorable Memorial Day!

  2. the only cookbook I use is Joy of Cooking and hardly that anymore. I've saved many recipes off the internet on a document and that's my main go to. my sister collects cookbooks. she must have 30 or more, some really old ones.

  3. That postscript is sadly as relevant today as it was then.
    I do love to see well used cookbooks - and suspect that some of the pages within have food related smears and stains.
    And I smiled at the notation against sweet and sour pork. How I wish my mother had followed that rule...

    1. Funny to think of now, with my miso soup, sushi eating adult kids.

  4. I got none of the old cookbooks in the break up of the big house. All my cooking is done from printing from the internet.
    I think the postscript before the contents is a foreign notion to the current nation.

  5. I also have a loose-leaf binder with favourite recipes and each is marked with which child doesn't like it, plus alterations, such as less sugar, etc. Most of my 'real' cookbooks have been given to the kids.

  6. We still have a Red Roses cookbook from early in our marriage. My mother had one before us.

  7. I love these looks at your old cookbooks! (One of the ones my step-grandmother gave us is called "The Settlement Cookbook," and on the cover it says, "The way to a man's heart"!) I like the patriotic message in the Woman's Home Companion book. People were so civic-minded then. No one was complaining that not having access to sugar was depriving them of their individual liberty.


Thanks for stopping by and I'd love to hear what you think.