While I am in Missouri I am working on the list of things I plan to take to Arizona when we go at the end of the year. I will still have a home in Missouri, so I cannot strip out this house completely. I have a few cookbooks, but I have decided that for the time being, I will keep most of them in Missouri.
I got thinking about the cookbooks and recipes I have used over the years. I learned to cook by instruction from my mother and using “Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cookbook.” She (Betty, not my mom) was the gold standard when I was a teenager. My mom cooked basic food, and what she cooked was very good, but she didn’t go far out of her comfort zone to try new and unusual recipes. Her desserts existed of oatmeal cookies, nut chiffon cake, and pies. The cake was her signature dessert. It takes a lot of talent to make one, and as much as I bake, I have not been able to accomplish that task. The is the one baked dessert that alludes me. My mom couldn’t bake a pie, or should I say, she couldn’t make a pie crust. She would purchase pie crust sticks that looked like a butter or margarine stick, and roll out a not so tasty pie crust. We still enjoyed her pie. I mean, can you make a bad pie? No, but you can really work to make an excellent pie. Back to cookbooks. My sisters and I used Betty Crocker to learn to make the things other “Americans” were cooking, like chocolate chip cookies, a new casserole, things that weren’t in my Serbian mother’s repertoire.
Instead of taking a group of cookbooks to Arizona, and leaving a group of cookbooks in Missouri, the one cookbook that will go with me will be a revised one from one I first put together in 1993. My two oldest sons had moved out of the house and moved to their own place. They were stumped when it came to making themselves meals. I told them that “if they could read, they could cook.” All they had to do was get a cookbook and follow the directions. So, that year I put together a cookbook for them of the recipes they would ask me about that were their favorites from growing up. I compiled about 20 recipes, put them in plastic sleeves in a binder. I named the cookbook, “If You Can Read, You Can Cook.” I cut out pictures from magazines or used family photos to tape to the page, and photocopied the pages. There was no scanners like today.
It was such a hit that when my younger boys went out on their own, they also wanted a copy of the book. In 2009, I revised the book, made corrections to the typos, scanned photos and artwork, added a few new recipes, removed some that no one was really using, and printed copies for all four boys. I figured that the two older boys needed an updated copy. I titled the 2009 book, “Mom’s Favorites — Food, That Is!” All my kids, their current spouses (yes, some have changed since then), and their kids were all featured on the cover, purposely playing on the words of “mom’s favorites.” In 2016 I edited the book again and added new recipes—that version was called, “Yum!,” subtitiled, “An Updated Mom’s Cookbook, Just for You from Me! 7/2016.”
While I am writing this blog, an article popped up on my news feed. It was about a cookbook published by Steve and Kathy Doocy. Of course, I had no idea who they were, but as I read on, I discovered that he is the host on the Fox News morning show. What struck me was the name of the cookbook, “The Happy Cookbook.” I clicked on the link to Amazon and read the introduction to the book. I am always looking for good cookbooks, even if I am lucky to really use only one recipe in it. What I found was that he and his wife complied this cookbook with the recipes that bring back memories of their childhoods, their dating, their kid’s favorites, and favorites from famous people he met along the way, like Dr. Oz.
That is exactly what my cookbook is. It started by the boys asking for their favorite recipes after they moved out of the house. Then I added some from friends and family, and some of the recipes bring me back to my childhood, like my mom’s oatmeal cookies or my grandmother’s pumpkin cake. I have a recipe from my ex’s grandmother. She had this amazing mostaccoili recipe. (If you are from St. Louis, you know what that is. If from other areas of the country, you may call it ziti). Her recipe was unconventional. It has bacon instead of ground beef, and cheddar cheese. So, I lovingly call it “Irish Mostaccoili” since the recipe came from Nellie Kilgore Gibler, as Irish as it gets. It is a nice way to have recipes we love from our extended family. My sister, Judy, gave me her blueberry muffin recipe. She died in 2012. Whenever I make her muffins I think of her, and if I am serving them to guests, I tell them it is her recipe, and I honor her by doing this.
I am now adding all my favorites, and Dennis’ favorite recipes. They are recipes that remind us of our time dating and being married, of my childhood, and of when my kids were little, of big family Christmas or Thanksgiving dinners. I am not well known like Steve Doocy (even though I didn’t know who he was), so I don’t think doing a fancy publishing job would be smart—I would have 10,000 cookbooks stored in boxes in my basement, and when I finally permanently move to Arizona, where I will have no basement, I would have to donate the books! Ha!
I am now rewriting my cookbook, because that is what I do every so often, and I need a copy for Arizona, I think I should add stories about the people who shared their recipes, and also about the memories these recipes bring. Maybe when completed, I will offer it for sale on my blog, much cheaper than publishing a book and selling on Amazon.
My tummy is growling just thinking about it. I don’t think I am a special cook. I am a most adequate cook. I am a better baker than a chef. There is real magic in baking. If you are curious about that, check out my old blog about being the “Baking Queen.”
One of the things I like to do with this book is print the pages and put them in plastic sleeves in a binder. It can sit on my counter as I prepare a recipe and any spills can be easily wiped off. I am also a bit of a messy cook. I have even photocopied some of my other cookbook pages and put them in the binder in the sleeve so I can be the sloppy cook, and not have to worry about messing up the published cookbook.
My mother always used to say, “The way to a man’s heart was through his stomach.” I don’t know about that, but I do know Dennis enjoys everything I cook and everything I experiment with. Unfortunately, though, food has calories, and really good food has lots of calories. I have really backed off a lot of baking these past two years. It makes me sad, because I love doing that so much, but I tend to eat what I cook!
I will take recipes from my cookbook collection: “The Betty Crocker Cookbook,” “The Pillsbury Cookbook,” “The New Family Cookbook” by America’s Test Kitchen, “The Pioneer Woman Cooks a Year of Holidays,” and the Missouri State Fair “Come Home 2018 Official Cookbook Award-Winning Recipes from 2016 and 2017,” among others. I will add recipes from them to the new edition of my cookbook.
I have two months to get the new version of my cookbook together and printed. It will get a new name and cover design. If any of you have a great idea for the name, let me know in the comments—your ideas will be considered.
Whose cooking has inspired you? Where do you keep all your recipes? Have you found any you have not used in years? I have and am wondering if I should give them a try again, or let them go to the recipe graveyard. What is your favorite cookbook?