Someone sent me a Plugger cartoon this past week. It was a lady Plugger, wearing an apron and stirring something in a bowl. The caption underneath said: “You’re a Plugger if you’re still using the Good Housekeeping Cookbook you got as a wedding present in 1966.”
My first thought was, “That’s me,” although my first wedding was in 1967 not 1966. And the cookbook in question, the one my mother gave me, was actually the Betty Crocker one rather than Good Housekeeping.
All these years later, it’s tattered and torn, of course, and some of the pages are ragged and food stained, but I still use it, and I’ll be using it again this year in the lead up to Thanksgiving.
My mother, Evie Busk, made terrific pumpkin pies, and so do I—because I use the same recipe—the one from the Betty Crocker Cookbook. It has just the right amount of spices, which is to say, not too much of anything.
I’ll be the first to admit that I cheat. When I make pies, I come up with the filling, but the truth is, when it comes to crusts, I use Pillsbury premade ones fresh from the grocery store. As long as the filling is good, no one has the slightest idea that I didn’t make the pie crust.
But right now, I’d like to talk about how that cookbook came to be in my possession. Evie Busk was nothing if not thrifty, and she saved everything. She saved buttons and rags—which she tore into strips, sewed together, and then shipped rolls of sewed together strips to a lady who wove them into rag rugs. (By the way, I hated shaking those rag rugs when it came to doing Saturday morning chores.)
Evie did her major grocery shopping at Safeway on Wednesdays because that was double stamp day. When it came to Gold Bond Stamps, she was dead serious. The same held true for Betty Crocker coupons from cereal boxes and bags of flour. With seven kids to feed, trust me, there were lots of cereal boxes coming and going, and the coupons from those went into the bottom of the silverware drawer, accumulating until there were enough of them to order something from the Betty Crocker Catalog.
That’s where my cookbook came from as well as my sisters’ —from those coupons. Shortly after I married my first husband, my mother gifted us with my first set of Betty Crocker Oneida Stainless flatware. Those disappeared somewhere in the course of my moves back and forth between Arizona and Washington State.
When Bill and I got married in 1985, Evie presented us with service for twelve. When we bought the place in Tucson in 2001, like mother like daughter, I used my own Betty Crocker coupons to purchase another service for twelve in the same pattern.
Now we have service for 24 which is really handy when holidays come around because the barebones family dinner head count ends up being seventeen. For most of my time on this planet almost every bite of food has come to me via the Betty Crocker stainless steel flatware purchased with Betty Crocker coupons.
Evie Busk has been gone since 2005, but she’s with us in our home and hearts every time we sit down to eat a meal.
So thank you Evie, and thanks to Betty Crocker, too.
You’ve made every meal a celebration.
PS. Hours after writing this, I remembered a poem from After the Fire. It’s something I wrote in the early eighties when I was at my lowest ebb and when I only did my grocery shopping on double stamp days. It’s called The Collector.
I like the green ones best.
I count them up as any miser would
And watch them grow with satisfaction,
For they are the tangible symbol
Of what is processed here –
Toilet paper, lettuce, pork and beans.
The taxes must be paid in cash.
God knows there’s precious little of that.
Some say trading stamps are going out of style.
I’ll collect them till I die.
At least it’s something I do well.
Yes, Evie, neither one of us knew it at the time, but I really was paying attention.