The demise of cookbooks

11614057I got my first cookbook at age 10 — Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Girls and Boys. Can you believe it’s still available? Everywhere! With the same cover, even. Ah, the joy of retro….

51rwlpinxfl-_ac_us218_In 1970 the cookbook to buy was the new and updated Betty Crocker  with the red cover. I got one the year I finished senior Home Economics (which I took instead of physics) 😅 In this class we learned sewing, knitting, cooking, and kitchen design — skills I have used throughout my life. Physics would never have been so practical. Not to mention that I would have never gotten a A in physics.

no algebra today?The copy of “Betty Crocker” lasted until 1988. When my mom died, hers was in better shape than mine, so I got hers. That one lasted until 1995 or so when my kids found a new/used edition and got it for me for Christmas. This is my third copy of this cookbook and you can see what good shape it’s in…

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It is not that this is the best cookbook in the world. By far…. but it’s comfortable. Joy of Cooking is austere, though I use it in a pinch; other favorites — The Hay Day Country Market Cookbook and Moosewood Cookbook are lovely and artistic but just don’t have the range of recipes.

When we moved two years ago I went through all my cookbooks and discarded some, but I still have 33 cookbooks — including one that is a notebook of recipes written in my grandmother’s hand. I have no idea — is 33 cookbooks a lot? How many cookbooks are on your shelves? At least half of these I’ve gotten at library book sales for just a dollar or so. The other half have been gifts to me. Yes. I can always use and love a cookbook.

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But my point in all this is to say that I — who love cookbooks — just don’t use them much anymore. I can go to the internet, type in my ingredients, and Voilá — there is the recipe for dinner. And if it turns out swell, then I bookmark it. My online recipe bookmarks are neatly organized into Breakfasts; Breads; Desserts and Sweet Snacks; Jams, Pickles, Snacks & Condiments; Main Dishes; and Vegetables, Salads & Soups. My physical cookbooks are not so well arranged.

They are jammed full of recipes written on slips of paper, index cards, or torn from magazines — that fall out when I open the covers. Mostly I know what recipe I’m going for when I reach for one. Moosewood Cookbook has the best cornbread recipe ever; Hay Day has the best homemade barbecue sauce; The Apple Lover’s Cookbook has that intriguing Marlborough Pie; and Ina Garten’s Make-It-Ahead has the best biscuits I’ve ever made…

But when I want something new, do I open a cookbook and browse? No. I browse my favorite food blogs: Foodie with Family; The Clever Carrot; Pioneer Woman; The Catholic Table; or just browse Yummly for what looks the best.

No matter; when I die, I will still have lots of cookbooks. And my kids can take the ones they want. Or give them to the library book sale.

I can’t write a post about cookbooks without including one of my favorite recipes :

Delicious (the best ever) Cornbread

(credit to Mollie Katzen, author of Moosewood Cookbook)

1/4 cup honey
1 cup buttermilk (or a mixture of yogurt and coconut/almond milk)
1 egg
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup unbleached white flour
3 T. melted butter or coconut oil
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

Beat together egg, buttermilk and honey.
Mix all dry ingredients together.
Combine all ingredients, including melted butter/oil and mix.
Spread into a well-oiled 8-inch cast iron skillet.*
Bake at 425 for 20 minutes.


*The cast iron skillet is my addition, but it is non-negotiable. It makes all the difference. Plus then you can cut the cornbread in cool wedges instead of boring old squares. You’re welcome.

19 thoughts on “The demise of cookbooks

    • Caramelized onions, yes. Hot peppers, no. 🙂 Maybe green peppers? Actually if you are familiar with that cookbook there’s a recipe that is very similar to the cornbread that she calls green pepper and onion shortcake…And oh yes, to a hot pan!

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    • I’ve seen those divided pans and thought ‘how cool — then everyone can get an edge!’ I used to have an old cast iron “corn stick” pan that looked so cute and was such a good idea, but I could never get the corn sticks to come out in one piece. The divided pans are a much better idea.

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  1. So I have the BHG plaid cookbook as my go-to. My kids have used it so often to make pancakes and waffles that page 86 is almost illegible. I also have The Big Book of Cookies and the sugar cookie recipe on page 72 is in same condition. I just counted and I have 17. One is called “Cooking in Ardmore”. It’s the 1947 Junior League recipe collection from Ardmore, Ok. My grandma is in it twice, along with my great-aunt and my great-grandma, all under their husband’s names. I keep it for her handwriting in the margins, but it’s tough to cook out of because it calls for things like Oleo and tells me to bake the cake in a “medium oven”. Also I think some ingredients have changed in the last 80 years, like baking powder or the consistency of flour because things come out just a tad off. It’s a nifty piece of history though.

    We cannot give up our books, cookbooks or otherwise!

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  2. I have a missing page in mine too — the caramel sweet rolls that were our tradition on Christmas morning. And my grandma’s cookbook is the same way. Most of them call for oleo or 1 scant cup butter…. As i was looking through it again for this post, i decided that I’m going to try the spice cake recipe though. It looks fairly normal…

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  3. I love my cookbooks, but I also find a lot of recipes on the internet. There’s an app called Copy Me That, that I copy the recipes I make from websites or cookbooks so they’re more accessible later.

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    • My phone is an older iPhone and it is getting crowded, so I haven’t added any new apps lately. My problem is I have too many photos. I took some off, and made some extra room, but still I’m being cautious. Although that sounds like a great thing to have!
      Thanks! I’ll check it out.

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    • It is just a basic recipe. Of course, one can add canned corn, cheese, onions, peppers, green chiles…etc. But I find that this is the one I go back to again and again. And that reminds me, I made some last night, so I actually have a photo of it to post there…

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  4. I shared a blog in February about the best way to seasoning a cast iron pan. I started out cooking from the book “Laurel’s Kitchen” when I was in high school. I remember making yogurt on a heating pad in sterilized peanut butter jars. I just dated myself I know, maybe I will always be old school, but I still love to work from a cookbook.

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    • Oh my goodness. I forgot completely about Laurels Kitchen. My roommate had that and we used it in college. That was another oldie but goodie that taught us how to cook and eat well. Thanks for reminding me. 😀

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