Cleaning Out the Basement–Cook Young


Cook Young by Clementine Paddleford, 1966 Pocket Books Inc., paperback, 124 pages

Even as I live without a basement, somehow the cleaning continues. I actually came across this book at the St. John’s Opportunity Shop, (my own little slice of heaven).

And I couldn’t resist it, for a number of reasons.

First, I love when letter forms are used as a design feature. And here, interspersed with simple drawings, the whole thing feels friendly and fresh.

I also love that almost every assertion that food writer Clementine Paddleford makes in her introduction has been  turned on its head–it’s a very clear indication of how our dining and cooking has changed.

In 1965, Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, coined the termed youthquake, describing how teenagers were dominating culture, epitomized by Twiggy, Edie Sedgewick, and Mary Quant. They were fashion and art icons, with the media presence of maybe a Rachel Ray or Nigella Lawson.

With this book, published in 1966, Paddleford was just trying to keep up. And she says so in her introduction, “Now there is a young revolt in the ways of cooking…”.

She writes, “Cooking from ‘scratch’ is no longer the brag thing.” So most of the recipes are can-opener and cake mix reliant. Even something as fancy as Chicken Pate in Aspic calls for a can of chicken spread–and I’m not sure what that is. Even the grandmothers were cooking young, using short-cut ingredients. Let’s just say, gelatin figures–holding everything together like a culinary girdle.

But, as Paddleford points out, “remember, 25 percent of married women go to work…”. That percentage has more than doubled, and perversely so has our attention to artisan foods–either making elaborate pickles and presentations at home–or sourcing organic and hand-made ingredients.

And in Paddleford’s book, there’s still the vague shadow of household help–in the form of someone to cook and serve dinner. The young hostess, writes Paddleford, does her own cooking and serving, coming “to the table gay and relaxed, as if she never had traffic with the kitchen range.” We have household help–but now it’s grocery delivery, meal kits, and online errand runners.

As for the recipes, I could be snide and point out the number of gelatin salads, the way recipes are credited to Mrs. Wife of So-and-So, and the number of recipes tagged “surprise,” (and I just have been). Let me say that no Middle Easterner would recognize Syrian Beet Salad made with a can of julienne beets, a package of lemon jello, and a 1/4 cup of sugar.

The funny thing is, in this cooking young book, there is no assumption that kids can or should be able to cook. Whereas today, Anthony Bourdain has pointed out that chefs are the new rock stars, and every mommy blogger worth her laptop is getting the kids to stir and measure as a teaching tool, while obsessing that the kids are eating healthy. Get me a box of jello!


About Appetite for Books

read, cook, eat, repeat
This entry was posted in cleaning out the basement, cultural, design, history, kids and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s