All of my cookbooks had copyright dates from 1964 to 1971. The ones I mostly used, anyway. The decidedly not newNew Better Homes & Gardens” (Better Homes & Gardens, 1968) with the three-package cream cheese cheesecake recipe (p. 216) and the beef stroganoff (p. 238) with the 2 tablespoons of wine in it, which, I remember thinking back in the day, seemed like too much of the bottle to share. (It was a shock, years later, having not thought of beef stroganoff for years, when I realized how little of the bottle of white the recipe actually needed. I used to be pretty stingy with my wine, I guess.)

The “Joy of Cooking” (Rombauer, Becker, 1964) helped me sail through dinners for company, when I tried entertaining. There’s a pumpkin pie recipe (p. 605) in there that involves making a custard ahead of time and slipping it into the crust – I never got it right. The custard always curdled and was terrible. I kept trying because the ingredients appealed to me – lots of cream, as I recall and probably butter. 

Stashed in another one of these books, “Betty Crocker’s New Dinner for Two Cookbook” (General Mills, Inc., 1964), was a handwritten grocery list and menu plan I found on an old piece of stenographer’s note paper. I had written it as a newlywed at Fort Dix in 1971 – “Menu: Chicken a la King over Toast Points” – “list: chicken. canned mushrooms, milk, etc.” And that was just Sunday. That cookbook I put away for years. It’s still in good shape. The lifestyle it seems to be promulgating never quite fit me after those first couple of years.

I had my children in the ’80s and relied heavily on the cookie recipe on the chocolate chips package, Julia Child’s method for omelets – right, I did have Julia’sMastering the Art of French Cooking” (Child, Bertholle, Beck, 21st printing, 1971, p. 126 ff.), too – and handing the kids a carrot at 5:30 p.m. and telling them it was “salad.”

A couple of years ago, my “Better Homes & Gardens” andJoy of Cooking,” in particular, were in tatters. The recipe for waffles (p. 108), made many times since 1995, when I married a maple-producing dairy farmer, was floating around the book, untethered by the ring binder, having been ripped out who knows when for a waffle emergency. Plus it was covered with stray syrup stains stuck all over it.  

I had checked out the new “Better Homes & Gardens,” for sure. My go-to analysis was of the cheesecake recipe. It was much diminished – much less cream cheese. I just knew it wouldn’t fly. Cheesecake remains my now-38-year-old eldest son’s favorite recipe, He’d know in a minute if I’d tried to make it “healthy” heaven forbid.

I could not see parting with the old cookbooks. And, of course, mostly I refer to Pinterest now, or that wonderful Google trick of entering three ingredients and getting a recipe when you click “search.” (That makes me think i should try “chicken, mushrooms, milk” and see if “Chicken a la King” pops up.)  

But I was so happy to realize I could find a rebirth of all of my old favorites someplace on the internet. Amazon, eBay, others, I’m sure. There may even be an “old cookbooks.com.” I found my old favorites and ordered them, like new, for very little cash, and threw out the originals. I’m back in business. 

My hottest current cooking tip, by the way, is this – if you have three grandchildren visiting and their parents are still sleeping, the waffle recipe has a job for each one of them. One kid can use an old-fashioned eggbeater for the egg whites; another can operate a sifter for the flour and baking soda and, after a while, the third kid can help you pour the batter onto the waffle iron. And unlike the Little Red Hen, my experience is no matter their ages, they all love to jump right in to help. 

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