A Pinch of This, A Dash of That…

Anyone who comes into our dining room can see that I’m well-prepared for this whole self-sufficiency thing, at least in terms of cooking resources…our entire mantel is covered with cookbooks!

My obsession with recipes started at age 9, about the same time my mom started letting me cook and bake.  Mom had the hard cover, red and white checked, five-ring binder version of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook – it was probably a wedding present from Mom and Dad’s nuptials in 1959.  Its pages were splattered with various foods, because it had been well-used over the years.  Tucked inside the front cover were several index cards with family recipes written on them.  One of my first projects was labouriously copying some of my family favourites on to lined paper (which I still have today):  Great Great Aunt Nellie’s Toll House Cookies, Grandma Shoots’ Molasses Cookies (aka Shirley’s Cookies – I have no idea who Shirley was!), Mamma’s Crumb Cake…

Mom's Cooking Bible...

Sometime in the mid-’70’s, our local newspaper published an insert which featured recipes submitted by readers.  I got out my scissors,  clipped those that sounded good, and made my own recipe book with an old notebook from school (still have that too!).  My standard Fruit Crisp recipe comes from that book. 

I moved out (the first time) in 1979.  It was then that I found that I didn’t really have much of a clue about cooking (although I was pretty good at baking).  I remember the time that I put a pan of scalloped potatoes in the oven, only to realize after setting off the smoke alarm that I had neglected to add the milk to the pan!  Off I went to find what would become my “cooking Bible”…the Joy of Cooking.  I had to settle for the 2-volume softcover version – I was poor and unemployed at the time!  One of the best features of “Joy” is the fact that there’s a little description of every ingredient imaginable that tells about ways to cook it.  I also find the substitution section very helpful.

After I got married in 1984, my cookbook collection really took off…I belonged to the Quality Paperback Book Club, and they were always releasing books I couldn’t do without!  I bought my own paperback version of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, and kept my eyes open at yard sales for other interesting titles.  We were also the beneficiaries of fundraising cookbooks from various organizations our relatives belonged to.  Those are still my favourite kind – basic recipes that real people make and enjoy on a daily basis!  Our Chicken Lasagna and Maple Fudge recipes came from my youngest daughter’s elementary school cookbook.

The kind of community cookbook I love!

Another favourite type of cookbook on my mantel is the one put out by companies to promote the use of their product…good ones are the Magic Baking Powder Cookbook (mine is ca. 1930 and was purchased in an auction box lot for a quarter in the early ’70’s), and the Purity Flour Cookbook (somebody gave that one to me, I think).  I use the Buttermilk Pancakes recipe in the Purity book every weekend for “family breakfast.”

Magic Baking Powder Cookbook...

In the early ’90’s, I used Joy of Cooking to teach myself how to make bread…kneading dough is an excellent tension-reliever!  I experimented successfully with using multi-grain cereal in the loaves…my rolls and cinnamon buns are also a big hit!

Sometime around 2000, I was confident enough to create my own recipe – I took a Hershey’s Cocoa brownie recipe, and put my own spin on it, to create “West Side Wendy’s Brownies.”  Countless people have told me they’re the best brownies they’ve ever had!

One thing I’ve never mastered is piecrust…I’ve managed to fail every “no-fail” piecrust recipe I’ve ever tried…I’ve given up.  Jim’s mom brings the pies for family dinners at our house!

When we moved to our current home in late 2008, my stepdaughter, Brianna, looked at the cookbooks carefully lined up the entire length of the fireplace.  “I think you have a few too many cookbooks,” she observed.

“But think of all the cool stuff I can make!” I replied.


Filed under cooking

2 responses to “A Pinch of This, A Dash of That…

  1. planejaner

    oh my goodness! I loved this, and earlier in March, wrote an ode to my cookbook–come on over and read it, it’s called “the temple of my familiar…cookbook” http://planejaner.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/

    even the pictures! have a wonderful day!

  2. Pingback: Bits and Pieces… « Herding Cats in Hammond River

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