My first cook book was a smaller version of my mother’s favorite cook book.
Sadly, my junior cookbook fell apart years ago. It was spattered with batter and the spine was even broken from being propped up and knocked over once too often. I was thrilled to find a very good copy of the cookbook, plus the “party planning” book, that were such a part of my childhood. The local used book store, Homestead books, in Marlborough NH, had these childhood treasures.
Obviously some child did not enjoy cooking since these books look like now. This was how I learned to cook. Sadly, my cooking has stayed at about this level, though I am known for my Jiffy Mix banana bread (it’s still the best banana bread recipe out there). As a child, what I enjoyed were the illustrated steps. I really couldn’t make a mistake with these recipes.
If you laugh and wonder why the preparation of hot dogs would need illustrations and a recipe, then you never met my friend Brian. Brian was a single Navy officer with a girlfriend that adored him. Nancy was a talented and successful professional, from a Navy family, and was perfect for Brian. Brian was hesitant though, he loved Nancy, but felt he wasn’t ready to settle down yet. Everyone knew no one else but Nancy would put up with Brian.
Brian was one of those people where you said “He really needs a wife” a lot. He would show up at work not wearing socks, or without his belt buckle. These things can get you in real trouble if you are a Navy officer. My own husband managed to dress himself everyday without any help. But Brian just couldn’t seen to function on his own and was always getting into trouble.
One day Brian called me up to ask “How long do you cook hot dogs for?” I was confused, I assured him hot dogs are basically cooked, you just need to warm them up. “Oh that explains it” he said. He then informed me he had been boiling the hot dogs for 30 minutes, and they had lost all their color and turned a sort of beige color.
Brian either needed a junior cookbook or a wife. One day my husband and I were visiting Brian. Nancy was flying down to visit. I came over to clean the bathroom, knowing Brian had no clue how to do it and Nancy deserved a non toxic bathroom. Brian became hungry, and went to the freezer where he found a tub of frozen spaghetti Nancy had made for him last visit. He opened the lid, stuck a fork in it, and pulled it out. He basically had a giant spaghetti popsicle which he then ate. Intervention was needed. A group of us had a little talk with him.
He then asked Nancy to marry him, and they have been happily married for over 30 year now.
I enjoyed learning the basic recipes of the junior cookbook. When I began to work at a preschool I was happy to find one of the “works” was making a baked potato in the microwave. The children learned the “steps”, including cleaning up afterward. Small children are so proud when they make “real food”, with an adult keeping an eye on them of course!
The photographs in the books reflect a different time, but I remember eating many of these dishes growing up. Whole wheat bread was difficult to find. My older brother and I would have a contest to see how small we could make a slice of Wonder Bread, and then eat the resulting bread pill. Wonder Bread was enriched with vitamins. Good mothers bought it for their families. Now it’s often hard to find white bread among all the whole grain varieties, and I’ve learned to prefer a good hearty bread myself.
I’m hoping to pass these on one day. The basic recipes are still good and maybe one day someone will want to throw a tropical party, or paint a Christmas centerpiece in silver paint.