I steered my car down a random twisty road. I saw a random antique shop and decided to stop. Inside, I walked up to a random book shelf and pulled off a random cookbook.
Funny thing, but the pictures looked familiar. I had seen that wedding cake. And that soup tureen. And that tween girl, plating the spaghetti and meatballs she had just cooked on her own.
I once owned a cookbook a lot like this one.
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I have loved the kitchen since my mom gave me my first Betty Crocker cookbook. At last! Something with measurements, and descriptions! (I didn’t do well with my mom’s a-little-of-this-a-little-of-that-cook-it-’til-it’s-”done” method.) And I was off!
But somewhere in college, I decided cooking was keeping me from living. Poring over recipe books was just not a normal thing to do. So I gave a pile of them away. While I was at it, I tossed a drawer-sized file box stuffed with faithfully-copied recipe cards.
I’d find a new hobby. Right?
Although I kind of missed those bars I made one time, the caramel peanut ones that left my fingers sticky and my mouth wanting more. Oh, well, the world is full of caramel peanut bars. I’d find another recipe just as good.
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And now, in the antique store in hilly southern Indiana, the deja vu hit me strong as I flipped through pages full of party menus. Pre-game brunch for Thanksgiving Day! Ham and Dips after a Christening! Weekend on the boat! Jams and pickled peppers for the bake sale!
It all harked back to a day when we liked getting together, as opposed to taking online quizzes about our introversions. It was a day when we didn’t need Excel spreadsheets to keep track of what people couldn’t eat. Back then, we knew our neighbors well enough to send over “Cream of Tomato Soup, Salad Boats, Butterscotch Brownies, Chocolate Milk” when the mom was sick. In fact, we just plain knew our neighbors.
By the time I flipped to the front, I knew I had owned this book before. Ah! The mix-and-match menus! Take a look at the beef page:
Doesn’t that make your meal-planning easier?
Check out those salads. See “Quick Tomato Aspic”?
When gelatin first appeared, it was a status symbol. The lady who brought a gelatin salad to the luncheon proved to every other lady that she had refrigeration.
Aspics were the savory version. Plunge your fork in and you might hit an olive, a chunk of bleu cheese, or a bite of salmon. One summer supper menu suggests “Tomato Aspic Squares on Lettuce.” I know you’re dying to try it, so here goes:
1 package lemon-flavored gelatin
1 package apple-flavored gelatin
2 cups hot tomato juice
2 tsp. Salt
2 cups cold tomato juice
1 TB prepared horse-radish
1 TB grated onion
Dash of cayenne
Combine both flavors of gelatin and dissolve in hot tomato juice. Add salt, cold tomato juice, horse-radish, onion and cayenne. Pour into an 8x8x2-inch pan. Chill until firm. Cut into squares and serve on crisp lettuce. Garnish with mayonnaise if desired. Makes 8 servings.
I should offer a prize to anybody to makes this salad. Or anybody who makes it and sends pictures of their family’s faces.
Top photo credit: shoutabyss via Visual Hunt / CC BY