May 31, 2011


As I wade into my 75th year, I admit I’m not doing much complicated cooking. So, on a rainy afternoon, recently, I culled through my recipe books, determined to be rid of most of them. My progress was slow as the collection was encrusted with memories. One volume, published in 1948, was given to me by my stepmother: “Nutritious Recipes and Meals” by Martin Pretorius.   

Buried among my adolescent memories is the recollection of a radio show where Pretorius lectured on his “scientific’ approach to cooking. His recipes could be ordered by mail and they arrived in a spiral binder, each dish listed as alkaline, carbohydrate, fat or protein rich. A housewife was encouraged to choose from each section to obtain a balanced meal for the family. Back then the concept was revolutionary and the book sold for a whopping $3.50.


 Curious about its history, I did a web search. Amazon listed the title but no copies were available. Another site, one that sold obscure books, offered three volumes.  The prices ranged from $30-46 depending on the book’s condition.  

Another tome I came upon in my collection was “The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook,” publishedin 1963. My mother gave it to me when I returned from Africa that same year. On the frontispiece she had scribbled:

                “I hope you enjoyed this book sugar.  P. S. Have a lots of vegetable dishes to!!  Ha ha.”

Besides the broken English, which makes the message dear to me, the “Ha ha,” carried a special meaning. After years of fussing about my vegetarianism, she was finally giving me her blessing.

The afternoon faded into evening as I returned the books to their shelves. Let them grow dusty with me, I’d decided. Their memories matter more than their content.