Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Book Review: the Care and Feeding of Friends

Title: The Care and Feeding of Friends
       
Author: Marian Tracy
       
Date: 1946
       
Publisher: Viking
       
ISBN: none (but click here to see it on Amazon)
       
Length: 106 pages, plus index
       
Illustrations: cartoons “by Lulu”
       
Quote: “Most of these meals were cooked during various shortages, with one ration book, in a New York kitchen designed, presumably, by a really malevolent person.”
       
During our last all-out war Americans accepted semi-planned shortages and rationing, even of food, as temporary inconveniences. Marian Tracy here testicfies that for a short time, at least, her generation stayed in that voluntary-simplicity groove, before the “boom years” brought greed and waste back into fashion. Each menu is relatively simple, was cheap at the time, and suggests maximum festivity for minimum expenditure.
       
The menus recommend one or two alcoholic beverages that “go with” each meal. The meals work just as well without the booze. Directions for each meal are given as a whole, so that different dishes will be ready to serve at the sarme time.
       
And how bland will the results be? Not nearly as bland as fashionable 1950s meals that relied on prepackaged food products. The success of these menus still depends, as it did in 1946, on the quality of supplies available. If you have good fresh fruits and vegetables, each meal will be a feast. If you have to work with stale, dried-out or waterlogged veg, tough or greasy meat, and prepackaged bread, some meals may camouflage the inadequacies better than others.

This cookbook contains no directions for cooking beans and baking bread. Tracy assumed that if, like her, you enjoyed these long processes, you would have enjoyed them on days when you weren’t entertaining. About this she’s right. She also assumed that if you didn’t enjoy baking bread or simmering beans, you could just buy the prepackaged versions. About the beans she’s right—I can’t tell canned beans from home-cooked beans after other things have been added to them. About the bread she’s wrong; nobody who eats bread would confuse any prepackaged “sandwich bread” with homemade bread, and homemade bread has to be an utter failure for anyone to imagine that the prepackaged kind could be considered better.

The Care and Feeding of Friends is too old to be a Fair Trade Book. To buy it here will cost $5 + $5 shipping; in real life I sold it shortly after writing, but not posting, this post about it.