Thing I Used to Own #1: The New Basics Cookbook

#1 in a series

I just finally parted with the first cookbook I bought on my own. I had a brief love affair with this book, but it’s falling apart, it’s super heavy on the meat, and it doesn’t reflect the way I cook these days. (Plus, I’m so in love with The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook at the moment that past flames are being extinguished.)

I’ve owned this one for over 20 years, but I certainly have older cookbooks. I have a couple that belonged to my maternal grandmother, for example, and I still have the compact paperback Better Homes and Gardens classic that my mom sent me off to college with (and it includes a BBQ sauce recipe handwritten by my best friend in pink ink inside the back cover, but I digress.)

I remember buying The New Basics Cookbook (by Julee Rosso & Shelia Lukins,) and I remember using it. It certainly shows signs of wear, but I haven’t used it in years.


I bought it at a department store (remember such things?)–Hudson’s in Kalamazoo, Michigan–and I remember strolling through the cookware department after I picked up the book thinking, “Oh, I just wonder if I need anything else here. Salad tongs, for example? Do I have enough salad tongs at home?” And I put on a serious thinking face to show that this was real concern.

But still, you may be asking yourself, why the hell should I care about an old cookbook this weird lady is giving away?

Because when I bought it, owning cookbooks was one of the most grown-up things I could imagine. Kids don’t own cookbooks. GROWN-UPS own cookbooks. They have a shelf of them in the kitchen, because they have dinner parties–important dinner parties–and the promise of this book was that I would have a need for summer cocktail recipes and guidelines on how to assemble cold canapes.

In the end, the one real memory I have of using The New Basics was to make a raspberry pie for some kind of hippie potluck supper in college. The pie came out syrupy sweet and soupy, and nothing like I imagined a grown-up pie to be.

And that blunt memory somehow seems a fitting eulogy to this battered cookbook, strangely full of my college self’s odd imagined future.

I still can’t make a good pie.


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