For my 7th birthday in 1968, I was gifted my first cookbook. Polly Williams, our neighbor, wife to my father’s boss and owner of her own beauty salon down the street from my childhood home in Kansas, gave it to me to cheer me up because I was sick on my birthday. Polly and I were close because I would hang out with her in her salon when my Mom was at work and do little errands and chores for her. I would polish her silver, or sweep the clipped hair up off the floor, or ride my bike to the grocery store to pick up a fresh pack of cigarettes for her (no questions asked).
I still have this first cookbook in my collection, and when I stumble upon it, the little cookbook brings back so many happy memories of cooking for my three older brothers and Dad when I was just a little girl. They were ravenous eaters in those days and my mom was glad to have me around to prepare lunches in the summer when she was at work. My mother taught me to make goulash, macaroni and cheese, pink bunny, chip beef on toast, tuna and cheese sandwiches, scrabbled eggs and bacon, and BLT’s before I was ten. She also taught me to peel a potato with a knife and and make frosting from scratch for her coveted cinnamon rolls. Life was good when I was in the kitchen working beside my mother. I still throw a cloth dish towel over my left shoulder when I am cooking just like she did so it would be within quick reach when needed. She didn’t “believe” in paper towels as they were expensive and unnecessary in her mind.
This first cookbook, Fun to Cook Book, has an awesome white sauce recipe in it using Carnation Milk, that was my “go to sauce” growing up in Kansas. You can convert it to a cheese sauce for macaroni and cheese, you can add ground beef and make a meat gravy, or add canned tuna and cooked noodles and you have tuna casserole (I always added peas). All of these meals were the stick to your ribs style that my brothers loved. You could pour anything over toast and they would scarf it down. It gives a budding young cook a lot of encouragement to see her food go down so quickly.
Since those days, I have added a few (more than a few) cookbooks to my ever expanding collection and I hope I cook in a much more adventurous and healthier manner than I did back in 1960’s. But this one simple little cookbook, my first, holds a special place in my heart.
Happy Cooking in 2016!