A life of cooking has to start somewhere. Last week food blogger extraordinaire Deb of Smitten Kitchen asked her readers if they remembered their very first cookbook and what they made from it. She got more than 100 replies.
The answers run the gamut, from spiral-bound church recipe collections and family cookbooks to good old Betty Crocker and the Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cookbook. Some people started off with special children’s cookbooks such as Look! I Can Cook, Yum! I Eat It, and the Klutz cookbook Kids Cooking: A Very Slightly Messy Manual. One precocious young cook claims to have been “cooking out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 8th grade” (and yes, you are allowed to be annoyed by such examples of blatant kitchen bragging).
Those first forays into cooking all seem a bit dated now, and slightly (ahem) unsophisticated. There were dishes such as “Daisy Buns: canned biscuits dipped in butter and sugar, arranged on pineapple tidbits and maraschino cherry halves arranged to look like flowers”; Turtle Bread, a white bread dough shaped in the form of a turtle, with raisins for eyes; and “a cake frosted to look like a giant hamburger, complete with real sesame seeds on the top ‘bun.’” Of course there are always those “gifted” children. “At age 10 I made homemade croissants, Chicken Kiev, and apple fritters,” writes one reader.
There were cartoon-inspired cookbooks as well, as readers report on Thumper’s Tuna Noodle Casserole, Oscar the Grouch’s Trash Salad, Lucy’s (of Peanuts) Lemon Squares, and a recipe for “Snuffaluphaloaf.” I seem to recall Minnie Mouse’s cheddar cheese soup.
Do you remember your first?