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We Live and Learn

Boys just wanna have k'ache, according to The Seventeen Cookbook published in 1964.

Boys just wanna have k’ache, according to The Seventeen Cookbook published in 1964.

“With an ever-hungry young man, few things enhance a girl’s stock as a girl as swiftly, as surely, as something really good to eat that she made herself.”

Who writes stuff like this, you ask? Believe it or not, Enid A. Haupt, publishing executive, visionary philanthropist and leader among her peers, New York’s elite. The quote is from the foreword to the 1964 edition of The Seventeen Cookbook, which I just unearthed in a box of old cookbooks in my garage.

It gets weirder. “In planning this cookbook, we have tried to meet the needs of all types of teenage girls… Why do these girls need a cookbook all their own? Because they are learning to cook in a way their mother never could – as active participants in today’s food world, a world of boxed mixes, convenience foods, and zip-open packages.”

I bet many teenage girls considered this book, which must have been a bestseller among those who made Seventeen Magazine a hugely popular publication for many years, a cooking and entertaining bible. I don’t remember where I got it, but I’m sure its emphasis on fancy cooking and the use of processed food tended to make its offerings unpopular in my mother’s largely meat and potatoes kitchen. (There were exceptions for family favorites, including cake mixes and jarred spaghetti sauce by Ragú. We were not Italian, so we didn’t know any better. However, in all fairness to my mother, we ate frozen, not canned vegetables, and had salad every night, which made us the foodies among our friends in the neighborhood.)

I don’t know which seems more foreign – the book’s viewpoint on what makes young people tick or its endorsement of bad-tasting, bad-for-you-food. Gosh, how many people today who appreciate the importance of healthful eating consume a steady diet of things such as Crisco, canned vegetables, condensed soups and MSG?

Being a good cook and host less with the mostest will bring you love and a boyfriend, said its publisher.

Being a good cook and hostess with the mostest will bring you love and a boyfriend, said its publisher.

Pause for thought: to what extent did cookbooks like this contribute to the demise of cooking with fresh foods and nutrition in mind for many people? Dieticians estimate that a significant percentage of today’s adult Americans grew up in households where there was no home cooking.

Fortunately, as humans we live and learn.

Photos and quotes from The Seventeen Cookbook, Triangle Publications, 1964.

2 Responses to “We Live and Learn”

  1. Emily says:

    “Because they are learning to cook in a way their mother never could – as active participants in today’s food world, a world of boxed mixes, convenience foods, and zip-open packages.”
    So interesting!

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