Throwback: 10 Lessons from 55-Year-Old Betty Crocker's Dinner for Two Cookbook

Categories: Cookbook Corner

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All images from Betty Crocker's Dinner for Two Cookbook, General Mills, 1958
A lot has happened since Betty Crocker published her Dinner for Two cookbook in 1958.
Betty Crocker never actually existed in flesh-and-blood form, but long before she started churning out boxed cake mixes and frostings, she was used for an ad campaign for Gold Medal flour in 1921. Shortly thereafter, the company used her name to answer all manner of baking questions posed by women around the country and even gave her a radio show.

She went on to publish several cookbooks, including The Betty Crocker Cookbook, which debuted in 1950 and remains in print to this day. Lesser known is Betty Crocker's Dinner for Two, published in 1958, which is tailor-made to city-living whether you're in a couple or not; recipes are simple, easy to source, and short, and they make only enough food for two people. So if you're single, you'll have some leftovers; if you live with another, it's just enough for one meal.

But that's not to say the book isn't hilariously dated (although the illustrations by Charles Harper remain fantastic). And despite sweeping changes in how we think about ingredients, cooking and gender roles, there is still plenty that rings true in Crocker's classic take on cooking.

Below, graphic wisdom and wackiness from Ms. Crocker herself.

What every cook should know:

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If you want to have your friends saying "She's a wonderful cook," Crocker advises knowing how to prepare coffee, biscuits, gravy, pie and cake, and also green salad, broiled steak, hamburgers, fried chicken, roast pork, and mashed potatoes.

And how about that cake?

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Crocker suggests a "Brown Beauty Cake." Bring it to the next Box Social you have scheduled and you'll be a star... Want the recipe? Take the ingredients next to the picture and prepare as follows:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8" square pan. Stir boiling water and chocolate together until chocolate melts. Cool. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. Stir in chocolate mixture. Add shortening. Beat for 1 minute, medium speed on your mixer, or 150 strokes by hand. Add remaining ingredients. Beat 1 more minute. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 35-40 minutes until cake tests done. Cool and frost.

Maybe you'd like to bake that cake for a special occasion? Crocker has advice on those, too:

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For birthdays, anniversaries and celebratory dinners, Crocker thinks it best to "Use you best table linen, china, and silver. Center the table with an arrangement, floral or otherwise, appropriate to the day-- with candlelight for a happy glow over all." You know, make it special; borrow your man's hammer-and-nails and tack up a "Happy Anniversary" sign.

Click through to the next page for what to do when company shows up.


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3 comments
Paul Dutra
Paul Dutra

I want it just for the Harper cover

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