Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book, 1950.

I recently got (not in the booklet set I usually mention in this "series") the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook from 1950 (though in the facsimile edition because the old ones I found were obviously very well loved).

Its introduction speaks of a brown-covered Gold Medal Cook Book as being its predecessor, which you can download from , and a fascinating site, , talks about versions of that old book...and ties it back even farther to Miss Parloa's cookbooks, which I've enjoyed free from links such as -- where you can read such gems as "It seems as if electricity might, in the near future, do the beating of breads, batters, ice creams, etc."

That fascinating site hasn't been updated in 10 years, so I'd like to mention its explanation of how Betty Crocker was created -- if its writer lets me know (I don't see how to contact him), I'll omit this long quotation -- I do see the writer is Frank Daniels, who's written very valuable retro cookbook information in at least one book, this one:

and various sites:
1921 saw the introduction of "Betty Crocker," quite by accident. Washburn-Crosby held a contest, awarding pincushions to those who could assemble a jigsaw puzzle that depicted people carrying sacks of Gold Medal flour. Over 30,000 people reportedly responded, prompting the company to set up a means of responding. Since so many people had questions about recipes, a character was created that would symbolize the company in response to inquiries. After William G. Crocker, a recent director of Washburn-Crosby, the name "Crocker" was chosen. The affable name of "Betty" was selected to be her first name. Various employees submitted signatures, one of which would represent "Betty Crocker"; the design handed in by Florence Lindeberg was determined to be both legible and distinctive and was chosen to represent the fictional character. The Betty Crocker kitchens were opened, and home economists were hired to test recipes. A cooking legend was born.
He also mentions on this site that Betty Crocker had a 45 RPM record and ideas for "Cake & Coffee Time"! From 1957.

This 1950 cookbook has somewhat newer, but still very retro nowadays, ideas. What I've found most interesting so far:
...It calls for using only "cooking salt" which is bought in a "bag" and is saltier than "other" salts.
...It suggests equipment for steaming foods (as in puddings, Boston brown bread, not vegetables), including a large "kettle" pot and a round and a fluted mold. I still often see this in British but not in American cookbooks.
...It assumes most of its readers have a kitchen cabinet with a bread box and a cake safe.

...Of course that cabinet has things like Betty Crocker soups, which I've never seen, and speaking of cakes her "party cake" mix (which looks like a white cake) and her Devil's Food cake mix and her "Ginger Cake" mix (which looks like a fancier gingerbread, but like it baked in a rectangular or square pan).
...For storage, she does recommend plastic bags and foil and covered refrigerator dishes (I assume like the glass or metal ones I see in antique stores), but also "waxed paper, cheesecloth, rubber bands." She also has a good idea probably for fresh clean herbs, to put them into covered glass jars.
...She mentions one might own an incinerator for garbage, though also a disposal.
...She has a good idea, that if you just have some cheese left over, you might want to grate it and keep it in a covered glass jar for convenient use.
...There's a lot of advice on softening hardened foods such as bread, and on heating without a microwave, which could be useful if you prefer to use non-microwave approaches.
...She's actually more careful about tea than I am (though I have run across suggestions recently that indeed one should be very careful about this to preserve the antioxidant value); she suggests ever only having one week's worth open and keeping it in the refrigerator after opening. (Ditto for coffee, which I have often heard nowadays.) (I've seen old grocery offerings of loose teas, of which surely one could just buy what one needed for that week or so.)

Fascinating and useful!

My Eggplant Caponata

I use this as a flavor-intensive small side dish or as a relish.

Note: If you hate eggplant you probably won't like this much. Otherwise, this is heavenly! It's as good or better than some I've had imported from Italy.

Do the ingredients very much to taste; these are only very general ideas of what I like.

Saute until soft in olive oil (not much yet; add some water if you have to):
about a cup of halved then sliced onions
Add and continue sauteeing (adding water as necessary) until soft:
a big eggplant cut into medium cubes
Add and simmer about 20 minutes:
about 4 or more oz tomato puree or paste (for paste you might need to add more water)
a spoonful of sugar
about 2 Tblsp or more of white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar (you can always add more at the end)
a big handful green olives (stuffed if you like)
Add near the end:
a big helping capers (about 1-1/2 Tblsp; do not rinse)
a few torn leaves of basil if you have it (optional; I usually omit)
Stir in off the heat:
a generous amount more of olive oil (say 3 Tblsp)
Then taste and add salt, more vinegar if necessary.

I prefer this chilled. It doesn't freeze well but keeps maybe a week or a bit more in the refrigerator in a glass jar. 
(This is still one of my favorite recipes! It's re-posted from the old version of this site.)

Vegetable-Rich Fried Rice

Have a heaping cup of already cooked rice available.

Saute in 2 or 3 Tblspn light olive oil until softish
  1 large onion or 2 or 3 leeks chopped
Add and simmer until vegetables are pretty much cooked
  about 10 oz mixed vegetables (my favorite is finely chopped baby corn and regular corn! and green beans and carrots)
  1 Tblspn soy sauce
  1 tsp gin (or rice wine if you have it)
  1/2 tsp sugar (or a bit less)
  1 tsp salt (sorry it's not as good without it)
  1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  about 1 Tblspn Oriental sliced ginger or fresh, chopped
  about 2 tsp garlic paste or fresh
  1/2 cup water
Then stir in the rice, then stir in if you'd like to make this a main course
  3 to 5 eggs
Stir until the eggs are cooked and the rice is hot.
This freezes pretty well even with the eggs.

(Much adapted from my favorite-ever Chinese cookbook: Rice Braised with Mixed Vegetables in Daniel Reid's Homestyle Chinese Cooking.)

(from previous incarnation of this site)

My new favorite cookbook!!!

This is sort-of a follow-up to my mention that I was going to try a new-to-me cookbook, at , especially

I am super excited about a cookbook delivery I got yesterday, which had a cookbook I only recently discovered, The Kitchen Revolution by Rosie Sykes, Polly Russell, and Zoe Heron. I don't think it ever caught on in America; I had to source it from Great Britain. It's from 2008. Its design is a charming notebook style.

It has so much of what I've long wanted in a cookbook -- and which the authors themselves said they had not been able to find -- it's complete dinner plans for the year including grocery lists and a recipe each day. Mind you, I've not tried any recipes yet; if they're good too I shall have to make a new category of books (finally!) that have both fabulous menus and fabulous recipes. Each week has these options; I'm listing them in my favored order in which to use them assuming I'm getting groceries the day I start using them:

  • a very quick meal featuring all very seasonal foods (tho all the menus pay attention to what's in season) 
  • a longer-prep meal that gives you leftovers for some other meals (like mine this coming week is extra cooked fish)
  • two other very quick meals that use those leftovers
  • one more longer-prep meal that gives 2 full meals so one day is no-work
  • another very quick meal, perfect just before you grocery shop, made of staples in your pantry or larder
Mind you, these are real meals -- so many American "menu plans," especially those that claim to be economical, have like 1 vegetable serving spread among 6 people, and don't even mention one might at least want to add a generous salad. I've noticed that British sources are more careful about that. It's also far closer to my own what-works-for-me nutrition -- I'm seeing frequent vegetarian and seafood options.
The update: These recipes are DELICIOUS! And I am super difficult to please!

The recipes are also extremely interesting -- I actually made a seafood soufflé last night, an interesting vegetarian repast with a dip another night, and possibly the best fish I ever made another night -- and along the way have already compiled 3 extra meals in the freezer! The recipes are not the fastest I've ever tried, but they are worth the time, and fun to use -- I realized after using one of them that I was definitely in the hands of experts and could just relax and follow directions and everything would turn out great. If you try the book and are slowish in the kitchen like I am, add some minutes to their suggestions "About x minutes before you want to eat...". Also be aware that they have the healthy and economical approach of making a lot of foods that can be bought for faster cooking -- like the careful instructions on roasting red peppers and also corn on the cob -- I substituted jarred and frozen, respectively.

I am SO happy with this book! I'm adding a new Cookbook Column of Fame theme...

Breads You Bake...with Yeast, 1951? 1959?

This isn't the best yeast bread cookbooklet ever -- maybe it's too short to be that -- but it has some nice basic recipes with different toppings or fillings to give variety. I love having lots of options when I have a bowlful of yeast dough to use. And bowls from this book will be big ones -- the book features a bread recipe that makes 3 loaves, with instructions on doubling it for 6 loaves!

Unfortunately my copy of this booklet is missing a lot of its back page, which looks like where they had their publishing date. Let's see, it's also hole-punched with 5 holes, apparently for something Betty Crocker offered her patrons. I see that professional sellers are dating this 1951. Amazon has it as 1955, but the General Mills logo the booklet still has looks older than that, however, to me -- though it's not on an online collection of logos....

I'm seeing other 5-hole-punched booklets by her of Cake Mix Magic and Frankly Fancy Recipes, but not a mention if this was an actual series she released. It would have made a fun series, with such enthusiastic titles....

A wonderful site I just discovered at mentions a quite empty ring binder from the late 1950s, and also speaks of several 5-hole-punched booklets like mine, including that Frankly Fancy one which is dated 1959 here, AND the yeast bread one I have. Perhaps they were meant to be placed in that binder. Um, probably not; the sellers on Abebooks who mention it at all say there are only 3 rings. (Speaking of binders, my 1950 Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook's rings are perfect for me to slip in this booklet with its yeast bread chapter.)

A Daybook Entry

I'm trying for the first time to join with the lovely people over at...
who write about their simply real days....The catch for me is that the only really active blog I have going right now (this one) is about food...but it's not much of a catch, because it is a very rare day when I'm not doing something about food!
For Today...Monday August 3, 2015
Outside my window...
are lots and lots of green trees of many sorts, and glimpses of a nearby cabin-like home. We moved recently and are so very very happy here.
I am thinking...
of the fun time I've been having over the last couple months haunting nearby thrift shops, on the hunt for lovely old lamps I find are more reliable than brand-new ones these days.
I am thankful...
I got reassured about one other need, for a mirror in which I can actually see myself to check if I'm presentable, that indeed these thrift shops carry them, it's just I'll need to keep looking to find something I adore.
I am wearing...
my coolest cotton dress, purplish! that I wore with a pinkish little sweater to go out earlier today.
I am creating...
a very new project to do with menus...
I am going...
to visit our children soon.
I am wondering...
if I should change tonight's menu, it's sounding less wonderful to me than it did yesterday, though it has the advantage that it will use the last of the dill that seems to be going bye-bye out in my teensy garden.
I am reading...
A.A. Milne's (as in Winnie the Pooh) collection of columns he wrote for Punch magazine long ago.
I am hoping...
a very dear friend's pregnancy will continue to be marvelous.
I am learning...
more about old London from an old Folio book. Just up to Richard II today.
In my garden...
um, having trouble with the dill. Any ideas for if I want to try again next year? All the other herbs are doing pretty well.
In my kitchen...
Last night some delicious chicken that was in the freezer with some okay noodles and vegetables also in there, made better with the jus from the chicken -- my husband called it Pasta au Jus.
This morning a nice muesli from Megan Gordon's Whole Grain Mornings book, served with some pretty good fresh raspberries -- the only half-decent organic berries I found in a grocery store I (for this reason) rarely frequent.
Tonight was going to be an old New York Times menu...

A favorite quote for today...
One goes through life…leaving books unread, music unheard, pictures unseen, and though it is very reprehensible, in some ways it is comforting to think that there are so many lovely things yet to be learned. - Beverley Nichols, A Thatched Roof
(another book I'm reading, just as slowly as the A.A. Milne one)

A peek into one of my days...
Up with the birdies and their admiring indoor kitties.
Very slow breakfast.
Ready for the day.
Work on my projects -- most to do with history, most with food history.
Visit with loved ones.
Easy lunch.
More project work, usually more the studying/research kind.
Cook dinner.
Relax with Mr. Wonderful Husband.
One of my favorite things...
The Ocean.

Marvelous Meals with Minute Tapioca by Miss Dine-About-Town, 1938

Love this one! Miss Dine-About-Town makes it clear that she hasn't actually tried cooking any of the recipes, but has tried and loved them all as they were made by others. In other words, it's charming.
I The Menu Addict also adore its many menus, even including this nice vegetarian one.
 Of course it's got lots of ideas for tapioca including many variations on tapioca pudding...