I have my grandma's copy of the Betty Crocker Cookbook. This particular one is copyrighted about a decade before I was born, and it is literally falling apart. The front cover is long gone, many of the pages have come loose, and at least one page of the index is simply gone. It's amusing sometimes to look through the recipes and note how dated they are; most of the main dishes are meat-based and there is a rather large number of gelatin salads featured.
The book is divided into categories like "Main Dishes," "Salads," and so on, but mostly, I use it for desserts, and in the 1975 Betty Crocker Cookbook, desserts abound! There are separate chapters for "Cakes and Frostings," "Cookies and Candies," "Pies," and finally, "Desserts." Lest you think the first three didn't cover the "dessert" category, you would be forgetting such classics as "Grapes and Pineapple in Sour Cream" (pretty much what it sounds like), "Captivating Canteloupe" (in which you halve a cantaloupe, scoop out the seeds, and fill the cavity with cream cheese, canned sweet cherries, lemon peel and almonds) and "Strawberry Shortcake." The latter is actually a fantastic recipe and I make it as many times as I can in early summer when strawberries are in season.
In all seriousness, I do actually consult Ms. Crocker more often than not when I want to bake a simple pie or cake. The recipes in there are tried-and-true, basic, no frills, no funny ingredients (mostly), and the instructions are straightforward and easy to follow. This morning at the farmers' market I went by an apple vendor and decided to buy some tart apples and make a pie. When I got home, I got out my trusty Betty Crocker Cookbook, flipped - carefully, so as not to lose any more pages - to the "Pies" section, and found the standard pastry recipe for a 2-crust 9" pie. I've done this dozens of times, but never before had I stopped to read the introduction to the pie section. It is as follows:
What's the American man's favorite dessert? Most people would agree - it's pie. And heading the list is apple pie. Followed closely by cherry pie and peach pie and lemon meringue and a lot of others. If you care about pleasing a man - bake a pie. But make sure it's a perfect pie...
You might think I would have been infuriated by this, but I wasn't. More than anything, I was amused. Then I had to email Stuart about it, during which he expressed both his enthusiasm about the promise of apple pie (I make pie, like, twice a year, so it is a rarity to be celebrated), and then admitted that he must not be an all-American man since apple pie isn't his very favorite dessert. Would he be less of a man if he declared flan to be his favorite, he wondered? The conversation got even sillier from there...
Anyway. We have to remember that these are words from 40+ years ago, after all, and even if our society has a ways to go in terms of gender equality at home and in the workplace, you're not likely to find the phrase, "If you want to please a man, bake a pie!" in many bestselling cookbooks these days, especially followed up with that ominous qualifier: "Make sure it's a perfect pie." I mean, can you imagine Mark Bittman writing that in his next How to Cook Everything?
Here's the truth of the matter. I totally baked that apple pie to please. Mostly, I made it to please myself. I happen to love apple pie and today I had the time to make one. But the rest of my family will love it too, and I had all of us - me, my husband, our kids - in mind when I sliced the apples and rolled out the pastry and slid the whole thing in the oven. We will enjoy it together, and if I prompt the kids they might even thank me for making it (I'm not above that.)