Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Vintage Find

This week, while at an antique store, I picked up a 1956 edition of Better Crocker’s Picture Cook Book. I have a thing for vintage anything, but it was the yellowed pages and taped bindings that made me unable to put it down and leave. I knew, for fifty years, this book has been loved and used; it didn’t hurt that at ten dollars it was a good deal. I was especially intrigued by the claim on the inside cover page: “It’s A Cook Book With A Heart.” Modern cookbooks are mostly filled with recipes accompanied by spectacular pictures. This book is vastly different. The graphics are either stylized illustrations or grainy photos no bigger than a post card. The font is tiny; the words are magnificent. From a section on vegetables: “…Vegetables are like people. By treating them with sympathy and understanding, they give us their best in color, nutrients, and flavor” (421). I couldn’t help but read aloud the witticisms present on each page. Explanations of culinary terms made me laugh: canapés = “midget open faced sandwiches" (304). Despite the simplistic language, I quickly found this book held a weighty collection of meaningful recipes.

Because of the season, I flipped straight to the soup section. I was rewarded with a passage about pot au feu, a French beef stew: “All the flavors are extracted and blended during the long cooking while the kettle smiles and chuckles, but never laughs outright in a full rollicking boil” (409). Inspired, I flipped through to find directions for our dinner. Only a 1956 Betty Crocker cookbook would publish such culinary wisdom and then omit a recipe. I perused the soup recipes and found a recipe for turkey soup.

1956 Turkey Soup
Serves 6-8

Turkey soup is the quintessential end of the holidays. As the book states, it is the “curtain call of the holiday bird” (413). You can use a chicken, goose, turkey, or duck. The recipe in the book is pretty bare bones (pun intended), so I decided to add a few of my own additions.

1 bird carcass with plenty of meat
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, diced
6 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
8 ounces wide egg noodles

Place carcass and peppercorns in a large soup pot. Cover with water. Simmer for 2 hours. Remove meat from carcass and set aside (discard bones). Strain stock. Add meat to stock in pot. Add celery, carrot, onion, bay, thyme and sage. Bring to boil and simmer for 30 minutes until vegetables are tender. Bring back to boil and add egg noodles. Cook for 15 minutes until noodles are cooked. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

On a final note, who wouldn’t want to take culinary advice from a book that claims butter "promotes growth" and "builds resistance to disease”(45)? I'm all for the nutritional advice.

Cited: Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book: Revised and Enlarged. 2nd Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1956.

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