Friday, August 28, 2009

About eight years ago I attended the SCBWI conference in LA, not knowing anyone. I went to get my name tag on the first day and realized I didn't have any idea how to put it together. I moved off to a little table and started fumbling, to discover another person was doing the same. We both laughed, and have now been friends for eight years. Anne Ylvisaker and her wonderful books have been to STDL twice to the delight of readers of all ages (the picture is from one of those visits, in the STDL teen center). While her books are youth and teen, they are from eras that appeal to seniors as well as her cleverly crafted titles pull readers into history and memorable family stories. I've given many copies of Little Klein and Dear Papa as gifts. I'm so pleased to have Anne guest blog this week.-Amy

Don’t tell my sister, but I’ve got current custody of our copy of Betty Crocker’s New Boys and Girls Cookbook. In a circa 1975 spat, I wrote my name boldly in blue ballpoint inside the cover. At some point she inked over my name in a neat rectangle – she was always the neat one – and printed hers with a groovy wavy underline. How the book ended up in my adult kitchen I do not know, but I suspect she’s hiding our Betty Crocker Cooky Book so we’re probably even.

I was never much interested in this book to begin with. At the outset, Betty introduces her test helpers, the children who got not only to cook (I imagined) at her side, but also to eat everything in the book. How had I missed the opportunity to be a test helper? I lived in Minneapolis, Betty’s own home. Adding salt to my wound was the quote from Test Helper Alpha, she of the perfect little bob and dotted shirt, “We always left the kitchen clean. Then Mother liked to have us help.” I’d overheard my own mother on the phone with a neighbor saying, “Anne is such a mess in the kitchen.” Even if I had been invited to Betty’s, Alpha would have been her favorite.

The recipe inspiring my mother’s comment is the only one I remember making in this book, and it remains one of my favorite cookies. Made with those little red-skinned party peanuts, they are salty/sweet, crunchy/soft delights.

Salted Peanut Crisps

Heat oven to 375
Mix thoroughly in bowl
1 cup soft shortening (part butter)
1 ½ cups brown sugar (packed)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
Stir together in another bowl
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon soda
Mix these dry ingredients into shortening mixture.
Stir in
2 cups salted peanuts
Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart on baking sheet.
Grease the bottom of a glass. To flatten each cooky, dip glass in sugar and press on dough.
Bake 8 to ten minutes.
Cool on wire rack.
Makes about 6 dozen cookies.


Claudia said...

This is so ironic! Two weeks ago, my mother sent my old copy of Boys and Girls to Lucy, our budding chef! Aside from the 40-year-old food crumbs still texturizing the pages, the book is in perfect shape. Lucy was instantly captivated by the simple creative format. And I can't tell you what a time machine it created to see it myself. What stands out for me even more than the recipes are the illustrations, especially of those kid kitchen helpers. I vividly remembered Joan and her pixie cut! I just googled Gloria Kamen, the illustrator of all those delightful line drawings. She actually has had quite a full career in children's books the last few decades! Lucy hasn't made anything yet from Boys and Girls, but I will suggest Salted Peanut Crisps be the first. Thanks Anne- wonderful piece!

LBP said...

I sooo remember this book! I also remember being terribly jealous of this Alpha person, Little Miss Perfect. Your posting prompted me to call my mom to see where our tattered copy of Amish Country Cooking for Boys and Girls circa 1971 has ended up. Alas, it appears that the tape holding it together attracted glue-loving bugs and it is no more. Unless I find another copy on a dusty second-hand shelf somewhere, I suppose I'll never taste our homemade lollilops or sourdough pancakes again! But in their place -- salty peanut cookies! Strangely, they sound like they'd go very nicely with a frosty mug of beer, not at all what Betty would have intended...

Anne said...

Oh My Heavens - how did I live all these years and not think of BEER with those salty cookies? Thank you, LBP.

And Claudia, what a great note on the illustrator. The portraits are charming. I am going to look her up, too. Happy Baking, Lucy! (she of the magnificent butterscotch, chocolate chip cookies)

Michelle Edwards said...

Great piece Anne. And I promise I won't tell your sister. BTW I grew near the home of Toll House cookies. My father loved to point it out to us when we passed it. Mistakedly thinking we would be interseted in the first chocolate chips. Still, I remember it. Parents! And now we are them.

Michelle Edwards said...

sorry left my comment twice. Did not follow directions. Should not be allowed to make the recipe.