by Victoria Barrett
If you were a kid in the 1970s and your mother cooked at all, she had a copy of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. There's a good chance that you learned several of your first basics from it. Relationships being what they are, I'm not going to inherit my mother's copy — if it still exists — so my husband helpfully purchased a copy for me on eBay. For nostalgia purposes, silly. I'm nowhere near a homemaker. And as is often the case with used nostalgia, some (but not all!) of the best stuff is handwritten, loose-leaf, tucked into the pages and long forgotten.
1. "Dear Homemaker..."
So this is what passed for an editor's note in a cookbook in 1970. "Whether you're an experienced cook, or a newcomer to the world of cooking three meals a day, we want... to be your best friend in the kitchen." Sure you do, editors. Sure.
2. The Southern Indiana Gas and Electric Company Bulletin Nos. 229, 234, 239, and 243, complete with such recipes as Liver Creole Casserole, Savory Cheese Loaf, and Sunday Night Salad. Because hand-typed instructions on how to use your gas range are totally a thing you want from your utility service provider.
3. This recipe right here:
4. White Sauce was so important in 1970 that it got a place on the inside back cover.
5. Jello molds for daaayyyyys.
6. This Meal Planning and Nutrition section, with a helpful three-page calorie counter. Having been a kid in the '70s, I'm willing to guess the calorie counter was for the homemaker, and only the homemaker. Beats the hell out of the speed/diet pills that everybody's doctors were prescribing at the time, I guess.
7. The handwritten 3-Bean Salad recipe is sketched into the divider for Vegetables, not for Salads, as it should be.
8. "Special Helps"
9. A table setting suggestion for "youngsters" complete with a cloth napkin in a napkin ring and a creepy rabbit with maracas on the plate. Also we evidently fed our children powdered doughnuts and hot chocolate for a routine breakfast in 1970, which explains a lot.
10. The best grocery list in the history of groceries or lists. (Yes, that's the whole thing.)
Victoria Barrett's fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Glimmer Train, Salon, PANK, and other outlets. She lives and writes in a house full of men and boys (even the pets) and tries not to feel too bad about it.