My entire life has been centered on the kitchen. As a very young child, about eight or nine years old,, my mother turned me loose in the kitchen – this would have been our house on Sutter Street where my parents bought their first home of their own.

I really didn’t appreciate the enormity of this gesture until I was in high school at Mother of Mercy and I discovered that most of my girlfriends had mothers who never allowed them free reign in the kitchen.

The first thing I attempted to make were muffins. I didn’t listen to my mother’s admonition to leave the bowl on the kitchen table. No, I wanted to hold the bowl in the crook of my arm–I think I saw that in a magazine ad–while I mixed the batter. Well, I dropped the yellow Pyrex bowl on the kitchen floor, shattering the bowl and the batter. I think it took me about a year to buy my mother another set of Pyrex bowls (You couldn’t buy just one bowl–you had to buy the entire set at a 5 & 10 cent store which I think might have cost $2.98.

Undaunted, I would go through my mother’s Ida Bailey Allen cookbook–the only cookbook she owned at the time, and I would search through recipes looking for a recipe that happened to contain the same ingredients we had in the pantry. This was in the 1940s and you didn’t go to the grocery store for ingredients–the list of ingredients had to match whatever was in our pantry.

I still have that batter-stained cookbook with some of the pages coming loose from the binding. I’ve since found a nice pristine copy of Ida Bailey Allen’s Service cookbook but it doesn’t evoke the same emotions that I get from my mother’s Service cookbook.

I had two childhood girlfriends, Patty and Carol Sue, but my mother always worked so the three of us used my mother’s kitchen to experiment in. I had two younger brothers who would sit on the back steps and eat up any of our mistakes–burnt cookies, whatever. I got into more than one heated discussion about the merits of cooked frosting versus “raw”–since it was my mother’s kitchen I won most of those arguments–besides, it was my younger brothers who were eating up our mistakes.

I was about the same age when I discovered you could send away for a lot of free recipe booklets. Postcards were a penny each–if you had ten cents you could buy ten penny post cards.

Free recipe booklets were advertised on the backs of boxes and cans, such as Hershey’s cocoa. I began sending away for free recipe booklets and soon had a shoebox full of recipe booklets from Calumet and Quaker Oats

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