My older sister and her husband gave me this cookbook when I first desired to cook more than I could improvise. When I needed to know the basics. Earlier that year I was on the phone with Almira, as I was attempting to make steak tips in mushroom gravy. The gravy wasn’t thickening as much as I wanted, and unbeknownst to her, I threw in a little flour to try to get it to thicken up. We were talking about other things, who knows what, as I stirred the flour in. At a break in the conversation, I told her what I was doing. “But the gravy hasn’t thickened, even though I threw the flour in it!” She was silent for a second, then said, “Did you put the flour in after the liquid?” “Yeah!” Another silence. “Yeah, those lumps aren’t going to come out.” Silence, from me this time. Just the sound of stirring with my wooden spoon, hoping she was wrong. “I can hear you stirring,” she giggled. “But it’s not going to happen.” Perhaps it was soon after that she decided to get me the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook – the 75th anniversary edition had just come out. When I opened it, my brother-in-law Paul, who’s self-professed to being not a cook, said, “Even I find it useful and easy to follow.”
This book is for basics. Seven years later, I still turn to the first page in the “Cooking Basics” section, when I need to recall how many cups in a quart, how many tablespoons in a ¼ cup. Though some of the recipes rely too much on canned products for my taste these days, there are still some simple recipes I rely on; just yesterday, as I was heating up leftover Yankee pot roast, I decided to use up our limp carrots by glazing them in butter and brown sugar, a recipe that requires all of five ingredients (including water and salt), a Better Homes and Gardens recipe that I’ve repeated at Thanksgiving three years in a row. Easy, fast, and delicious. These are the goals of this cookbook, and for the most part fulfilled well.
*An added bonus to the 75th anniversary edition is a section in the back with classic recipes and photos from each decade that Better Homes and Gardens has published this plaid binder: 1930s to early 2000s. I’m a sucker for nostalgia, Mad Men, things that look vintage – so I love looking at the 1950s pineapple chiffon cake on a turquoise tablecloth and sticky spareribs cantonese served with orange slices and tiny red paper umbrella (so it’s fancy! and Asian!). There are fun tidbits preceding each recipe, sharing snapshots of the era in which they were published.