It’s in the book–the cookbook


Julia Child.  I merely say her name and visions of food, food, food appear. And there’s more—fun, laughter, good company and learning—especially about food and fixing it. Yesterday marked Julia Child’s centennial.

Let’s raise a glass. Here’s to Julia! Here’s to happy hours in the kitchen!

And here’s to cookbooks.

I’ve just had the pleasure of reviewing Bob Spitz’s outstanding biography of the intriguing Ms. Child—Dearie for Story Circle Book Reviews. (You can check the review out at While Julia turns out to be a dear, the title refers to how she addressed others—they were always “Dearie.”   Everyone, it seems, was dear to Julie. Okay, almost everyone.

The sticky notes assure you–I’ll be
reading this one again–and, probably

I’ve blogged about Julia (feel like I know her) before. I read the excellent collection of her correspondence with Avis DeVoto, As Always, Julia, and immediately wanted to share. (You can find it at .)

Now it’s happened again. Like just about any good book about food and/or cooking, Dearie sent me off in two directions: to the kitchen to cook and to my cookbooks. Fortunately for me the cookbooks live in the kitchen bookcase so I could go in both at the same time

At the bookcase I grabbed a couple of books that have been with me a long,long time and are as full of memories as they are recipes. I wish I could remember who gave me Betty Crocker’s Dinner of Two as a wedding gift. No one could have needed it more. I barely knew where the kitchen in my folk’s home was— my writer mother encouraged me to write and read, but not to cook. So there I was a bride who could boil water for a cup of tea and prepare a mean batch of refrigerated biscuits. That was it. I needed, sorely needed, this book. It lived on the kitchen counter. The pages are still crinkled and brown from the spills and drips. But, not surprisingly, soon enough my family numbered five and Dinner for Two went off the counter and onto a shelf.

Never once did I think of giving it away.

Two old favorites–my newlywed favorite and my mom’s.

Now as I thumb through it, I remember that at-sea bride making the wonderful discovery that she loved to cook. Still does.  Oh yes, the romantic Meringue Heart, or the exotic—to me—raspberry-current sauce for ice cream. Did we only eat desserts?  No,  there were the meatloafs during the week and pot roasts on Sunday. Even liver and onions that the groom loved and the cook found not bad, once she learned it didn’t have to be cooked for over an hour as Mother did. (About 10 minutes does the trick.)

And my favorite recipe of all time that I’ve never made—yet. The instructions for “Pheasant Baked in Cream” begins, “Have the hunter . . .pluck, draw, clean and cut up the pheasant.” Good idea, that’s not the cook’s job. As soon as Hunter Bob brings me a plucked, drawn, cleaned and cut-up pheasant, I still may give it a try. Fact is I may try several of these now that the household is  down to two again.

After I reveled for a while in the memories and promised myself broiled lamb chops with green peas and mint for dinner tomorrow. I turned to another even older volume—a wedding gift to my mother. Balanced Recipes put out by Pillsbury and copy written in 1933, two years before my folks married. The treasures here are not the printed recipes but the ones added in the back. I see Mother’s handwriting, and then my Grandmother Beeman’s and then my Grandmother Nordyke’s. Suddenly I’m blinking tears and decided explore this, and so—to be continued.

Meanwhile do you have some cookbook memories? When and where did you learn to love cook.

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3 responses to “It’s in the book–the cookbook

  1. My mother’s old red and white Betty Crocker cookbook- I was sick when I heard that my stepmother got rid of it. I wish I could find one like it somewhere, just for the connection of seeing those old recipes, and knowing that my mom used them for as long as I can remember.

  2. Khadijah, that’s why I had to stop reading my mom’s.silver book. Too many tears–but they are happy ones. Precious memories.

  3. Yes, cookbooks are family anthropology. My mother had plastic buckets filled with files filled with recipes torn out of magazines and written on scraps of paper. What to do…what to do?


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