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Betty Crocker’s Cook Book For Boys and Girls, 1957

When I was growing up, my mom wasn’t much of a cook. Part of that was situational; we were poor and there was only so much you could do with pinto beans, after all, but much of it was my mom felt about being a woman. As one of those early pioneering and marching women’s libbers, she wanted to be out of the kitchen as much as possible.

The same could not be said about my maternal grandmother. She loved cooking, and my visits to her as a child were spent perched on a stool in her kitchen watching her work. She wasn’t just about good food, either; she also loved the details. My grandfather’s liverwurst sandwich was served on a bed of lettuce, every day.

Once I could read, I found a cook book for kids in my grandmother’s kitchen. It was Betty Crocker’s Cook Book for Boys and Girls, and had belonged to my mother when she was little. Eventually I convinced my grandmother to let me take it home with me, and I would pore over the pages with glee, dreaming of making zoo cakes and mulligan stew.

Eventually, though, after a multitude of moves and cross-country relocations I managed to lose my copy of the book. So you can imagine my utter glee during a recent visit to a used bookstore (something we do as a family often), my daughter handed me a copy of the book and asked if we could buy it.

There might have been tears.

I still find the book incredibly charming, but it’s likely I’d have to adapt the recipes to attempt them now (after all, I don’t know what “top milk” is; cream? maybe?). But my daughter has adopted my habit of poring through the books and dreaming of baking.

Eventually, she and I will make that zoo cake. In the meantime, enjoy a collection of recipes from the book below!


  • Betty Crocker’s Cookbook For Boys and Girls 1 of 15
    Betty Crocker's Cookbook For Boys and Girls
    In all its 1957 glory although oddly unsexist for its time!
  • Home Testers 2 of 15
    Home Testers
    These twelve kids eight girls and four boys apparently tried all the recipes in the book. My fav quote is by Peter: "We learned what things mean, like baste and fold and sift."
  • Whiz Cinnamon Rolls 3 of 15
    Whiz Cinnamon Rolls
    I've eyes cinnamon roll recipes in the past, but they always look like two much work. This recipe, however, looks pretty easy, doesn't it? Hence the "whiz" part.
  • Zoo Cake Recipe 4 of 15
    Zoo Cake Recipe
    I'm not sure what it is about this recipe, but it utterly fascinated me as a kid. I wish I'd made it; it's actually very simple and easy. I think even a baking neophyte like me could do it.
  • Zoo Cake Animals 5 of 15
    Zoo Cake Animals
    To top off your zoo cake, obviously. Do they still make a hexagon-shaped cheese cracker?
  • Butter Icing 6 of 15
    Butter Icing
    You'll be needing some icing for that zoo cake. Obviously. Um, does anyone know where I can get top milk?
  • Cookie Thief 7 of 15
    Cookie Thief
    I only included this picture because it's so incredibly adorable.
  • Drum Cake 8 of 15
    Drum Cake
    When I think about the 4th of July cakes I see on Pinterest (such as this one), I find myself loving the simplicity of this cake even more. Of course, you'll have to remember to save candy canes from Christmas. Or maybe you could just make this a Christmas cake.
  • Easter Hat Cake 9 of 15
    Easter Hat Cake
    "Easter is a time when every girl wants a new hat. Here's one you can eat."

    Can't beat that copy.
  • Easter Hat Photo 10 of 15
    Easter Hat Photo
    It's even more charming in the photo, isn't it? And far easier to make than, say, this one, no?
  • Mother Heart Cake 11 of 15
    Mother Heart Cake
    OMG, I love this cake so much. I would be thrilled to get this on Mother's Day (gluten free, naturally). Much better than this one.
  • Mulligan Stew 12 of 15
    Mulligan Stew
    This easy recipe for stew looks, well, edible. This is the "boy" campout section of the cookbook.
  • Relishes 13 of 15
    Relishes
    Oh my word. Look at those cute carrot people. I could just eat them up! With ranch dressing, please.
  • Three Men In A Boat 14 of 15
    Three Men In A Boat
    Not every recipe is a gem. This recipe calls for (gulp) creamed dried beef inside the potato skins, with three mushrooms as the "men" and american cheese slices as sails. Well, that cheese is better as sails, am I right?
  • Raggedy Ann Salad 15 of 15
    Raggedy Ann Salad
    I'm not sure how, exactly, this qualifies as a salad (the single piece of lettuce? maybe?), but here it is. The body is a canned peach half, arms and legs are celery sticks, eyes and buttons and feet are raisins, and the hair is grated cheese. Um, yum? But cute though.

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