Betty Crocker and Me
I have this cookbook – have had it for thirty-eight years. In fact, I received it as a bridal shower gift because, well, the assumption was that a young bride-to-be would need such a thing. That assumption would be correct, but only if said bride-to-be INTENDED to learn to cook, which I had no such aspiration.
It would be another ten or so years before I even remotely cared about where the kitchen was located in the house and, even now, it behooves me to say that cooking is only something I do for the sole purpose of keeping my family alive.
My Betty Crocker Cookbook is a classic for sure — new and revised version, copyright 1978 – neon orange cover, spiral bound, and filled to the brim with hundreds of recipes, helpful tips, colorful graphics, a comprehensive index, a note about confidence in the kitchen from Miss Crocker, and photos of cooking women who are almost frightening in all of their 1970ishness!
The table-of-contents makes finding everything quick and easy. I like that it’s basic and not overly diverse because when it comes to cooking, I don’t do frou-frou! Give me basic ingredients, a simple recipe, and ten point two minutes and I can set a meal on your TV tray that’ll knock your culinary taste buds out of the park. No, really, I can!
There are a few categories in the contents that especially stand out and I know are of great value to everyone who spends as much time in the kitchen as I. The first is “Molded Salads.” Now, I know what they are and have even had them back in the day, but instead of creative and fresh and festive coming to mind, I am vividly reminded of the thing I dragged from the back of the refrigerator day before yesterday that was only identifiable by the shriveled up cherry tomatoes and nuclear onion stench. Now THAT’s a molded salad!
Another interesting category under Appetizers is “Pick-up Nibbles.” Am I the only one or does this sound like something that belongs on your to-do list for the day? “Hey honey, don’t forget to stop by the Vet on your way home from work and retrieve the dog!”
The most important category of all is entitled “Special Helps.” This would be where all of those wonderful tips for surviving kitchen life are compiled. Things like the following:
Metrics in the Kitchen (nope, nada, nyet, nein)
High Altitude Cooking (I live in Pennsylvania and we’re KIND of on a hill.)
How to use Measuring Utensils, Wooden Spoons, and a Toaster (Really? I learned those things in Junior High Home Ec, thank you very much and MY toaster is a four-slicer!)
Terminology like Snip, Chop, Cut up, Cut in, Dice, Grate, Shred, Peel, Beat, and Whip (sounds like a lot of rude, inappropriate behaviors the likes of which we hear on the news to me)
Special Helps, my eye!
Then there’s the section on Microwaves. There are four hundred pages in this cookbook and TWO of them are dedicated to microwave cooking – TWO! The intro reads, “This cool, convenient NEW way of cooking simplifies life.” (hmm… unless you forget to remove the foil or there are kids and marshmallow peeps involved)
In comparison, there are fifteen pages devoted to Canning and Freezing and a fabulous little blurb about “Dill Pickle Success.”
Despite the basic Contents, the actual recipe collection is quite diverse. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve grabbed this book to whip up a Yorkshire Pudding with Beef, Budget Bouillabaisse, and the ever-favorite, Creole Wieners. Oh, and Welsh Rabbit! That’s one of my go to meals for sure!
And, did you know that this cookbook actually has recipes for cakes that require things like flour and sugar, baking powder and salt? What in the world?? Whatever happened to making a cake the good old-fashioned way – straight out of the box, for heaven’s sake? Geesh!
For the record, I actually have used my Betty Crocker over the years – heavily and with complete trust – as a reference/guide — for exactly three recipes – THREE! Well, I can’t honestly say that I USE those recipes, per se, but I most definitely turn to the pages the recipes are on. Why? Because my post-menopausal, short-term memory brain can NEVER EVER remember at what temperature to set the oven. E-V-E-R!! And so, every couple of weeks (and once in November) I pull ol’ Betty off the shelf and she falls open to one of the three pages I need, allowing me to provide sustenance to my ever-suffering family once more.
Here’s a note-worthy culinary tip should you need it. Write this down!
(Meat Loaf – 350 degrees, Oven-fried Chicken – 425)
It’s important to note that I have learned at least one extremely valuable lesson from Betty Crocker. It involves turkeys and stuffing and Thanksgiving dinner and hordes of family. Long, long ago, (in a galaxy far, far away) I was making my very first Thanksgiving turkey for my very large extended family to be served around my very own dining room table on my lovely, new china with candles and cornucopias and laughter and song.
It was a grand affair!
When we were an hour past the scheduled dinner time and Old Tom Turkey wasn’t progressing as he should, I began to get a little nervous. When we were two hours past, my mother and grandmother and mother-in-law began to get nervous. Not long after, the guests were beginning to mumble and pace and threaten mutiny and fast food, while my new-found confidence was tanking.
What was WRONG with the danged thing?
Shortly thereafter, it was discovered that I had the oven set for 185 degrees and when I argued that that was what it said in my very own brand new Betty Crocker Cookbook, they gently pointed out that 185 was the INTERNAL temperature of the bird and NOT the intended oven setting which should’ve been 325. (whilst laughing hysterically at my
ineptitude innocence) And so, I learned.
An experience like that is something one doesn’t forget and I’ve never NOT checked the book for the PROPER oven setting since. In the end, when we sat down to Thanksgiving Dinner (at midnight and after having jacked that puppy up to about 800) it was all good – warm turkey, cold everything else and all.
Thanks for the memories, Miss Betty… (and sorry about that stain on your head)
He that is of a merry heart has a continual feast. Proverbs 15:15