The other day I was poking around the neighborhood charity shop and ran across a period piece that absolutely had to join my collection of vintage and historical cookbooks–particularly as it cost all of $1. Take a look at this.
It was published by Doubleday in 1965. In spite of the title, Saucepans and the Single Girl wasn't intended as a novelty. The writing is brisk and witty, and though the recipes are inevitably dated, they're eminently practical. This book was meant to serve as a practical guide for a single working woman (who is always referred to as a "girl") who needed to feed herself, the roommate it was assumed she would have, and the string of bachelors she would need to cook for until one of them knuckled under and proposed marriage.
I've been fascinated with old cookbooks and domestic guides for years. I own several linear feet of them, but most date from well before 1950. This one I find particularly striking because although it's relatively recent, the world it evokes seems as remote as that in which Eliza Action wrote Modern Cookery for Private Families in 1845.
The authors–former roomies who make it clear early on that they are both now married–make several explicit assumptions, most of them depressing.
- A woman–erm, girl–with a college degree will only find employment in the business world doing support or secretarial work. Her male classmates, however, will become junior executives.
- She will necessarily earn less than men her age. While she should be expected to be treated to dinners out, she will only be able to afford to entertain at home.
- When she marries, she will give up her career.
- Marriage is a girl's sole alternative to lonely poverty.
Unfortunately, the strange mores of our society dictate that a male may snarl and slaver over his food and come back for thirds, but let a hungry girl pick up her fork with a little honest gusto and it's, "My, but aren't we putting on a little weight?"And yet the girls don't seem to consider themselves downtrodden, trapped or otherwise limited by gender. On the contrary, they take frequent swipes at the previous generation of women–so much less liberated–who don't drink or smoke but do bake cookies and, perish the thought, knit. Poor things.
I closed the book thinking, How far we've come. And haven't.
I am extremely excited that pre-orders have just opened for two upcoming titles from Interweave Press. One of them is Knit So Fine, co-authored by my friend Carol.
That's her design on the cover. I think it's dreamy. Just like Carol.
This is the other one.
Amazon pre-orders haven't opened yet, but orders through Interweave Press have.
So I suppose I should finish writing it.