Cooking tips – Old Cookbooks and an Oatmeal Cookie Recipe

I love cookbooks. I collect cookbooks. Especially old editions of trusty favorites. I don’t care if they’re new or used. In fact I love used ones—it’s fun to read the notes some people write, or see the clippings they’ve used as bookmarks.

Cookbooks change with the times, but that doesn’t instantly outdate the old version. Together, as a collection, multiple editions of the same cookbook provide a grand history of the role cooking plays in our culture and lifestyle. And they make for great entertainment.

I started to understand this when I looked up “tomatillos” in my classic and well-loved 1975 edition of “Joy of Cooking,” and to my disappointment there was absolutely no mention of “tomatillo.”

So I found a new edition of “Joy of Cooking”, copyright 1997. Sure enough, “tomatillo” rated its own entry in the index and had its own section. Page 429, along with recipes for salsa, pages 62-63 and spinach sauce, page 58. That would be the “Condiments, Marinades and Dry Rubs” section.

I was going to donate my trusty copy of “Joy of Cooking,” now that I replaced it. Or so I thought. Aimlessly flipping through the stained and parchment-y pages of tried and true information, I came across again, on Page 515, the chapter called “Game,” was how to dress a squirrel. Pictures (well, drawings) and everything. After that was “Opossum,” “Porcupine,” and “Raccoon.” More critters on Page 516. Muskrat. And woodchuck!

My new copy didn’t have all that, so I kept the old copy, too.

And this idea of old vs. new cookbooks was confirmed when I received, as a gift, the ninth edition of the  “Better Home and Gardens New Cookbook,” published in 1981. The first recipe I turned to was my family’s heirloom favorite oatmeal cookie, which my Dad always made with mint chocolate chips, not raisins. His own modification.

But the basic recipe in the new edition was not the same. This caused me some alarm, so I researched and found the “Revised edition” published in 1953 and revised in 1962. There were not even enough editions yet to count them, apparently.

My parents received that early edition as a wedding gift. My copy is a first printing of that said edition. I looked for it for months.

First off, “Cookie” is spelled with a “y.” Plus the photography is um, charming.

But the “Oatmeal Cooky” recipe was the one I wanted. The original appears below. My substitutions include 2% or 1% milk instead of the buttermilk, plus ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar, added along with the rest of the dry ingredients. I also use one 12-oz package of chocolate chips instead of the walnuts and raisins. And I don’t grease the cookie sheet.

Reflecting our non trans-fat values, today’s shortening fortunately seems to make no difference in this cookie. It’s cakey, not crunchy. I make them bigger than the recipe suggests, and I end up with about 2 dozen.

Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook 1962 Oatmeal Cookies

“Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup shortening

1 ½ cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

½ cup buttermilk*

1 ¾ cup sifted all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon [baking] soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

3 cups quick-cooking rolled oats

½ cup chopped California walnuts

½ cup raisins

Oven 400 [degrees]

Cream together shortening, brown sugar, and eggs till light and fluffy. Stir in buttermilk.

Sift together dry ingredients; stir into creamed mixture. Stir in rolled oats, nuts, and raisins. Drop from tablespoon 2 inches apart on greased cooky sheet. Bake in hot oven (400 [degrees]) about 8  minutes. Cool slightly; remove from pan. Makes about 5 dozen.”

*Or use sweet milk; cut [baking] soda to ¼ teaspoon; use 2 teaspoons baking powder.

This month’s cooking secret: Write in your cookbooks. Cross stuff out. Make notes. Add stuff as your own taste buds and values dictate. For example, “less salt, double the cumin.”

I also like to make a note if a recipe works as leftovers. This is my “day after” rule. The night you try a recipe, you’re hungry—of course it’s great. If it is also tasty the next day, then it is truly a good recipe. If not, either figure out why or move on quickly.

Resources:

Tomatillo picture courtesy of Clay Irving.

Look for old cookbooks at www.powells.com and www.amazon.com.

I’m not the only one who likes old cookbooks. In 2005, they reprinted exactly the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook 1953 Classic Edition.

http://www.powells.com/biblio/17-9780696222122-1

Joy of Cooking, 75th anniversary Edition (2006)

With an expanded section on “Game” from the previous edition. History does repeat itself, the editors revisited the 1975 classic.

http://www.powells.com/biblio/18-9780743246262-0

Elaine’s Friends’ Favorite Oatmeal Cookie:

1 cup shortening

1-1/4  cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2  cup 2% milk

3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour

½ cup Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal flour,

½ cup Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon Kosher salt (or ½ teaspoon table salt)

1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Dash ground clove

3 cups quick-cooking rolled oats

One 12-oz. package — minus a few for tasting — Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Cream together shortening, brown sugar, and eggs till light and fluffy. Stir in milk.

Sift together dry ingredients including spices; stir into creamed mixture. Stir in rolled oats and chocolate chips. Drop  dough from  large spoon 3 inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake in hot oven 400 degrees about 8-9 minutes. Cool slightly; remove from pan. Makes about 2 dozen.

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