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Hi! Thank you for stopping by to watch me, Leah, cook kosher. I've been the owner operator of my boutique catering firm in Seattle, Leah's Catering, for the past 14 years.

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Betty Crocker and Me
Posted: December 27, 2010 By: Leah Jaffee

I’m an apartment dweller, not an unusual thing for large cities like New York, but rather odd for someone of my age in Seattle. At least, I should be in a condo, but my stunted bohemian side resists the trappings of permanence a grounded residence provides. I could use more space but three bedroom apartments are hard to find and I’d have to bother to look. I’m not big on housework, either. I can hardly keep up with the space I have now.

art deco glass

Reasons to move used to present themselves more often. I count 21 places I’ve lived in over 38 years. Move in with college roommates, move to NYC, move back, move to SLC, move to Fresno, move back to Seattle, etc, etc. Lots of reasons to move. And, I’m always most comfortable in older places with older stuff. Much of what I own is art deco; some furniture and lots of pink Depression Glass. Around new stuff and big houses I feel out of sync. Not sure why. My oldest daughter asks me, maybe both rhetorically and existentially, “What is wrong with life in a cul-de-sac?”  I haven’t a clue other than I like being perched on a pile of old brick, pretending the roar of the freeway is the crashing of waves on the island rocks. I move, I rent, I am.

Closed Betty Crocker

I finally got my daughter to take her piano but I do have books. I have schlepped many old favorites over distance and time. I see my copy of “Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cook Book” and can’t remember taking ownership of it. It is from 1961, smudged, binding cracked and tattered. Illustrated pages feature Donna Reed housewives, perky as they prepare dinner for pipe smoking, tie wearing Wards. Tucked inside, I find a stapled recipe collection from my 9th grade cooking class circa 1967.

Between other pages, I find a page from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer dated 1975. From the corner, a coupon for Ragu Spaghetti Sauce is torn but it is still in the cook book. I wonder if this is the beginning of the jarred spaghetti sauce phenomenon. Women lured by free spaghetti noodles to forever buy jarred sauces, the slippery slope of convenience.  

I pull out a bookmark tracing the journey the Mormons made from upstate New York to Salt Lake City. This must have entered the cannon around 1978 or so after I moved to SLC. I don’t remember seeing it before, nor did I ever realize what a straight shot it is from Fayette to Utah, even if doubling back from Independence to Nauvoo. Who knew?

Unfolding a piece of wide ruled newsprint notebook paper, faded and creased, I read English numbers and their Japanese counterparts in my daughter’s handwriting. She’s written her name, Rebekah, in script across the top. When do kids learn script? When do they learn Japanese? Maybe 5th grade….this would have to be around 1993. The other side of the paper I’ve scribbled a recipe for peanut butter cookies. Such a sentimental mother I am.

Turning pages I see the original peanut butter cookie recipe in the cook book. My sister Jeanette has made notes about scoop sizes and quantities in the margin. She was working back in the beginning of Leah’s Catering, around 1998. I see that I’ve slipped a paper marked “deviled eggs” into the book about the same time. I used that for a bris I did 13 years ago, the bar mitzvah last October. Where has the time flown?

Opening grease stained pages of yellow legal pad paper, I find Spanish translations of marble cake and blonde brownie recipes. An employee from Honduras has written them out. Marleny, ever reluctant to practice English, always insisted in translating her working copies. I learn more Spanish than she learns English in our battle of the wills. These would be from 2004 or so.

The last folded sheet of paper I find in the cook book is torn from a small white three ring binder. I recognize the steady, fluid penmanship of my mother. The recipe is for a ‘green drink’, a concoction of pineapple juice, alfalfa sprouts, parsley, etc. There is no date but I recall her early 1970’s health fad. I won’t ask her about it. She doesn’t remember what she did 2 days ago. I fear the time she won’t remember me.

This tattered gem of a book has been with me since I was 6 years old, almost 50 years. Indeed, I was baking before I could read, my sister Leilani reading the recipes to me. I must have claimed this book when I moved away from home in 1972. Entertaining the notion of getting a less worn copy for my collection, I see that Amazon.com is offering one for $375.00! It doesn’t even come with all my treasures. Reaching for my pearls, I resolve to make secular new year’s Shabbat dinner this week in heels…..1961 to 2011, it’s a Golden Anniversary!

Open Betty Crocker


Posted 01-18-2011 by Elizabeth Davis davises88@hotmail.com
My mom's copy is from the 1950s. She found me one with a 1952 copyright. I love it. It's not only great for nostalgia sake but the recipes are simple and solid. I got a copy of a newer one in the late 80s. Doesn't hold a candle to the original.

Posted 01-03-2011 by Kathy
I recently saw a well worn copy of that Betty Crocker cookbook in the drawer of my mother-in-law so it was deja vu seeing it on your website. I loved how you traced the years through the inserts. Where would we all be without Betty?

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