Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, My (New) Old Friend

This morning I started to make banana bread, because I bought bananas but didn’t eat them.  After the exploding watermelon last week I was not about to tackle any fruit bigger than my hand.   And besides, banana bread is so much healthier than bananas, no?  …..  No?  …..  Oh, I see.  Anyway, waste not, want not, I always say.  Except, perhaps, a smaller waist.  But I digress.

I traipsed (are you getting a visual?) into the front room that also serves as my sewing room/office/bead studio/library/window to the world, in search of my beloved Better Homes and Garden cookbook.  The one I received as a wedding gift, lo, those 32 years ago.  The one I have depended on for delicious banana bread for all these years.  It looks like this:

I open the cookbook to page 76, where the banana bread recipe has been all these years.  There is a recipe for Carrot Cake on page 76.  Carrot cake sounds darned good this morning, but I have overripe, black-peeled bananas on the counter top.  What shenanigans are going on here?

Thinking perhaps I have merely “mis-remembered” (as I often do these days) what page banana bread is on, I search the index for the banana bread recipe.  Page 56.  See, just a little slip of the memory.  Nothing to worry about.  All is right in the world.

Turning to page 56, I see this pristine page.

No dried splatters of  batter on the page, no smudges or creases.  Clean as a whistle.  This is clearly not my cookbook –  my well-used, much-loved cookbook.  The cookbook with pineapple upside-down cake batter and brownie batter spattered on their respective pages.  With the dinner roll recipe to die for.  This cookbook, it appears, has never even been opened before this day.

My eyes moisten but I bravely gather my ingredients and navigate my way through the unfamiliar recipe (much different than the recipe I remember), for I know what has happened.

You see, when I moved to Florida nearly a year ago, I had to combine two complete households into one.  The home we moved into was even smaller (thus the need for a sewing room/office/bead studio/library/window to the world being all in one room) and had belonged to my in-laws.

My mother-in-law could not cook, with or without a cookbook.   Just thinking about her cooking often gave people a stomach-ache.  She prepared her chicken by first washing it with dish soap – a dish my boys laughingly referred to as “Chicken Palmolive”.   Not surprisingly, I often volunteered to bring dinner or do the cooking, and fortunately for us all, she loved to go out to eat.  We were always happy to oblige.

But she had owned a newer version of the same cookbook I owned.  I remembered seeing them side by side during the chaos that was the sorting/donating/tossing phase of the move, and setting one aside to be donated.  It is now gone forever.  The one that was mine.

I know it was just a cookbook, and I do have a replacement, but I still feel like a friend is gone.   It was a wedding gift and we had been through a lot together.  Cookbooks will go the way of all books, I fear, digitalized and transmitted electronically.  Recipes are available by the millions on-line in our paperless society.  Do young brides even get cookbooks as gifts?

The loss of the cookbook is representative of the changes I’ve been through in the last year.  The loss of old and dear friends, familiar belongings, and a comfortable career.  The year has been spent learning to embrace things new and different – exploring and adjusting.  Growing.

So I dried my eyes and stopped sniffling.  I put on my happy face.  Then I enjoyed some really excellent banana bread, compliments of my mother-in-law, and Better Homes and Gardens.

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50 Comments

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50 responses to “Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, My (New) Old Friend

  1. So glad the banana bread turned out well. “Chicken Palmolive” …LOL…I will be chuckling until bedtime and letting my husband know, that at least dinner is not CP. I lost my favorite cookbook too…silly me took it to the condominiums we rent on the lake and where the family gathered for a week. Somehow I left it…drove all the way back not believing them over the phone that they didn’t have it…mere hours after leaving the place…and sure enough…they didn’t have it…boy I was in denial.

  2. I think I will skip Chicken Palmolive.

  3. I really like the fact that you used the word ‘traipsed’. The visual of Chicken Palmolive was funny, too. I am sorry your cookbook is gone. I am sentimental about those kinds of things, too.
    The banana bread looked like it turned out nicely, regardless of the ‘age’ of the cookbook.

  4. I completely get how you relate the loss of your cookbook with the loss of the life you left behind. But your attitude and knack for putting on a happy face will keep you moving ahead. And maybe you can buy a brand new over-the-top cookbook to mark that. Another wonderful post.

  5. Wait, are we long-lost twins or something? Separated at birth perhaps? I also have been married 32 years. I also use the word traipsed…pretty regularly, actually, and we have the same relationship to our recipes????
    I am so glad that you baked!!
    The banana bread looks awesome.

  6. Great story! I was a little worried for a minute when your photos had tomatoes sitting right there. Though you maybe had a really “new” recipe. Am thinking about pulling mine out because the bread looked soooooo goooood.

  7. I think it’s safe to say I enjoy reading about Chicken Palmolive a fair deal more than I’d enjoy eating it!

    While what you’re writing about is a cookbook, by the end I felt like I did when I feared my trip back home earlier this month. “My home is gone! It belongs to someone else. It’ll never feel like home here again.” Then I saw my brother and brother-in-law and realized, just that fast, home was never in the physical entrapment. It was in the love built up inside and around it.

    That doesn’t mean I don’t feel wistful sometimes, but I sure feel a heck of a lot better after catching sight of them and understanding this than I did before.

    I loved all of this post, but especially its conclusion.

    • I’m really learning to let go – and it is getting easier and easier. I am, as you describe, wistful. I think sometimes it is harder because I am away from my kids and grandkids, AND I live in a house that was my mother-in-laws! Like the universe is just off kilter. But I’m making my way and turning this life I have now, into the life I want it to be. Embracing the changes, one little item at a time…

  8. Chicken palmolive – great name. I have pretty much abandoned my cookbooks and don’t mind at all!

  9. This looks awesome. I adore banana bread – one of my favourites. You should try it with chocolate or glace cherries. That chicken dish sounds delicious too… hmm.

  10. When my mother died, the only thing we argued over was her Better Homes & Gardens cookbook!

  11. Geez, that brings back memories! That (non-new) Better Homes cookbook was my 1st cookbook (fat lot of good that thing did). Actually, it did do a fat lot of good. I made lots of great cookies.

    I don’t bake or cook anymore–my diet is so limited that I just kind of make up things from the few things I can eat. I bet your mouth is watering just thinking about rice cakes and tofu!

  12. I know just what you mean. My favorite books (cookbooks or otherwise) are like old friends. It would throw me off not to see the same wrinkles, the same freckles, the same beauty marks that I am accustomed to.

  13. This is great for two reasons. One, I love banana bread. Two, I’m doing a cookbook proposal for that publishing program I may or may not have told you about I will use this book as a reference. Thanks buddy.

  14. I know how you must feel–I savor every stain on mine! And I like your idea of multi-functional rooms–I want to get rid of our “dining room” and have an eat-in kitchen instead with a long farmhouse table for food and books.

    • Oh, I don’l like the multifunctional room – I don’t have much choice. I would love to have an office AND a bead studio AND a library, but just can’t manage that unless I turn the bedrooms into room for me. Now that I think about it…

      A much-loved and much-used cookbook has character.

  15. I know that cookbook well; my mother has it. Its pages are browned and yellowed and probably splatter-stained in some places, too. I’d hate to see it go. But it’s kind of nice that you now get to “break in” the one your mother-in-law never could. Like you’re lending some validity to her copy. You’re in it together now, you and she, as a team. Maybe using it will spur memories and stories. Happy cooking!

  16. My mother once made a ‘spice bag’ out of an old navy blue knee-hi. She didn’t have any cheesecloth- why isn’t everyone eating? It’s delish!!!
    I’m sorry about your red plaid’ book- I love mine too- even if I have a section that I have to peel the pages away from each other- it is family!

  17. I have that book, the page with Chicken and Sausage Gumbo is a mess.

  18. Kate, believe it or not, i’ve used another old classic – the Fanny Farmer cookbook – for more years than i care to remember…now that google is around hardly anymore. nice banana bread too. continue…

  19. Of course, the Chicken Palmolive was a great line. I love old cookbooks, especially old family cookbooks. And making a recipe that I know a family member made a long time ago gives me a great feeling. Bring on the stains, creases, dog ears.

    • Oh, she really did wash her chicken with dish soap, and judging by the taste of her cooking, probably everything else, too.
      Old recipes are truly wonderful. This clean cookbook feels very strange to me, but I’m sure it will be broken in properly now.
      Thanks for stopping by – always glad to hear from you.

  20. In reading this post, I imagined myself sitting in a cozy kitchen with slivers of sunshine peeking through the curtains. I love banana bread and the pics look great.

  21. I have very fond memories of baking with my mother, using a book that was so splattered with every cake mix and batter that it listed that I swear you could have just baked the book and served it with tea!

  22. Just happened upon this…this is my go-to cook book (when I have to cook) but my husband is my go-to chef. :0)

  23. Carla

    I did the exact same thing with the exact same cookbook. I was looking for the carrot cake recipe which is totally different in the new cookbook. so I googled “Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook old recipes” and came upon your cute column. It didn’t solve my problem, but allowed me to commiserate with you! I lost my old friend stupidly and have the new book. I really want that old carrot cake recipe! My son loved it as a child, and I want to make it for his 28th birthday. Anyway, thanks for sharing.
    Carla

  24. jenny

    You are a GODSEND! Thank you for actually taking a picture of page 76. I took this page out to take it with me on a trip to visit my mom. I LOST this recipe and I was heartbroken because my kids love this banana bread…a million times thank you….(PS…I add about 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp of ginger and chocolate chips to this recipe — makes it extra yummy)

    • Same here, I have the 1981 edition and it is on page 79. Do you think I can find the page anywhere in this house? I blew up the image she took so I can make the banana bread!

  25. Thank you so much… I am certain this is the same recipe I myself have used for many years. I have recently moved and it was not my cookbook to take. So of course I have bananas and realized I did not have my favorite banana bread recipe.

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