Cookbooks

Vintage Cookbook | Easy Oven Meals from Betty Crocker – 1984

I must admit, I’ve noted that the closer a cookbook is to the current era, the more normal it seems. It makes sense. Tastes change gradually after all. And, comfort food and some questionable TikTok recipes aside, the more current the recipe the higher the chance its going to fall in line with what people currently like. And so, when I started looking through this weeks vintage cookbook, Easy Oven Meals from Betty Crocker, I’d anticipated seeing an awful lot of normal-ish recipes. And I did. I also discovered, however, that just because something is relatively recent (compared to the 1930s for instance) that doesn’t mean it’s not going to have its peculiarities.

Cover of the cookbook Easy Oven Meals

You see, on the surface (literally), we have a fairly average cookbook. The cover features a mixture of recipes, all in shades or oranges and browns, arguably designed to catch the attention of as many different people as possible as they’re preparing to pay for their groceries. The color scheme continues throughout the many pictures in the book (and I do mean many- at least a third of the recipes have a picture).

Two baked apples in clear bowls, topped with nuts and raisins

Not only is the food itself largely yellow/orange/brown, but so is a large amount of the napkins/bakeware/etc. used in the photos.

A skillet of sauce covered steak, potatoes, and green beans
Steak di Napoli with Green Beans

I mean, it is an oven meals cookbook after all, but suffice to say there isn’t much in the way of green here. Towards the back is a green bean salad, but it’s a rare thing.

a baked fish fillet, french fries, and green bean salad on a blue plate
One of a handful of green recipes

This doesn’t actually surprise me too much though. This cookbook was published in 1984 after all, and from the photos I’ve seen, the autumn color palette jumped from the 70s into the 80s and lasted well into the decade. At least in day-to-day life. The dark kitchen cabinets and wood paneled walls is something I remember well.

No, I was expecting that. What starts being weird is the way that the cookbook is laid out. On the first page we see the front index, listing “oven menus featuring”, followed by a list of meats. It’s not until you start flipping through though that you realize that, yes, this is another one of those cookbooks that organize recipes into menus. Okay, that’s fine. But then you notice that the index is still listed in the corners, so you end up flipping through the cookbook only to find Baked Alaska in the beef section. It’s nothing too bizarre, but it still feels a little weird I will admit.

recipes for Baked chili Corn on the cob and Peanut Bread, listed under the heading of Pork
Recipes that, despite the listing, don’t contain a bit of pork

Now, in the unlikely scenario that you decide to cook the whole menu at once Betty Crocker was kind enough to add an oven schedule to each menu, listing when you’re supposed to put each item into the oven, as well as where it needs to go. This also, incidentally, means that each recipe chunked together on the menu all have the same bake time, which is handy I guess. As far as her flavor combinations, I have some questions though…. Ham Loaf Superb and Hot Mustard Fruits anyone?

A Menu and oven schedule for the meal including Ham Loaf Superb and Hot Mustard Fruits

And, of course, that brings us to the recipes themselves. Most of them are pretty standard, and something that I wouldn’t really blink at, but there are a few doozies here. Take a look at this selection.

The Average:

  • Hash Brown Casserole
  • Apple Crunch
  • Little Pumpkin Custards
  • Pork and Peppers
  • Savory Pot Roast with Sour Cream Gravy

The Fancy

  • Steamed Date Pudding
  • Steak Di Napoli with Green Beans
  • Sausage Bean Cassoulet
  • Almond Pilaf
  • Mint-glazed Roast Lamb

The Wait-What?

a round, one layer, Apricot-Prune Upside-down cake. Apricots and prune halves stud the top.
Apricot-Prune Upside Down Cake
  • Gingersnap Gravy (featuring cookies and meat juice. Yum!)
  • Corned Beef and Peaches
  • Baked Cabbage Slaw
  • Apricot-Prune Upside Down Cake
  • Hot Mustard Fruits (using your standard ‘prepared mustard’ i.e. the yellow hotdog stuff)

I’ve used this cookbook a few times now for the blog, but there are still a few recipes in here that I’m curious about, so I might pull it back out some time soon. Did you see anything that caught your eye?

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