posted by Jeanne Munn Bracken

The holidays are upon us. Instead of blogging, I should be in the kitchen making stuffing for the turkey. I don't use a recipe for that--my stepfather taught me years ago how to saute the onions and celery with a bit of thyme and a lot of sage.

I'm not really a foodie. My family watches the Food Channel, then turn to me in unison and ask what's for dinner. Sheesh!

But you can have 30 Minute Rachel, the South'ren Sweetie Paula, the busty Giada. Not for me the Silver Palate Cookbook, Joy of Cooking or James Beard.

I live by Betty Crocker. I don't mean the company's various cake mixes and microwaveable goodies. I mean Betty Crocker's New Picture Cook Book. I'm not sure I'd use the term "new", though; my copy was published in 1961 and even then it had been around for a while.Betty_crocker_cookbook My mother has an even older copy, and I'm pretty sure my sister and her daughter also have copies, probably well-used. The book falls open to either the brownie recipe, the one for chocolate pudding, or for biscuits. The whole thing is pretty grease-stained, chocolate blotted, and carries a lot of less identifiable smudges. The binding is failing and the spine has been taped on more than once. I love it.

I have relied on Betty Crocker from the day I moved into my first apartment (and probably before.) I carried a turkey from the Star Market on Boylston Street in Boston to my place on Beacon Street for the first Thanksgiving meal I had to cook. I invited my gentleman caller over. Things went pretty well, although the sweet potatoes burned because when I announced dinner was ready, he said there were "only 15 minutes" left in the football game and then he'd be right to the table. I was naive enough in those days to believe that 15 minutes in football time was...well, a quarter of an hour. Hah! We also had to carve the turkey with the only large utensil I had, a serrated bread knife.

I also got the recipe for cream puffs from Betty Crocker. A friend and I invited our gentlemen callers to dinner at my place, where we served lasagna and cream puffs. The pasta was good, and the guys declared the cream puffs (and I quote here) "as good as store-bought."

(Yeah, we both married them. I don't think I've made cream puffs since.)

I've been roasting turkeys for the better part of 40 years (I started very young, you understand). So when friends invited us over for Thanksgiving (yep, the folks from last week's blog and the week before) I offered to roast the turkey. In return my friend said it would be a good impetus to clean her dining room. Since I'll be lucky if I can clear our dining room table before Christmas, I jumped at the offer.

I'm pretty busy and my husband is retired, so I felt comfortable sending him to the store to buy a turkey. There will be six or seven of us, I noted.

That night he reported that he had bought a turkey. A 26-pound turkey! Yikes! According to Betty Crocker, we should figure on half to three quarters of a pound per serving. At that rate, we had enough turkey for a well-attended church potluck supper. Turkey

He moved the turkey from the freezer to the fridge to defrost a few days ago. By morning it was still hard as the proverbial rock. Right about there I had a reality check. I had him put the turkey back in the freezer and go buy another one. A smaller one. He came home with a 13 pounder and put it in the fridge.

Betty Crocker says it will take about 4 1/2 to 5 hours to roast the bird. She hasn't failed me yet. I know that she will also be able to provide recipes for turkey pot pie, turkey soup, turkey and dumplings--because the 26 pounder is still in the freezer, and my husband will only eat so many hot turkey sandwiches.

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