Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cooking with Great Grandma Hattie

This past Christmas I received a gift that I will cherish for the rest of my cooking days.  It was my Great Grandmother Hattie's 1961 edition of Betty Crocker's New Picture Cook Book.

First let me tell you a little about my Great Grandmother before I move onto the cookbook.  I was around 8 years old when she died so I don't remember that much about her.  Sadly, I remember being at her funeral more than anything.  While she might have died while I was young, I've still heard plenty of stories about her.  In the words of my mother, Grandma Hattie was awesome.  This will be short and sweet (and a little feisty) but, I'm going to tell you my favorite story about her.  When Grandma Hattie had gotten too old to live alone the family moved her into a nursing home.  I'm not sure if she just wasn't having the whole nursing home get up or if she was just being a feisty old lady, but there is one thing she refused to do while there.  Keep her clothes on.  That's right, little ole' Grandma Hattie liked to be naked in the nursing home and would NOT stay dressed.  I used to giggle at this story and always asked for my mom to tell it again.  Maybe she was just being rebellious, trying to get the attention from the gents at the nursing home, or just wanted to be naked and free from her clothes (I don't blame her at that point in life.  Who cares?) but I love that story.  The other things I know about her is that she loved to cook.  And she was great at it.  A good chunk of her life was devoted to her huge garden in the backyard, and to cooking for the mental hospital in town.  I wish I had a picture of her that I could show you.

I can't tell you how much I would have loved to be in the kitchen cooking with her today.  But having her cookbook and making a recipe that she probably made at some point in time will have to suffice.

Now for the cookbook.  Like I said it's a 1961 edition of Betty Crocker's New Picture Cook Book and it has the great musty smell of a bookstore piled high with old dirty books.  I've been flipping through it since Christmas, reading the funny little tips and hints given for the "modern day homemaker".  They are very 1961, I have a feeling this kind of cookbook would be hard to find these days.  For example: "Every morning before breakfast, comb hair, apply makeup and a dash of cologne.  Does wonders for your morale and your family's too!"  I can just see some feminist having a mild heart attack reading that she has to put on her make up and comb her hair so that she can be a good homemaker.
There she is.  Ms. Betty Crocker.
A little cook book love.
After flipping through the pages and reading some of the recipes I finally decided on a Shrimp Gumbo.  It looked worthy of trying so I gave it a go.  I must say I was a bit lazy and didn't have all of the ingredients so I substituted a little.  And of course I can't make a recipe and follow it exactly so I had to add some things as well.  Here it is:
Looks good already!
1 onion diced
1 pepper diced (I used yellow, but it calls for green)
1 cup diced celery (Not in the original recipe)
1 cup diced carrots (Not in the original recipe)
2 cloves garlic minced
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp flour
1 can tomatoes
1 can okra drained (I broke a major gumbo rule and didn't include this.  I was too lazy to go to the store.  Sorry gumbo gods!)
1 small can tomato paste
1 can corn (Not in the original recipe)
3 beef bouillon cubes
4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp chili powder
pinch dried basil
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 cups water
1 1/2 lb deveined, raw shrimp
3 cups cooked rice (1 cup uncooked)
1/4 cup minced parsley

In large kettle, saute onion, pepper and garlic in butter.  Blend in flour; cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is bubbly and vegetables are tender.  Remove from heat; add remaining ingredients except shrimp, rice and parsley.  Simmer 45 minutes.  Just before serving add shrimp; simmer, covered,  5 minutes, until shrimp are pink and tender.  Toss together rice and parsley.  Serve gumbo in soup plates over portion of rice and parsley.  Makes 8 servings.
Yum Yum Yum!
It seems like a lot of work but it's not I promise!  And its so worth it.  The flavors worked wonderfully together.  Usually I have to doctor recipes up with spices but this one was great.  Way to go Betty Crocker.  You really knew what you were doing back in 1961.  When I opened the lid on the pot, a rush of clove and bay leaf came rushing into my nose.  It was a little smell of heaven I believe.

Get to cooking and enjoy!


  1. AH! Great. Love the stories, love the book, love the pictures. You're such a good little blogger!!

  2. We have you a picture of Grandma Hattie coming via snail mail. We would have scanned and sent it electronically but we wanted to stick with the 1961 theme.

  3. Emilie! I love this idea. Reading your blog and the enjoying the photos made me HUNGRY!

  4. Sue...thanks! I'm kind of obsessed with it. I want to read your blog! Kaitlin has mentioned it. What's it called?

  5. Cute story about your Hattie. I miss my Big too. I loved cooking with her in her huge kitchen. I'd bet your book is really hard to find these days. I'm always on the look out at thrift stores for them.

    I'm seeing several of your recipes that I need to bookmark! However, Ms. Crocker probably hadn't a clue about "true" gumbo. It is VERY labor intensive and take hours to develop a roux. Most of my family is from New Orleans...but I grew up in Texas. (oh, my hubs said to tell you there is no corn in

    See you soon!

    1. I'm going to guess you're right about Ms. Crocker! I've actually never made a "true" gumbo but I knew when making this that it probably shouldn't be called a gumbo. But I stayed true to her title! Tell your husband sorry broke the gumbo rules :0

      Now you've got me thinking that I need to get on making a real gumbo! Mmm! Thanks so much for stopping by!!


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