When I decided to start writing about things and people that inspire me, I knew that one book jumped to mind. I call it “the Mama Book” my loving name for Good Housekeeping’s 1963 Cookbook. My grandmother have my mom a copy of this book when mom was still in her teens (16, I think) and that is the book my mom used while I was growing up. Her copy had creases and stains, and was stuffed with handwritten slips of paper, or quick handwritten recipes placed there more because that was the page that had space, instead of the recipe actually belonging there.
Like other kids, we moved a lot. My mom got remarried and twice she had ex-husbands who threw away a lot of our stuff. Somehow, as if by miracle, the Mama Book survived. Mom can still make Mrs. Flores’ tortillas or Mrs. Dewit’s chiies. I can still taste my childhood.
Earlier this year, I found my own copy of Good Housekeeping 1963 edition at a used bookstore. It lacked all the family charm and character. This one hadn’t been marked and abused. It did not have Mrs. Flores’ tortilla recipe. I still happily spent my $8 to get it.
Inside, you’ll find a way to make everything. They didn’t play around in those days. If you wanted to make a cake, you broke out all the stuff and made it from scratch. You wanted pancakes? You didn’t run for Bisquick. You worked for it, measuring, mixing, waiting for the bubbles. If you want to see how they did it 50 years ago, this is a great way to do it. Yes, there are meat recipes, too. I look past those and see new (or old in this case) ways to prepare my seitan and tofu. It has inspired me to make cruelty free versions.
Someday, I will inherit the Mama Book, but not for decades. Still, without a childhood filled with it’s delicious wonders I would not have been inspired to be a chef when I grew up. All I have started with this old green and tan book, and the Mama that cooked everyday out of it.