Better Homes and
Gardens New Cookbook. Edited by Jan Miller, R.D.
Meredith Publishing, Des Moines, Iowa. 2006.
One of the things that I always have really liked about this cookbook, in all its editions, is that the sturdy red and white checked three ring binder made it easy to add recipes, use, and keep clean. A few years ago, shopping for a present for a friend just learning to cook, I decided against buying the current edition because it was a standard trade paperback. I'm pleased to see that the latest edition, the fourteenth from 2006, has plastic a comb binding. It's not as practical as the binder, since you can't easily add notes or recipes, but it's better than the conventional paperback in terms of actually using the cookbook in the kitchen. I note from the ISBN data that it's available in trade and ring-bound as well.
It's terribly interesting to look at multiple editions of a a cookbook that was first published in 1930. I'm quite curious about the very early versions; I've written about the 1968 edition here, and I'm also familiar with the edition published in the early 1980s. The first difference I see in this version, which boasts that it has 800 new recipes, 500 new color photos, and a total of 1400 recipes, is that each recipe has a nutritional breakdown in terms of a single serving, the "Daily Values," and the equivalent value in food exchanges. Other changes include rating the recipes in terms of difficulty, and nutrition, with color coded labels like "Easy," "Fast" and "Low Fat." There's still a lot of reliance on packaged foods, though there are more vegetarian and ethnic recipes. There are lots of one-dish and casserole recipes, and suggestions for barbequeing and microwaving food.
In terms of actual recipes, there's not a lot that I recognize in this edition, though there are still lots of "helps" and appendices, there's more that's very very different. First, there's an assumption that the cook has a lot of appliances; not only a mixer, but a Cuisinart or food processor, a bread machine, an ice cream maker, a juicer, an electric coffee maker, and even an espresso/cappuccino machine. More than anything else, this edition reminds me of Bon Appetit magazine from the early 1980s. Lots of "home" versions of recipes you might see on a slightly upscale restaurant menu. Lots of occasionally pretentious advice about what to serve with what; the wine section is enough to scare away anyone who wants to just wants a bottle of table wine to serve with dinner.
This is a different kind of cookbook, really, from its predecessors. It's a cook book for the upwardly mobile yuppie. For all the careful attention to presentation and food-labeling, I didn't actually find anything I wanted to try. It's not that it's a bad cookbook— it emphatically is not, but it's made cooking into work, rather than something you can just do and enjoy.