Friday, March 19, 2010

Man's Heart, Part II

It would have been hard to curl up in the recliner and read the first cookbook. First off, they didn't have recliners. Secondly, the first cookbook was recorded on a clay tablet back in Babylon 1500 BC. I guess when it's on stone you aren't in danger of it catching on fire as you stir the pot.

Until the 18th century, cookbooks were used by the wealthy only. Their servants weren't supposed to know how to read, so the mistress of the household would read the directions and the servant would get her hands dirty. What a deal, huh?

But I've been getting my hands dirty in the kitchen since I was a kid.

My first cookbook was given to me on my 10th birthday by my Grandma and Grandpa Leonard (The cover is pictured above; the inscription is below). I really did use the cookbook, though I have probably used it just as much as a 4-H foods and nutrition project leader.

I also had a Betty Crocker Children's Cookbook. I couldn't find my copy or the one that we brought home from my mother-in-law's kitchen. Randy says he remembers using that one, too.

When I was researching for my cookbook history program, I re-discovered a cookbook that my Grandma Neelly had in her cabinet: The Household Searchlight Recipe Book published by Household Magazine in 1931.

In the foreword, it says:

"The Household Searchlight is a service station conducted for the readers of The Household Magazine. In this seven-room house lives a family of specialists whose entire time is spent working out the problems of homemaking common to every woman who finds herself responsible for the management of a home and the care of children.

Preparation of food is a major project in every home. Planning meals is simplified when dependable recipes are available. A recipe is dependable only when it has been tested for its balance of ingredients and palatability. ...

In order to publish a book that would meet the needs of the homemaker, one thousand questionnaires were sent to readers who were known to be especially interested in food preparation. ... The book is designed to be helpful to the young as well as the experienced homemakers who live in towns of 10,000 population and under."

I also re-discovered my mother-in-law's The Joy of Cooking book by Irma S. Rombauer. The cookbook was presented to "Marie Ritts, Christmas 1949" by an aunt and uncle. She would have been 17 years old.

The cookbook was originally published in 1931, and, according to the research I did, The Joy of Cooking is one of the landmark American cookbooks. It is still published today.

Its foreword reads, in part:

"This books is the result of a long practical experience, a lively curiosity and a real love for cookery. In it I have made an attempt to meet the needs of the average household, to make palatable dishes with simple means and to lift everyday cooking out of the commonplace.

"Written in a method so clear that a child can follow it, its instructions cannot fail to help and inspire the novice. The experienced cook will find in it innumberable practical and novel suggestions to spur her on to new efforts."

I'm sure you'll want to add Asparagus Timbales to your recipe repertoire. Or how about sweetbreads (and I'm not talking muffins here!) You can have them creamed, sauteed, broiled, braised or larded with wine sauce. Or maybe not.

It was one of the cookbooks which inspired Julia Child. If you love cooking and cookbooks, I would recommend the movie, Julie & Julia.

When I was a Pratt County 4-Her, our foods leader had us begin a recipe box. The poor thing is rusted on top and is packed so full the lid won't go down.

But I still use it today.

Here's a recipe from the box, written in my careful cursive, on March 31, 1968, at the ripe old age of 10.

It's still a good recipe.

Tom Thumbs
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup coconut

Cream together butter and powdered sugar. Add 1 cup flour; mix well. Spread in the bottom of a prepared 13- by 9- by 2-inch pan.

Beat 2 eggs well. Add brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of flour, baking powder, pecans and coconut. Mix well. Spread evenly over first mixture. Bake 30 minutes at 325 degrees. Cut while still warm.


  1. I forgot all about Tom Thumbs. And my recipe box must have not made the trip somewhere. Aren't you a saver???

  2. Is it the Boys and Girls cookbook that you were looking for?? I have that one. It was Randy's (but I cooked out of it too) and you said I could keep it because you had yours just like it. Didn't want you to keep searching for it if it's the one. I still make the oatmeal cookies from it!! Remember the easter bunny salad out of pear halves??