Friday, June 26, 2009

The Boys And Girls Cookbook

These are strange and crazy times—wars, economic collapses, and passing pop icons. One thing that remains constant, however, is the comfort of old-fashioned simple recipes and foods, like apple crisp, chocolate chip cookies, and mashed potatoes.

The Betty Crocker's Boys and Girls Cookbook was one of my first cookbooks as a child. Actually, I think it was a hand-me-down from my older sisters, who were 10 years older than me.

The cover of the book has a boy frosting a cake. Throughout the book there are illustrations of boys cooking by themselves and along side the girls.

This was interesting, especially for the era it was originally printed (the fifties), because it didn’t treat cooking as a female specific activity, like many children’s cookbooks of the time period.

I would spend hours examining the photos and drawings, and of course reading the recipes in this beginner’s cookbook.

I rediscovered my cookbook a few years back, while cleaning out my mother’s home. The pages are well worn and stained. I think I made almost every recipe in the book.

As a kid, I’d pester my mom, “Can I make this…?!” She’d always reply, “If you can read the recipe…then you can make it…”

I always wondered why my creations didn’t look as perfect as the photo. I didn’t know about stylists and art directors back then. My "Enchanted Castle Cake" didn't look nearly as dreamy, or neat, as the photo above.

"A picnic with a pal"...a plaid blanket, sandwiches, and "lumberjack cookies"—giant, the size of salad plates, gingebread cookies with pastel icing.

The book also had "menus" for special occasions like mother’s day, and father’s day. I’d plan my own menus too...

Starting with bunny salad…

...then Meatloaf ala mode.

And for desert—apple crisp...admittedly apple crisp conjures up cozy autumn evenings by the fire, but Mr. Peacock makes this old-fashioned comfort food with summer fruits—peaches, plums, and berries.

Here’s Betty Crocker's Boys and Girls Cookbook recipe for Apple Crisp, which I made countless times as a small child and adapted to a “Summer Crisp.” This recipe is so easy, and is a great starting point for whatever ingredients you have in your kitchen.

Apple Crisp (or Summer Crisp)
Makes 6 servings
Preheat oven 350 degrees

4 cups sliced pared apples (I used sliced peaches, plums, and nectarines with the skins on. You could also use berries, or any combination of summer fruits)
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar (I used a combination of white and brown sugar)
¾ cup flour (I used whole wheat flour)
1/3 cup soft butter.

1. Butter an 8 x 8 x 2” oven safe pan.
2. Evenly spread the fruits in the pan
3. Sprinkle with the water over the fruit (if you’re using juicy plums or peaches, use half the water)
4. Mix the sugar, cinnamon, salt and flour in a bowl. (Sometimes I substitute quick cooking rolled oats for the flour, or use a mixture of rolled oats and flour. You could also add nuts too).
5. Add the softened butter, and mix with a pastry blender until crumbly (or pulse in a food processor).
6. Evenly spread the crumb mixture over the fruit.
7. Bake uncovered for about 40 minutes.
8. It will be hot and bubbly, like lava, when you take it out of the oven. Let it cool for about an hour. It will thicken as it cools.
9. Serve with vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream.

This simple dessert isn’t fancybut it sure seemed fancy when I was 7 years old. The bubbling fruit with the buttery crumbs is always a comforting treat—especially at crazy times in your life.

What was your favorite treat to make as a kid?


thombeau said...

Very cool. Comfort food for everyone!

jason said...

Those cakes are adorable!
And the illustrations

I remember making jell-o molds as a kid, my first experience with cooking outside of the toaster I think :)

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh you just sent me flying back to my own
childhood! I too was obsessed with this cookbook!
My grandmother made both the Circus Parade Cake
and the Castle Cake, which if memory serves me right
had some kind of marshmellow frosting.
Oh and the Silhouette Sandwichs to this youngster, just looked like the height of sophistication!
I am just all teary eyed... Thank you Mr Peacock.

kitsch café said...

hehe. this is funny. i have one that i used when i was little. it's from 1957. i loved it and made all sorts of things from it... mostly cookies.

ayem8y said...

I was obsessed with breakfast dishes and in particular the perfect pancake mix. I was determined to give Betty and Jemima a run for their money and that coveted middle shelf product placement at the super market.

Now it’s a curse!

Once lazy house guests discover that I make a delicious breakfast they all crowd in the kitchen and bang their utensils on the counter demanding it. I feel like a short order cook at a greasy spoon diner.

Incidentally my recent houseguests enjoyed a marvelous breakfast courtesy of the Waffle House served by the lovely and charming, Enchantra.

Ur-spo said...

oh my goodness!
This was my favorite cookbook too!
I haven't seen it in 40 years or so, yet I remembered every thing you posted!

David Toms said...

We used to make Choclate Crackles back home in Australia, which were basically Rice Bubbles, cocoa and copha which is hydrogenated cocoanut fat (unobtainable in America) They were sooo good


I wasn't allowed to cook until I was a teenager...I watched my grandma & just helped out a little! Now I baked mostly Dog Cookies for my's less expensive than store bought! Happy 4th of July Mr P!

Anonymous said...

Yes! this the cookbook I learned to cook from! Thank you

Sara said...

This is the edition we had- and yes, ours was covered in stains, too! What fun it was to try these recipes. I remember making the George Washington's Birthday cupcakes, with the construction paper cut-out axes that you were supposed to stick in each cupcake.

Thanks for the happy memory.

Lisabella said...

Oh my gosh, yes, I remember this wonderful cookbook! I spent more time reading it than cooking out of it, but the one I STILL make (and I'm in my late 40s) is the Apple Crisp. Definitely the best ever!

Thank you for this post!


Pharoah said...

What a great post! I just found a copy of this today in a local thrift store for a mere $1.59. I was thrilled at the score! But I'm buying up vintage cookbooks at the thrifts to give to my mother for Mother's Day. This one's going to be a hard one to part with. :)

Heartbeatoz said...

I used to borrow this Book all the time from the School Library over here in Australia in the early 70's and Today I finally purchased my own well worn copy on Etsy Thanks for sharing this little Gem.

Karen said...

I live in Istanbul and am having a Turkish couple who are very dear to me over for dinner tonight. I thought I had the Betty Crocker Children's Cookbook apple crisp recipe stored in my computer, but I do not. Thank you for making it available! I want to share with them fabulous American food from my childhood and this apple crisp recipe is the very first thing I learned to make. I'm going to make it with Turkish peaches tonight.

I also ADORED and was OBSESSED with this cookbook! And looking at your illustrations, isn't it instructive? It teaches kids how to make special days special, and how to plan an entire menu, and how to have FUN with food. Here's a picture of me with my castle cake which I didn't get made until I was an adult, but gosh, it sure made my 22 year-old-daughter's eight-year-old birthday party lots of fun! Did you know they have reprinted the book in a smaller version? I gave a copy to each of my children on Valentine's Day one year.

Anonymous said...

I would love to have the Nuts and Bolts recipe that is in this book. I have my copy of the book but that page is missing. Any chance you can publish it?


Deborah said...

OMG! I remember all of the recipes, they where so great and im still even doing some of them!! Now im 55 years old and i have now my 4the restaurant. And im looking for an old recipe again.
So great to see this!!

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