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 fancy—but 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?