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!
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