“The Pillsbury Family Cook Book” subtitled “Creative Cooking For Everyday Living.” Published by The Pillsbury Company in 1963, the cookbook is a hard cover measuring 7 x 10¼ inches with 528 pages. It is in good gently used condition with wear to the covers (mostly along the edges), the pages are clean and unmarked but they have darkened a bit and several of the last pages of the index are badly torn.
“Today’s food looks better, tastes better and is better,” begins the cookbook. “Your job in this new world of fabulous eating is to create a healthy balance of varied and nutritious fare.” Sound advice for any cookbook. But let’s read a little further. “Thanks to science, cooking becomes easier every day.” “With new convenience foods, anyone who can read directions and push buttons can be an accomplished cook.” When The Pillsbury Family Cookbook was first published in 1963, life was speeding up. Even as women began working outside the home, they were still expected to don their aprons and prepare meals their husbands would be proud of. So food distributors responded by elevating the status of prepared foods. Dehydrated potatoes. Instant coffee. They weren’t just short cuts. They were the symbols of a new generation of cooks. The food industry told women they could have their cake and eat it, too. The cookbook continues: “Foods in cans, bottles, and jars … are filled with new freshness, flavor, and quality.” The cookbook’s message? Unleash this potential! And that’s what the recipes are designed to do.Take the recipe for glazed shrimp, whose main ingredients are shrimp, French dressing, and unflavored gelatin. Mix the dressing and gelatin, dip the shrimp in, and chill — an appetizer sure to impress friends and family.
The chapter on salads contains page after page of gelled recipes. The Molded Shrimp-Asparagus Salad is otherworldly, though probably not from a planet you’d want to visit. The ingredients? Mayonnaise, sour cream, shrimp, lemon-flavored gelatin, and frozen asparagus. A tip at the bottom of the recipe tells us that, if we desire, “Cooked fresh … asparagus may be substituted for the frozen.” Cookbooks aren’t just about recipes. They’re a reflection of who we are. Gourmet Tuna Casserole. Speedy Chow Mein. Pork chops in canned cream of mushroom soup. That’s who we were in 1963. Today, cans are out; fresh is in. But the need for speed’s still there. Carrots come in ready-to-eat, bite-size pieces. Lettuce is washed, cut, and sealed in air-tight plastic bags — complete with salad dressing and croutons. Things have changed… but much remains the same. This cookbook is a total trip to a time past … but still filled with recipes that will become new family favorites.
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