A Classic Cookbook from the ’50s
And here I go, getting nostalgic over food one more time.
Back when I was a kid, growing up on Detroit’s East Side, I spent A LOT of time with my neighbors who lived two houses away from me. Their mom, Mrs. LaBine (I always called her Mrs), was a really young mom of four. She was always stylishly dressed, listening to Elvis and the Everly Brothers on her console stereo. She was soft spoken, so kind to me, and was also a SUPERB cook and baker.
And I remember her cookbook, Mary Margaret McBride Encyclopedia of Cooking.
A Copy of My Own
The things you remember from when you were a kid–the neighbor’s Dutch Elm tree falling on our house, the 1967 Detroit Riots and curfews, the endless summer days playing with the kids on our block, walking to the park, swim mobile and the the book mobile.
And I remember Mrs. LaBine’s cookbook, often times sitting open on a table in her dining room. It was a HUGE book and most likely where her all of her recipe ideas came from.
Fast forward to the late 1980s when I was was living far away from Detroit. Vacationing in LA, I stopped at a thrift shop. While looking through the store’s collection of books, I came upon the Mary Margaret McBride Encyclopedia of Cooking. Could this be a copy of Mrs. LaBine’s cookbook? The one with her Blueberry Boy Bait recipe? (That recipe is still a favorite.) The cover was different but it sure looked familiar.
I pulled the book from the shelf and flipped through the first few pages. It was published in the late 1950s (check) and was it was HUGE-1535 pages-(check). But did it have the Blueberry Boy Bait recipe? I excitedly flipped to the index, and there it was! I hugged the book. I felt like I hit the jackpot that day.
These days a recipe is easy to find on the internet (thank you Pinterest), but back then you had to buy the book. So that’s what I did. Buying this treasure of recipes and memories, and then schlepping it all the way home to Dallas, Texas, was the thrill of a lifetime. Lucky for me there was no extra charge back then for my weighted bulging suitcase.
A History Lesson
Recently I read an interesting article about cookbook author, Ms Mary Margaret McBride.
Considered to be the “First Lady of Radio,” she was a voice her 6 million listeners, mostly women, trusted.
Mary Margaret had great respect for her listeners. She wanted to validate stay-at-home moms and keep them connected to the outside world. She did interviews with popular authors and actors of the day, and talked about Broadway shows, Hollywood movies, pop culture, politics and even civil rights. And of course there was always the FOOD!
She ad libbed all of her shows. Even her guests weren’t allowed to use notes.
She was the 1930s-1950’s version of TV’s Oprah and considered to be a huge influence on modern-day talk shows.
Mary Margaret McBride’s Encyclopedia of Cooking was published in the 1950s, when Mary Margaret was nearing the twilight of her career. It was originally sold in “chapter” form at the grocery store, with each chapter purchased added to a large binder until it was a full cookbook.
The version I have is a compilation of all those grocery store “chapters,” forming one huge book.
The book contains MANY recipes, but very few photos (that wasn’t done back then). But it also has hints and suggestions for making a newly married bride’s life a little easier.
Here a few chapter headings:
- How to Seat Guests at a Table
- How to Select Kitchen Utensils and Equipment to Get Your Money’s Worth
- What to do about Bad Food Habits
- How to Remove Spots and Stains.
So she was not only a version of Oprah but maybe a little bit of Martha Stewart, too.
Here’s a link for more info on Mary Margaret McBride.
My Favorite Recipe
And I love a recipe with a good story, and my favorite Blueberry Boy Bait recipe didn’t disappoint.
The original recipe dates back to 1954 and was submitted to a Pillsbury baking contest by a 15-year-old girl. She won second place (I can’t imagine there could be anything better to beat her recipe). She named her recipe Blueberry Boy Bait because she believed this cake had the power to attract the opposite sex. I think she was on to something.