Some People Love to Cook. Not Me.
Funny that someone who doesn’t cook has had cookbooks on her mind all weekend.
But that’s what happens when an old college pal tags you in a Facebook post about a long-forgotten cookbook we used back in the day.
Times have changed. I lost my copy of the hippie-infused “Recipes for a Small Planet” years ago. And hadn’t given it a thought in decades. Hey, I eat meat now.
But everyone has a favorite recipe book, don't they?
Let me back up. I’m a non-cook. A total slacker in the kitchen.
I will do almost anything to avoid preparing food at home and I have my reasons. One, I hate to mess up my kitchen. Two, I don’t like food smells wafting around the house. And three, I detest leftovers.
Let’s face it, it’s devilishly difficult to fix meals with no aroma or without having something left on the serving dish.
Being a non-cook doesn’t mean I NEVER cook. At times I’m forced to prepare food. When I find myself in that situation, I rigidly follow recipes.
If a recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon of cardamon and I have none, I will abandon the effort. If a dish calls for a roux, I think French street and turn the page. If a recipe has more than 10 ingredients, I ditch it because it’s overwhelming.
I have absolutely no ability to improvise, substitute or otherwise veer from the printed page.
As a result, my cooking is no better than whatever cookbook I’m using.
My go-to fave? Better Crocker’s Cookbook, copyright 1973.
No matter what the Barefoot Contessa, The Pioneer Woman or Rachel Ray says, there is no better guide to basic food preparation than vintage Betty. She’ll give you the tools to make a passable pie crust, decent buttermilk pancakes and a startling "Olive Surprise Loaf." More importantly, she will tell you exactly how long to cook a roast. To the minute.
Perfect for kitchen idiots. Like me.
Betty is practical and doesn’t have any use for trendy ingredients such as avocados, raspberries or whole wheat bread. Yes, her picture is dated and so are some of her dishes.
I mean, take a gander at this fancy hot dog recipe. Looks delish, doesn't it?
How about this one for Roasted Duck on a Bed of Grapes.
So what if the recipes are bland and harken back to a time when no one in America had developed a palate?
Truth is, I love this book for more than its simplicity. I love it because it was given to me years ago by a lovely lady named Isabelle, who was a fabulous cook and a delightful person. In college I dated her son, befriended her daughter and spent many happy weekends at their family farm in Woodstown, NJ.
When I see Betty - at least in her 1973 incarnation - I remember horses, blue skies and laughter.
If there’s ever a fire at my house and I have time to grab a few treasured belongings, this battered red book will definitely be among them.