It slides in the shelf sideways, due to its tall picture-book shape, but even from this reduced position, My Learn to Cook Book holds its own among the more usual suspects. Inscribed “Maria, from Grandpa & Grandma Speidel, Merry Christmas, 1969,” this Big Golden Book (as opposed to Little Golden Books like The Pokey Puppy) was my very first cookbook.
I had just turned 8 and was thrilled as I turned the pages describing wonders like baked Alaska and kebabs, which oddly called for three different types of meat. Smudges on the pages for baked bananas and chocolate mousse bear witness to my lifelong sweet tooth.
I mainly concentrated on the easily achieved lemon fizz, aka homemade sparkling lemonade, an exotic treat in the days before San Pellegrino’s Limonatas were at every Trader Joe’s. Reaming the lemons, adding the sugar, and mixing it all up was infinitely more satisfying than my other “cooking,” which consisted of huddling in the bathroom, using a Q-tip to muddle baby powder and water on a doll’s dish.