Friday, March 10, 2006

1950's Teen Cookbooks

Today Brian brought home a 1955 first edition of Junior Cook Book : Better Homes & Gardens. This reminded me of another 1950's teen cook book we have: Date Bait by Robert Loeb (written by a man; how interesting). My teenager and I sat down and paged through these cookbooks this afternoon and laughed out loud many times. What a refreshing contrast these books are to the Food Network cooking culture.

The Date Bait's premise is not subtle. The author sums up the purpose of the book in this poem:

If you know how
To cook the bait
To bait the hook
To hook the date
For whom you cook -
You'll have more friends,
You'll have more dates,
And Mater and Pater
Will allow more "lates."

My daughter and I laughed especially hard at Date Bait's description of the two kinds of mothers: the "kitchen is a sacred domain" type and the "kitchenwork is a pain" type. If your mother is the former it will hinder your "social independence" because she likely won't let you into her sacred kitchen to prepare "snacks, teas, and picnics" for your friends. Imagine. Social independence defined as tea parties and picnics (activities that occur at home, even) rather than as trips to the mall. If your mom is the "kitchenwork is a pain" type you will have easy access to the kitchen but the cookbooks that await you there require a Ph.D in Kitchenology, warns the author. So it's Date Bait to the rescue, with its illustrated recipes that don't require that you be a honor student in Solid Trig to understand them.
Date Bait isn't just about luring boys. I'm pleased to report that there's an entire chapter devoted to mom and dad bait: "How about a change of pace for the 'old folk'? A surprise meal prepared by the hand of junior miss is a sure-fire gift." The momlette recipe and popcakes look particularly appealing.

Junior Cook Book : Better Homes & Gardens is a small version of the red plaid Better Homes cook books that we know so well. This cook book is more serious and practical (there are no references to cooking for boys) but, as I was sure to point out to my daughter, it, too, exhorts the teens to cook for their parents and even provides a menu for mother's birthday dinner: Minute Steaks, Baked Potatoes, Hot Buttered Peas, Pretty Relish Tray, Partytime Cake. Like Date Bait, it presupposes that teens will have backyard picnics and parties on the porch and recommends drinks such as pink lemonade and snacks such as shoestring potatoes from a can. I'm tempted to use this cookbook myself. You have to admire a cookbook that suggests pigs in bacon (hot dogs wrapped in bacon strips) as an acceptable main dish for lunch.

After this nostalgic foray into 1950's teenage cooking my daughter went straight into the kitchen and baked peanut butter cookies. Whether or not I'll receive Minute Steaks for my birthday remains to be seen.
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Blogger Mimi said...

What a classic! Giggle.

10:43 AM  

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