Being a writer and a lover of words, it’s no surprise I am a collector of books. Old books, new books, spiritual books, cookbooks, fiction, non fiction,reference,picture books. In essence, I love them all.
Recently, I went in search of an old cookbook that I have had for over 33 years- a 1974 twenty-third printing edition of the Betty Crocker Cookbook.
Battered, tattered, and worn, the spine is missing, and held together with masking tape. Stains on the pages from mishaps in the kitchen. Over the years, I wrote or taped special recipes on the inside of the covers so I would always have them handy. There’s the shrimp dip recipe I got from a woman who was my customer when I was an Avon Lady. The Five Minute Fudge my mom used to make every Christmas. The recipe for country fried chicken I cut off a Crisco can 30 years ago. The Fireman’s chili recipe I cut out of the Houston Chronicle. The buttermilk cornbread recipe given to my mother by a co-worker that is at least 50 years old.
Within the book itself, there is the most simple but amazing recipe for hollandaise and its variation, béarnaise. Page 357, in the Sauces category. When I was single, it was my go-to for dinner dates. My filet mignon bathed with that rich and luscious béarnaise impressed them every time.
This book, like me has survived 3 marriages, 9 deaths, and 2 cross-country trips to unknown futures. It has lived in a place of honor in the many homes I have occupied. Alongside all my other cookbooks, it reigns supreme. Lived a life worth telling and remembering. A cookbook that has been through hell and high water in the most literal sense.
My husband who died was once so angry with me after a fight he took all my cookbooks and threw them into the back yard. Took the garden hose and soaked them. A spiteful act he knew would cut me to my core. This book, this unassuming, orange book was one that survived the drowning when others did not. Tattered and water marked but still functional.
Today, I received not one, but two Betty Crocker cookbooks sold by different sellers on eBay. One for me and the second is a gift for my lovely daughter. Mine is the twenty-first printing in 1974. Her copy is quite spectacular and was printed in 1972, one year after she was born.
Her book is what sent me down the rabbit hole to write this story. When I was thumbing through it to check the condition, an envelope fell out. It was a Christmas card with a letter in it dated December 12,1977. It starts out Dear Folks…Sent from W. Virginia all the way to Denton, Texas. Most likely a Christmas present from a daughter to a mother. I, a mother, am now sending the cookbook to Texas to my daughter. The thought that it is returning home is not lost on me. The circle of life happens, even for a book.
And as for my new cookbook? Although I now have a ‘very good’ copy of this treasure, my old one will always have a place of honor in my kitchen. I’ll say hello to her when I am baking buttermilk cornbread and frying chicken on a Sunday afternoon. At Christmas, we’ll meet to make mom’s Five Minute Fudge. When I want to make chili that reminds me of Texas, she’ll join me.
This humble book has been there with me through some of the most traumatic times as well as some of the happiest. We know each other’s life story. We are survivors, then and now. Together, we will survive whatever the future brings.
If a book can be a best friend, then this one is mine.
So Betty if you can hear me, thanks for all the love and the fond memories.