Friday, December 10, 2010

Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks

This is the post I started to do yesterday, before I decided to lay the groundwork.  If I'd never moved out on my own, I suppose I wouldn't have known how to cook much of anything when I got married.
My mother was an excellent cook, so you'd think I would have learned a few things from her.  Unfortunately, I stayed out of the kitchen except for making cookies once in a blue moon, or fixing those Chef Boyardee box spaghetti mixes for Mother and me when Daddy was working nights.  
So when I moved into an apartment, I decided to get myself a cookbook and learn how to cook.

I had seen my sister following recipes from her Better Homes and Gardens cookbook; knowing what a great cook she was, I decided to get the same cookbook.  Above, you see what her cookbook looked like.  It's from the forties.  

Well, the edition they were selling at book stores in 1962 when I went looking wasn't identical to Maxine's, but many of the same recipes were in it.  This, folks, is the cookbook that taught me to cook.  The recipes for home-made rolls and cinnamon rolls and the apple pie I use today came from that book.  
I notice when you do a search on Ebay, there are more copies of this edition for sale than any other.      

My apple pies look exactly like this, except that I don't put cheese on top of my pie.
Yes, it was just me, living alone; but I could experiment to my heart's content.  So I made corn bread and pie and rolls, and decided cooking wasn't so hard.  The one thing I never experimented with was meat.  So after Cliff and I got married, I had to consult my mom about cooking meat.  I've lamented the fact before in this blog that I've never been able to duplicate her fried chicken.  But I learned from her what to do with cheap cuts of meat like chuck roast; this was before crock pots were invented.    
The original cookbook fell apart and I got another, but the newer edition didn't have all the same recipes in it.  It's a good thing I had the roll recipe memorized!  
 A few years ago I went looking on Ebay for the edition of the BHG cookbook like my first one, and found several, at reasonable prices.  
I also found myself buying new editions when I saw them for sale.  
Then I thought how interesting it would be to have some of the really old ones; they were all on Ebay, dozens of them!  

This is what the original one looks like, first published in 1930.  

This one is from 1938.

Look!  I'm reading recipes May Schmitt used, back in Connecticut.  

These are tucked into the 1940's edition, obviously clipped during the war years.  
Somewhere around the '70's, Better Homes and Gardens started adding calorie-and-fat information.  That's when a lot of the recipes had the shortening reduced in them,  This trend continued through the 90's, when under the title of certain recipes you'd see the words "low-fat".  There was a new section added to the cookbooks for bean-and-rice dishes.  These, by the way, have become some of my staple recipes since Cliff's open heart surgery.  
I recently bought the newest edition, the fifteenth.  While the nutritional information is there for each recipe as in all the later books, they seem to have thrown caution to the wind and put all the fat back into the recipes.  I've only found one low-fat dish I can use.  Also, there aren't many repeat recipes from the older cookbooks.
My two favorite editions are the one from the '60's from which I learned to cook, and the one from the '90's containing so many low-fat recipes using cooked chicken or turkey, or beans and rice.  
And that's the story of my ever-expanding collection of Better Homes and Gardens Cookbooks.  


  1. Although I did learn a lot from my mom, I wanted to cook some different things so I used my BHG cookbook that is just like your 1962 version too. I got it for a wedding present. I still have it but it is falling apart. It is my all time favorite and the Lasagna Recipe is my favorite one found there. My mom never fixed anything like that. I've not bought any new versions like you have but then my cooking isn't done much any more. Thanks for all the memories today. I hope your Friday is a fantastic one.

  2. Lindie7:41 AM

    My favorite cookbook is the Good Housekeeping cookbook I got as a wedding present in the early 60s. When it starting falling apart, she found me the same one on ebay and even bought herself and her 2 sisters the same book. I kept my old one because of all the notes I had in it but mostly use the newer one. I did a lot of cooking at home so didn't have a big learning curve just had to figure out how to cook for 2 instead of 7!

  3. Anonymous11:32 AM

    Donna, This is so cool. I love your collection. It makes me want to find these cookbooks and give them a try. I have a couple of the old Joy of Cooking cookbooks, and like you I found out when I went to replace one, the recipes were not the same. Karen

  4. I received that top cookbook as a wedding gift from my Aunt Thelma...1971, Jan. a few days my husband I and will STILL be eating together 40 years later. I used several of the recipes in the book, but now I don't use it. When baking something, I just search the net for the recipe I want. Worse yet, sometimes I do like my Sisters and just put stuff in...last night I did that with peanut butter cookies. All they would have been good for would be things to toss at a stray dog or cat! Take care, Donna! Keeping checking my my elder sister!

  5. My Mother in law had an old one but when she died her daughter got it. I did make some rolls from a written recipe she had in it once and they turned out delicious. Helen

  6. I have a BHG Cookbook too. I haven't used it for years. I need to dig it out, and try some more of the recipes. Not sure how old it is.
    Have a nice weekend.

  7. Jim H.7:44 AM

    Started reading your column several months ago. I'm one of the infamous lurkers on TTales. Been through your area many times years ago when I drove a truck. Remember the old Union 76 truck stop at Oak Grove or Oak Valley, or something Oak?

    Anyway, I have a lot of my late Mom's old cookbooks too. The people who publish Farm Journal magazine also used to put out some really good cookbooks. I have several of those for the '50's.

    Tell Cliff I understand his Oliver addiction. I have 2 myself, a 1650 and an 880.

    Well, just wanted to say Hi from near Bloomington, IN. Jim.

  8. good house keeping was my first cook book and the only one I keep all the others over the years come and then disapear but that one I keep.


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