Road Trip!

Sure, I took a day off yesterday.   My daughter got engaged recently and we drove 100 miles to get an in-person glimpse of her ring.  We often meet a little more than half-way (for us) for lunch.  It was fun!  And on the way back we decided to drive through a little town we had never visited before.  You may know the kind of town I’m talking about.   If  you make a fairly regular long trip, you might pass by the exit signs for such a town on the highway time and time again. It is just a generic landmark on your long trip.  Alta Vista VA was one of those for us. About ten years ago I used to drive that road every week; I did that for four years.   Even now, we still make the trip several times a year.  This trip, on a whim, we decided to make the side trip … and actually TAKE the Alta Vista exit for once.

It’s a small town with a quaint downtown section.   We didn’t really explore the town too much after we saw the Smith Building Mercantile window display.  We saw old stuff and we stopped.

It is a bit of a combination antique store/flea market/thrift store.  Portions of the store are divided like booths.  The basement is devoted to books and that is where I ended up fairly quickly.   The section devoted to cookbooks was quite an eclectic mix … well, it was mostly cookbooks.  They seem a bit overwhelmed in their attempts at organization.  It took some doing to rescue some of the treasures from stacks of books and from the small shelf buried behind the stacks of books.  We will be going back –I think I missed some.  I’ll be highlighting a few of those finds over the next several posts.


One of the last books I found was The Working Wives Cookbook, a 1969 edition of a book originally published in 1963.  Authors Theodora Zavin and Freda Stuart promise  a system of preparing meals to relieve the pressures of the busy working housewife.

Well, at least they took a shot at it.  Somebody thought enough of the book to reprint it, right?  I mentioned another book a few days ago that seemed to be an anti-feminist throwback even in the early 70s.  This one is in the same mold, but it at least acknowledges that a wife and mother can aspire to work. Well, as long as dinner is on the table every night, right?

The theory they present is that most of the recipes are fairly easy, but unfortunately the busy wife and mother must head into the kitchen after dinner and do most of the prep for tomorrow’s meal so it can be wrapped up, all ready to throw in the oven for the finishing touches the next evening.  Whew.  That really doesn’t seem to save her much time or pressure, does it?   I didn’t read all the fine print, so I don’t know what they thought about hungry teenagers, but that was one flaw that came to mind.  When I had hungry teenagers in the house, tomorrow’s delicious dinner would likely have been today’s after school snack and I’d be off buying pizza or KFC.

It does have a sixties-era idea of pseudo-gourmet food too.  I’ve picked a couple of recipes at random to illustrate.


This recipe, Mushroom Biscuits, has a certain amount of “what?….” appeal.  At least it did for me.  I am still a bit confused about what it is supposed to be.  A gourmet take on biscuits and gravy perhaps?

I also wonder about trying to “cut a well” into the top of the frozen biscuits.  Maybe the trip to the emergency room for stitches is supposed to allow the working wife/mother to get a few moments rest and some pain killers?


Now this Crabmeat Casserole seems a little better. Well, I guess the crabmeat will keep 23 hours okay in the fridge.  Or maybe this is a setup for a preplanned sick day.  Don’t get me wrong, I think the recipe is fine.  I just wonder about using it as a make-ahead recipe.  Seriously.  You’re adding the crabmeat to a warm mixture and immediately refrigerating it?
I’d just go ahead and make it.

All the recipes are like this.  It’s a gimmick cookbook, trying to address a perceived problem with a trick.  It doesn’t really save the working mother any time or work, it just gets dinner on the table faster so the hubster and kids don’t get on her nerves about dinner before she’s had time to slap down a few martinis.  Then she’s off to the kitchen again, basically cooking tomorrow’s dinner.  It’s a good thing Dick Van Dyke and The Munsters will be on endless reruns to allow her to catch up.

Given the context and the attempt to address the perceived problem of a working wife, I thought this was a good cookbook, at least from a historical perspective.  I’ll have to think about what sort of category this fits into.


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