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Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Golden Treasury

I’m still weeding, and perhaps it’s fate that I ended up with the section of the collection that houses the cookbooks. You see, I’m not much of a cook (although I’m working on it), but I do know that good recipes can be hard to find. The usual weeding logic is difficult to apply when it comes to cookbooks. Recipes can be treasures, and sometimes the older ones can be the best ones!

I think it’s with this notion in mind that Better Homes and Gardens decided to create the Golden Treasury of Cooking. Yes, the book is literally “golden”, with the front and back covers wrapped in gold-colored leather. And it’s also definitely a treasury. The book presents five decades’ worth of great recipes from the 1930s to the 1970s. One of the things that increases this book’s value is that Better Homes and Gardens updated the recipes for modern kitchens and appliances and tested them to make sure everything still turned out all right afterward. Granted, “modern” in the context of this book is the 1970s, but as far as I can tell, the kitchen of the 1970s isn’t that different from most kitchens today … right? Anyway, my bet is that you can try these recipes in your own kitchen and that they’ll turn out fine.

Another cool thing about this book is that it profiles American life during each of the decades covered, emphasizing culinary trends of the eras.

  • In the 1930s, homemade ice cream became a big trend in kitchens across America because the “mechanical icebox”, or refrigerator, began to see widespread use.
  • The trends of the 1940s were heavily influenced by World War II for the first half of the decade. With rationing and shortages, people had to make the most of what they had. One example is the rise in home canning to preserve vegetables and fruits from their victory gardens.
  • The 1950s brought peace and prosperity to America, and people indulged in foods that hadn’t been readily available during the war, such as rich desserts and certain types of meat. Barbecuing became more popular, as did pancake houses and burger joints.
  • The 1960s was a time of experimentation, and food was no exception. Foreign foods rose in popularity, and cooks began to try new foods, recipes, and seasonings. “Gourmet” became a culinary buzzword, and fondue became a popular way to serve and entertain guests.
  • By the 1970s, convenience was key when it came to food preparation. People still enjoyed a good home cooked meal, but they also wanted more time for leisure activities, so they turned to foods that could be prepared in a minimal amount of time. Microwave cooking became a hit. At the same time, there was a growing interest in special interest foods and natural foods.
The book is packed with great historical nuggets in addition to the ones I’ve mentioned here and a ton of recipes. As far as the weeding goes, the Golden Treasury of Cooking is a keeper!

Source: Better Homes and Gardens Golden Treasury of Cooking. USA: Meredith Corporation, 1973.

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