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Cooking with Betty Crocker is Child’s Play!

19 November 2009 Stories and Appreciations 8,434 views 5 CommentsPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

You know, it started out simply enough. On a trip to Vashon Island, I picked up a copy of Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls, circa 1957. I have a vintage cookbook addiction and simply can’t resist any pre-1965 tome, especially one so jam-packed with line drawings not only of kids cooking “Whiz Nut Bread,” but also chickens drinking chocolate sodas and cookies getting all cozy with a long, tall glass of milk.

Upon first reading, the items in the book seem pretty simple and geared towards the 10- to 15-year old set. Putting peach halves on a bowl of Wheaties and wrapping hot dogs in pre-fab biscuit dough doesn’t seem too require too much thought or attention. I figured I could make any of these blindfolded. When it came to actually making the recipes, though, everything fell apart. Fast.

I started with Branded Pancakes. Pancakes are easy, I thought; writing letters is easy, I thought; I can do this, I thought. Boy, was I wrong. The recipe started out simply enough, “make pancakes as directed on Bisquick package…” Done. I even added some lemon extract and poppy seeds. “Let batter trickle from teaspoon onto hot griddle to form an initial. Initials must be made backwards to be right when pancakes are served…”

Cooking is Child's Play 01

Turns out that a batter-dipped spoon is not one of the easier writing utensils to wield. And writing backwards on paper is one thing, but on a hot griddle is another. It’s no wonder there are no photos of the pancakes in the cookbook. After a few tries, I was able to make a few passable pancakes, but I doubt I’ll ever host a brunch wherein I regale my guests with a buffet table-sized display of Oscar Wilde quotes a la flapjack.

Fueled by my partial success, I pulled out another book from the archives, The Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cookbook for the Hostess of Tomorrow (1955) and decided to sate my sweet tooth with a batch of Animal Cookies.

Again, the recipe seemed simple enough – attach animal crackers to vanilla wafers with frosting. The photo in the book showed the animal crackers standing upright, so that was my goal. I pulled the box of wafers out of the pantry, found some frosting and animal crackers, and got to work. The first hurdle was deciding which animals to use. This was of vital importance – they couldn’t be too top-heavy and had to have a solid base. The second hurdle was actually getting them to stand up. I don’t know about the frosting of the ’50s, but the (store-bought) frosting of today is neither thick nor goopy enough to hold the animals upright. I ended up propping each cookie against a shot glass while the frosting set, which took about 3 hours — or it would have, if not for Neko The Cat.

Cooking is Child's Play 03

Who knew she had a sweet tooth? There went that batch.

So, four hours and two batches (and a cocktail or two) later, I had made one perfect cookie. And I ate it and it was delicious. The others, while perfectly fine in flavor, looked like Dr. Moreau-vian freakbeasts. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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There was one final recipe to try in this cookbook trifecta, Candle Salad; back to Betty Crocker for this one. According to the book, “it’s better than a real candle because you can eat it.”

Cooking is Child's Play 05

Oh yes, you can eat it.

Lorien Gruchalla

This piece originally appeared in The Seattle Spellout.

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  1. That animal thing might work better with fondant. Which is disgusting and non edible.

    My mom used to make letter pancakes for me but they were free standing instead of embossed, and pretty sloppy.

    I still dont understand the whole cooking with pre made food thing. It’s so Sandra Lee!

  2. You know, I had that very cookbook when I was a kid, and every recipe I tried to make turned out disastrous in one fashion or another. I always figured it was just me, that I was too clumsy or inept or just plain dumb to make it look like the illustrations. Now you tell me the whole thing was a setup to create an entire generation of insecure cooks who twitch violently at the sight of a pancake! (And let’s not even talk about that banana. Is it any wonder I’m still single?)

    Thanks for relieving me of a burden. I may have the courage to cook Thanksgiving dinner after all.

  3. […] Monkey Goggles Klassics: “Cooking with Betty Crocker is Child’s Play!” by Lorien Gruchalla […]

  4. Being an, “unconventional man-boy ‘o the 50’s,” I tried some of the Betty Crocker recipes in Sis’s EasyBake Oven. Didn’t have much luck either. Went back to PlayDoh spaghetti made with the aid of a blow-mold plastic injection machine, which was a Christmas gift one year when coal was in short supply.

  5. Thank you, I found your article very enjoyable!

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