Everything Including the Kitchen Sink – Remembering Betty Crocker

Remember when people cooked things simply because they would taste good?  Nobody ate kale or quinoa; salad was a token small plate of iceberg lettuce inundated with 1000 Island.  We all owned a Betty Crocker cookbook and that’s where we went when we wanted to know what to do with a package of chicken parts.

It was the ‘50’s, when television showed us wives should look like June Cleaver on Leave It To Beaver, wearing a nice dress, frilly apron, pearls and heels all day every day.  Or Donna Reed, again, a really nice dress, frilly apron, pearls and heels.  The children were sweet and only occasionally annoying.  The husbands went off to work every day in a suit, tie, dress shirt, and wingtip shoes and made enough money to keep them all happy in a beautiful two story house where we occasionally saw June or Donna vacuuming.  They mostly made cookies.

The Betty Crocker Cookbook contained recipes like Chicken Cream Pie or Noodles with Browned Crumbs, Macaroni with Fried Tomatoes, Ham and Egg Pie.  Seriously?  All these recipes were loaded with cream, butter and very few vegetables.  We’re much more aware of the dangers of food now.  We eschew butter and cream but we’re chubbier than ever before.

Rodale Books, once the paragon of all that was healthy, the brainchild of Adelle Davis, one of our first food gurus; is now offering “Betty Crocker’s 1950s Cookbook of Memories, which will take you “Somewhere Delicious.”

My mother had one and I remember being about 9 years old and making a cake to surprise her, which I certainly did.  The directions called for lining the cake pans with waxed paper.  Not realizing what that really meant was to cut out a circle of waxed paper to put in the bottom of the cake pan, I just tore off big pieces, made it fit the best I could, poured in the batter and put it in the stove.  Luckily, I didn’t burn the house down.  The waxed paper burned and scorched and made a dandy mess in the oven.  I removed my cakes at the appointed hour then had to peel off all this burnt waxed paper, most of which landed on the floor.  As I recall, the cake was pretty good and my mother wasn’t too furious at the little pieces of burnt waxed paper all over the floor.  When one is 9 and has good intentions, they don’t always turn out quite as one plans.

The description of Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book says, “It’s the kind of cookbook that mothers hand down to their daughters, the kind of cookbook that people look for and snatch up at yard sales, no matter how dog-earned and worn the pages.”  It also says, “Maybe the first cake you ever baked with your mom was Betty’s unforgettable Chocolate Joy Cake.”  Or the first one you ever baked without her!  Julia Child never burnt her waxed paper, but she did drop her chicken.

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