“Good and easy. It’s an unbeatable combination of the best of both worlds. And with this cookbook in hand, you can prepare 365 breakfasts, lunches and dinners every year, in a hurry– without skimping on quality or any of the nice little touches that make mealtime a pleasure.”
The Good and Easy Cookbook opens up with a sweet little note from Betty Crocker herself, inviting ‘busy women everywhere’ into the kitchen to cook for their families. The book is very clearly written for women, in a women’s voice; intended to be the voice of Betty Crocker. And in this book, she is here to help busy wives and mothers get dinner on the table by creating memorable meals and utilizing ‘modern convince foods’. She provides specific instructions for dressing up and customizing everything from canned fruits and vegetables to ready-made boxed scalloped potatoes and cake mixes. Betty was all about cutting corners, “without compromising quality or nutrition”; a debatable statement by today’s standards.
Betty Crocker was a fictitious character, the embodiment of an American Homemaker to represent their brand. The original illustrated portrait of Betty Crocker (shown below, from this and many other cookbooks) was commissioned in 1936: a “motherly image” that arrived from “blended [..] features of several Home Service Department members.” Changes were made over the years,but only every so slightly, to keep up with changing perceptions of what General Mills’ perception of the American housewife
Betty Crocker appeared in many forms, from cookbook author to food products, she even had her own cooking programs and TV shows. The first broadcasts were on NBC in 1926 and later remained on radio. Adelaide Hawley Cumming, a young actress, became the first ‘Betty Crocker’ portraying her on television for many years, beginning in 1949 until 1964.
As dated as this book is, it’s not all that unrelatable. There are plenty of good tips and the nutrition and portion aspects aren’t all that outdated, though this book is very meat-centric. In fact, the books content starts with meat, “for instant decision making”. This illustrated the very American idea that the family meal centers around a large portion of meat. While we’re moving away from that today, it’s still very relevant to our eating habits.
And, as always, there were some things I would try. She lists various flavored butters for vegetables, which would be an easy weeknight touch; such as mustard-dill butter (melt one tablespoon butter, add 1/8 tsp dry mustard and 1/4 tsp dill weed), or Blender Coleslaw (your standard slaw made in the blender, a smart shortcut). But this is the #basicbitch of cookbooks. At the end of the day, I do not need you to tell me how to make a strawberry cake using box cake mix (below, cake mix + strawberries) or instructions for a ham sandwich.
About this series: I love vintage cookbooks and vintage recipes. They are gorgeous pieces of Americana, little time capsules reflecting trends and fads of their eras. They give us a peek into more than the kitchen, but into the lifestyles of the generations that were writing and utilizing them. I plan to make this a regular series and you can find more here. Find more vintage recipes on our Vintage Cookbooks board via Pinterest.