Friday, February 08, 2008

Books Old and New

Old Book

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.

Old Book

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.

For example:
  • 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.
To my mind, the most fascinating chapter is "Pandora's Box," one of the few not concerned with cooking for dates. It's about food to be shared exclusively with groups of other women. Only when men are absent, say the authors, can women truly relax and enjoy their food:
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.

New Books

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.

Her Book

That's her design on the cover. I think it's dreamy. Just like Carol.

This is the other one.

My Book

Amazon pre-orders haven't opened yet, but orders through Interweave Press have.

So I suppose I should finish writing it.

86 comments:

Tricotchick said...

Old book: Excellent find, Franklin. Even though the language makes me cringe, it is a neat snapshot of a particular time. I'm sure there were enlightened women during that timeframe who also cringed at language like that.

And I love the new books you posted. Looking forward especially to yours!

KiltedScott said...

One of the current phenomena that flumoxes me is the return of women 18-30 referring to themselves as 'girls'. One theory a friend posited is that the while younger women can take for granted many freedoms fought for by their mothers and grandmothers, they also face such social pressure to be young and attractive that it's better to be a girl than a woman (which means one's past it). And horrors, if you call someone 'Mam' you'll do irrepairable damage to their psyche.

Diana said...

Whoo hoo! I've reserved my copy of your book, and I'm already giggling at the front cover.

Vivienne said...

It would make an interesting comparison with Katherine Whitehorn's 'Cooking in a Bedsit' of about the same date, which was my great standby when I shared four gas rings with 11 other people in my second and third years at university.

It isn't just my age-group calling themselves girls (I'm 28). One of my least favourite colleagues ever insisted on referring to the entire office as "girlies". I was the only one under 35, and she was in her early 50s. Myself, I was enormously flattered the first time I was called "Madam" in a shop (Liberty, in London, aged 21), but I spent most of my adolescence and early 20s longing to be 30, and a real grown up at last.

Anonymous said...

I was there -- but we didn't really know any better. Thank everything that customs have changed. And knitting is proud.

Stacy said...

So when you finally come south for a visit, should we consider it a book signing tour or a campaign stop for Dolores' 2008 bid for the Presidency? We would love to serve as Texas campaign headquarters in case there is a need. I have already ordered t-shirts for all store employees - that would be me.

DutchJan said...

Looks funny and I really want to have it on my bookshelve so I would love to order 1, but how do we solve the problem from a signed copy??

christine (threedogknits) said...

Congratulations, Franklin! I'm revserving my copy of your book today.

Laura said...

Have you seen the book "The Modern Encyclopedia of Sewing"? Your old book reminded me of it. I have a copy...it's from the 1940's I believe. It was my grandmother's, and she could only sew on buttons or hem a pair of pants. I am a liberated woman, being the sole financial support of my husband and child, and would love to be a SAHM (stay at home mom). I am always amazed at the assumptions made during that time about women and their capacities. I have several SAHM friends, and they wouldn't be caught dead sewing or knitting, and can cook only because they have to! It's rarely about enjoyment these days, and all about necessity. They have lost the art of homemaking (and yes, there is an art involved), and you're right, we have come so far and yet are still so far behind.

Meredith said...

The cover of your book cracks me up! I can't wait until the book is out.

A thought on woman vs. girl: I think part of the reason young women (and at 24, I am one) sometimes think of themselves as girls is that it's less stressful. We know how to be girls, after all, since it's what we've done our whole lives, but learning to be women is a lot of work. I think another part of it has to do with the men in the same age bracket. It seems to me to be a gross unfairness to expect women to become (and consider themselves) women after high school or college, when we (society) let men stay boys into their thirties.

chemgrrl said...

Holy crap. That does look awfully official. Are you hyperventilating yet? I would be.

P.S. Congrats. :)

Donna said...

I buy very few knitting books without patterns in them; I'm so looking forward to making an exception for yours.

tracey in michigan said...

it itches.... love it- cannot wait clicking to pre-order;)

marcybee said...

Saucepans and the Single Girl confirms my suspicion that the early 60s were, in fact, the nadir of civilization. It's no wonder that Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton did themselves in, and that those of us who were observant but slightly younger at the time grew into raging, hairy-legged feminists . . . Thanks for your affirmation that yes, it really was as bad as I remember.

Julie said...

Yes, hurry up and finish writing your book; I can't wait to get my mitts on it!

Maggie said...

The book looks amazing! I can't wait to preorder it.

Saralyn said...

Super-congratulations! Your book is already making me laugh. I'll be looking forward to reading the rest. In other words, no matter how tempting it may be in all that crazy book-deadline pressure, don't give up writing. You bring us all happiness. Best of luck with finishing the book.

Pam said...

Sewing teacher at adult ed calls us all girls. Some of us are young enough that it applies, many of us are old enough to be grandmothers. On a different note, have you seen the recommendation of your blog in the newest SELVEDGE magazine? page 81 or 82.

Andrea R said...

I also collect old cookbooks, and have an early 60's home economic text which is hysterical. Oddly enough, I have a needlework book form the 40's (it was my grandmother's) with extensive knitting bits in it, even though I don't knit. Yeah, I'm in the "renegade quilter" demographic you have. :D

Mary said...

Soooo very cool to see your book cover! That is exciting. My best to you as you finish it up. Very cool.

As for the girls... man, they must have contracted my father to write those points you list about women with a college education. My Dad said the same to me when I was 18 and told me therefore he wasn't going to bother sending me to college. Fine. I went anyway, and I now have a PhD. And of course, I knit... alot. I'm glad that book is on your shelf and not mine (for posterity's sake). I would probably have burned it by now -- and I value books big time.

nosenabook said...

hahaha yes please finish writing it, the sooner the better, only, you know, no pressure

Former Co-Worker Rebecca said...

Congratulations on your book, Franklin!

katrog said...

I am so looking forward to both of the new books--even though neither of them seems to offer a "light-hearted leap from filing cabinets to flambe."

Thanks for the trip down memory lane--I love vintage cookbooks, too--by the time a couple of years had passed from 1965, those gals were gone, replaced by all manner of streaming-haired earthgoddesses growing their own beansprouts. I was one of the latter, and didn't get my flambe moment until much later.

Kathleen

Wendelene said...

I've never ordered a book before it was actually written, but this was a no brainer. Gotta Have It!

Maybe you can send Dolores and the sock yarn out on the campaign trail so you can get the peace and quiet you need to finish.

la takahashi said...

I have a book entitled "Always ask a man." It was published in the 50's. It is also both funny and sad.

Congratulations on the book, Franklin. I am looking forward to ordering it from Interweave. :o)

Karen said...

Hey, may I cheer you up regarding how far we have come? I a 40 year old lady carpenter/knitter/excellent cook/very hot mama if I do say so myself. I love a good martini, or a cold beer while I'm baking cookies, thank you and while I earn more money than most of the men I know, I prefer to entertain at home. I am going now to order both those books. Thank you for all you do , Franklin.

MX said...

I can't wait to get my hands on your book. Hurry!

Big Alice said...

Congratulations!

LaurieM said...

How haven't we come so far? I'm the primary breadwinner for my family. I bring home twice as much as my husband does, plus benefits. He works a job in construction and takes care of the house, kids and meals during the week.

The best part in my mind, is that we do what works for us. We are each free to chose what we like and are not hampered by an artificial criteria of what is appropriate for our gender.

amy said...

Oh YAY for you, Franklin!! How exciting!! I want to know, too--can we preorder a signed copy? Or will you be hitting the weary book-signing trail?

And I might try to formulate an intelligent response to the girl/woman/gender role discussion, but the dryer just buzzed and I have to hurry up and get the sheets back on the beds before cooking dinner for the kids.

Jeanne said...

OMG, your book! YAY! Congratulations!

Re: old cookbook--of course they are girls. They are not allowed to become a woman until their wedding night. *hurl*

Sue said...

That is hysterical, and some how demoralizing at the sam time.

SheepLass said...

Congratulations on the book! I can't wait to get my hands (hooves?) on a copy, since it was all those adorable sheep illustrations that got me here in the first place. :)

Sarah said...

I love the cover for you're book, awesomeness abounds.

Quatrefoil said...

I love the old cookbooks too. I have the (Australian) Women's Day Busy Woman's Cookbook, which include such gems as 'fish au sauce vert' which involves heating up a jar of mayonaise with a packet of frozen spinach and dumping the lot on a packet of fish fingers. I also have one from the 1960s which is all about dinner parties - the bachelorette's dinner party involves white wine for the ladies and red wine for the men, and the cigarettes laid out in fans on the table for consumption between courses.

Catherine said...

Those old cookbooks are always quite interesting. My favorite cookbook as a child was a Charlie Brown Cook book for kids. I think it had directions on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Classic.

Speaking of old books, have you ever gone to Bookman's Alley in Evanston? It's right off Church St and Orrington (right by the Davis Street purple line L stop). If you've yet to go, I suggest it. Set aside an afternoon, you'll soon find yourself lost amid all the fantastic books.

Kristen said...

ACK! ACK! ACK! Your book! Woo-hoo!

On a sour note: "How far we've come. And haven't." You said it, sister! {sigh} One of my favorite old cookbook finds (church basement sale) is Mrs. Seely's Cook Book: A Manual of French and American Cookery with Chapters on Domestic Servants, Their Rights and Duties, and Many Other Details of Household Management. It was published in 1902 and the photographs of appropriate uniforms are especially, um, enlightening.

Regarding "girl": I'm 37 and my friends and I use it, but it is always ironic. We use "chick" in the same way. Maybe it's become one of those words that when used self-referentially it's fine, but if a member of the opposite sex used it with any seriousness you'd deck him?

Darci said...

Book...book...book...we want the book. I am so excited. I have preordered.

Lyda said...

Congrats on the book! Please come to Southern California for a booksigning! Um, you know, once you finish writing it.

That old book is a hoot. I have two great old cookbooks by Peg Bracken, "The I Hate to Cook Book" and a follow-up volume. Very funny and plenty of useful recipes. I think they are from the 70s.

Gayle said...

OMG - I'm so jealous of your old book find. I also have an affinity for literature - books and magazines that were written for an earlier audience and the post-war, pre-60s sexual revolution has some of the best stuff!

Congratulations on your book! I am so happy for you.

Bobbi said...

Yippee!!! This book thing is kind of like pregnancy...seeing the cover is like the obvious belly growth...seeing it makes it more and more real each day.
I'm sure that there will also be "labor pains". And hopefully, just like childbirth, you'll forget the pain, relish the joy/satisfaction and want to do it all over again!

Pixiepurls said...

I listened to that speech the Romney guy gave about stepping down, all his little quips about the sanctity of marriage, and how it belong in the constitution that it be a man and a women, I wanted to take a freakin tire iron to the guys head. It's called freedom, asshole!!

Susan said...

I also love vintage cookbooks. I have oe (my favorite) called "Pies Men Like" it features recipes for "20 pies men like best" among others. God forbid a woman enjoy pie!

Re: girls - it doesn't bother me nearly as much as the fact that all of my single female friends (who are hovering on either side of 30) refer to potential dates as "boys." Good god, woman, if he hasn't grown up by now, he's not worth your time! But maybe my perspective is different, since I have two young kids and really, really appreciate that my husband is a grown-up :-)

Your book looks great! I'll probably wait 'till it's in my LYS, but I'm definitely getting it!

Anonymous said...

In the 50s we were told to take off our aprons, freshen our lipstick, comb our hair, neaten up the kids and house and meet our husband (and provider) at the door with a kiss, his slippers and a drink and don't disturb him while he unwinds from his stressful day. Of course, in exchange for this we would be 'taken care of' for the rest of our life. Imagine my surprise when I had to go to work in the 70s with no prior experience. I must admit, I have gotten rather uppity in my old age.
Joan in Reno

anne marie in philly said...

OMG OMG OMG, it's alive, IT'S ALIVE!

can't wait to pre-order my copy.

now about that signature... ;-)

Gingerlr said...

Old books - I love them and have a copy of a manners book from the turn of the century. The best parts describes on how to attract a mate. Bathing is good, you should bath at least once a week. Women - Brushing teeth and keeping the bugs out of your hair is also a good way of catching a husband. Let your father make the final decision of a husband for you since father does knows best. And men - women love a man in uniform so dress yourself up in one. Radical ideas. *grin*

Sue J said...

I can't wait to hold a copy of your book in my hands!
Will even stop knitting long enough to read it!

knitnzu said...

I so want to leap from my filing cabinets in my office to flambe... maybe this should decorate my walls...

Jennu said...

Squee!!!!!

mljan said...

Love the cookbook. I can hear Tom Jones(?) now, singing, "Hey, little girl, comb your hair, fix your makeup, soon he will open the door..."
And Helen Gurley-Brown advising girls to get up early and fix the hair and makeup before "he" wakes up and sees you (eek!) au natural...,
Fun times.

Susan said...

Your 'panic attack' label made me smile. Don't worry, Franklin. It's going to be all right. All the non-campers and unwired will finally have a chance to find out how wonderful you are. We've known it for years.

Wishing Interweave boffo revenues and high production values, and wishing you ever-increasing advances and royalties.

marie in florida said...

that is my favorite Franklin cartoon, ever.

Jessica said...

Congratulations again. The itchy lamb is my favorite. Can we get him on a coffee mug in your Cafe Press shop? My Delores mug met a tragic end when she was dropped in the gutter (how apropos!) while getting out of the car.

cedar said...

"It Itches" that was laugh out loud hysterical....thanks...

lizbon said...

Oh my gawd, that book is CHILLING. Specifically, in how little has changed; under a veil of egalitarianism, things are still much like that.

Sean said...

I'll definitely stock the shelves with it.

Carol said...

Congratulations! That's two good things to look forward to! Who's going to keep an eye on Dolores while you're on tour?

Riin said...

Interesting. Published in 1965. The year I was born. Sort of a time capsule of my birth year.

I never have been one for collecting cookbooks, since they usually don't contain more than one or two recipes I'd ever want to make, but I hadn't considered them as anthropological studies. But...what a horrible time. I'm glad I progressed, in my own way. While I still earn less than most men my age, and less than most women my age for that matter, I can afford to live a modest life on my own, which is important to me. I do not want a roommate, and I do not want to ever get married again. My life is my own. I can be as uppity and eccentric as I want.

I'm very much looking forward to your book. Yes, you probably should finish writing it.

FiberQat said...

I inherited a number of cookbooks from my mother and aunt, including Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' "Cross Creek Cookery", which is filled with all sorts of southern country recipes. I love going through the pamphlets that they gathered too for all sorts of things from Jell-O to how to make your wartime meat ration stretch to feed 4.

You have a cover. Squeeel!

Bobita said...

I just had to google the author with a name like Jinx. Turns out there's a website -
www.saucepansandthesinglegirl.com
and Jinx now calls herself a "broad." Somehow I figured that.

I'm getting Franklin's book instead and reserving the shelf space for his future volumes.

mehitabel said...

Old book: welcome to my world! My kids thought I was mean to rant and rave about how awful the 50's were--but they were. I wasn't supposed to go to college--"cause girls just get married and it's a waste"--but I did anyway. What's pathetic is my daughter's MIL who thinks it's awful that she's going back to work now that she has a baby. Talk about stuck in the 60's... and she's a lot younger than I am! (I'm the enabler--I'm going to babysit!)

=Tamar said...

Yee hah! It's a book! I begins to wait for it to show up in the stores.

ColorJoy LynnH said...

We have a number of those. I like "Miss Fluffy's Rice Cookbook," "Desserts Men Love" and several early-40s 4H bread cookbooks. The earliest one has the most disgusting photo of someone with an entire loaf's worth of dough on her wooden spoon above her mixing bowl, which is not on a table but being held with her other hand/arm.

My fave booklet, though, is not a cookbook. "Bugs, and How to Kill 'em." The first company to bring DDT in to the home environment. Lovely! Front cover is a lady in an apron with a spray can. Hmmm.

Helen Cowans said...

You are SO right that attitdues to (and from) women) have come so far and yet haven't at the same time.

I LOVE the "It Itches" cartoon! Fabulous :)

Meribeth said...

Your book is a must! Marvelous title and fantastic cartoon. Franklin, you are amazing.

I'm a tad hungover so this will be blunt. oops, girls aren't supposed to be hungover or blunt. But I'm not a girl, so there. I see a lot of that 50s and 60s mind think in my area. Yes we can look back and think how great it was until the reality hits. IF you went to college, you went to get a Mrs. degree. A girl was never ever to show she was smarter than her date. Employment classifieds were "Men Only" or "Women Only" Womens work was a definate..taking care of house, kids, husband, charity work, church, and if the girl worked outside the home it was clerical, library, teach, or working in a store. If the girl was married to an abuser, it was her fault that she was beaten, or the kids fault they were hit. The police would not get involved. Sexual battery was shoved under the rug..it was her fault. Girls had an allowance for the household needs. Choice was limited to what to have for dinner.
I see the 60s used as a template in the area I live in. Imagine, Martha Stewart crossed with Donna Reed. Pearls on to go get groceries. Make-up and hair perfect. And yes, even admitting that they get up early so they can look presentable when their husbands get up..I am serious. Most have degrees, but their professional skills have rusted because they are Uber-Moms. With 50% of the marriages ending in divorce, these women are going to have a bad surprise later on. Education/skills is an insurance policy. A friend of mine is in her early 60s, she was the Donna Reed that probably had that book, and was the typical wife of that time. Now the only thing she has to her name is a dog. She rents a room, and for income she is a pet sitter. That period of time was a Lie.
Women are girls who refuse to let the pressures of "society" make them into something the are not nor want to be. They have chosen their own path and are willing to stand up for it. Hairy legs and all.

Roxie said...

I got some of my best recipes out of that cookbook. The rumballs are lethal.

Will Dolores offer recipes in your new book?

Nadya said...

I collect old cookbooks, and have both this one and it's successor "How to "Keep Him After You've Caught Him" - full of useful tips of how to nurture the stressed out junior executive.
I just found out that in 2006 the original authors re-released Saucepans with their own amused editorial comments - and their web site talks about their later business endeavors.
http://www.saucepansandthesinglegirl.com/

Cheri said...

Several years ago my mother in law gave me her well loved 1943 edition of "The Joy of Cooking". My sister gave me a reprint of the original "Fannie Farmer". I love old cookbooks. You found a true treasure.

I am so looking forward to your new book!!

DeanB said...

Are you aware that sometime around then there was a book _Sex and the Single Girl_, I think it was by Helen Gurley Brown, that was one of the early public suggestions that maybe single women could have a sex life? Very controversial at a time when contraception was illegal in some states. Judging from the title, I bet that cookbook was published soon after that.

Laurie said...

Now is the title of your book:

"It Itches": A Stash of Knitting Cartoons

OR

A Stash of Knitting Cartoons: "It Itches"

OR A Stash of Knitting Cartoons

I ask because a book entitled "It Itches" could get some interesting shelf space in bookstores -- and even some unusual hits in search engines!

Anonymous said...

Hey! The Phoenix! There's a name I haven't heard in a while. Was it insanely fun to work there?

Linda said...

So exciting to see your lovely cartoons going into print!

MonicaPDX said...

Hurray, a cover! And pre-ordering! I'm so looking forward to it, Franklin. Congrats, and remember, nothing about the book business could be nearly as terrifying as Dolores on the campaign trial. Um. Maybe that wasn't as reassuring as I thought it would be...

I both giggled and sighed over the cookbook. Although more than the social aspects, what I find unreal are the recipes from womens' magazines. The cookbooks, at least, usually have edible recipes. The magazines? The majority of the recipes are the most gawdawful concoctions you'd ever want to see. Either they're full of ingredients only a chef would have on hand (and your average kid would refuse to eat); or they're something that would make a wolverine sick. Funny thing is, I occasionally see a recipe from a woman's mag of the 60's, and one from today...and except for ingredients, nothing much has changed. It's still food I can't imagine a real person making, much less eating!

MonicaPDX said...

"Maybe that wasn't as reassuring as I thought it would be..."

Especially since I wrote "campaign trial." Talk about a statement of ominous foreshadowing, there! Trail; I mean trail!

dragon knitter said...

here's a giggle for ya. i was at my favorite LYS, which had just reopened, after moving, and some friends from out of town were there. One lady, who hadn't been there before, stared at my shirt, and asked me where i got it. I told her i'd gotten it from your cafe-press shop, and the lady who i did know laughed out loud, and explained. She works for the Department of Corrections in Iowa. Guess which t-shirt i was wearing, lol.

cb said...

Hi Franklin -

Congratulations on your book - it looks great.

I've got a girls' guide to driving of similar vintage - its discussion of the relationship between female emotion and (lack of) driving ability is fascinating.

Kate said...

I collect girls school stories from Great Britain, circa 1930-1945. The quotes from your book could be for the office girls (yes, they too were 'girls') of this era too. How depressing.

bronchitikat said...

I was reminded of "Cooking in a Bedsit" too, & used it, along with Jocasta Innes "The Pauper's Cookbook" for most of my Student life. The PC has proved extremely useful in following years too.

BTW - with the rise in juvenile deliquency, maybe we need more Stay At Home Mums (I was one). Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world, & you don't get time off!

Porpoise said...

My mother had that cookbook when she first lived on her own while going to nursing school. I think her aunt gave it to her. She still cooked recipes from it while I was growing up, while working full time. She was pretty disgusted by the tone of it as I recalled, but there's some yummy stuff in there.

Congratulations on your book. I'm looking forward to it!

Mary said...

You have a cover! How COOL!

One of the advantages of working at a university is that I now have friends who are way younger than me -- chemical and mechanical engineers, technical writers, software engineers, foresters.

Once in a while I regale them with tales of the old days. And tell them that-- just in their lifetime, we've come a long way.

Deborah C. said...

Must. Have. The. Book! I'm going to have to go pre-order...

Flavaknits said...

Aren't you glad your a man!
If I'd lived back then (okay , okay, I was born then , but unaware of sexism!! lol) I would have been a veritable spinster (and knitter , perhaps a little sewing... I digress!)

Janet said...

Sigh - Saucepans and the Single Girl - that was me. And I really needed that book.

Seanna Lea said...

Yeah books! I was working at Wellesley when an old book similar to that one (from before 1920 I believe) was reprinted in Readers Digest. I spent an entire summer fielding requests for this book, because we had a copy in the library. We would read parts of it aloud and cringe.

Jodith said...

The funny thing is that these days, many administrative support jobs are actually asking for a bachelors degree *laughs*.

My how things change.

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