When I was growing up, my parents mostly made the food that their parents made for them. It was either country cooking or Italiano. We collected new recipes during our travels with the Army, and we added those dishes to our cuisine. One night we ate rigatoni with pepperoni sauce, the next night it was kimchi with sharp vegetables cooked on the hibachi, followed by a night of soup beans and cornbread, and then a weekend of wiener schnitzel. Whenever we wanted to make something new, or figure out how something was made, or stare at photos of dishes we wanted to make, we always turned to one source: the Good Housekeeping Cook Book circa 1942.
My mom picked up the cook book in Nashville in the late 50’s while she was attending a business school. She used the book after she got married to learn to cook, she said, because she spent her childhood working on the farm and not in the kitchen.
I started making the recipes in the book around junior high, focusing initially on sweets and desserts like raised doughnuts and penuche. When I left home in the late 70’s, I borrowed the book for a while (about 2 or 3 years), and adopted many more recipes (old fashion pancakes and dark christmas fruitcake were my favorites). Over the years, we passed the book back and forth—especially near a holiday or special occasion when we looked for that extra something special to make. Over the years, the book began to disintegrate from age and use, and then it finally disappeared sometime in the 90’s (I was not informed about it either).
A couple of years ago, my mom and I were planning the food for my Halloween party. I asked about the book, hoping to use it for cool food ideas. When I learned that the book was gone, I was disheartened for a short time and then I realized that I had about 75 cookbooks at my disposal (I’m an avid cook book collector). None were suitable replacements for the old Good Housekeeping Cook Book. I searched vintage book websites until I found two copies: one for me and one for mom.
Probably my favorite recipe in the book is Banana Tea Bread. It has just the right amount of banana. It’s not too sweet, and it’s moist. The original recipe calls for one loaf pan, but I double the recipe and make a Bundt cake. Sometimes I throw in a cup of chopped walnuts for variety. It freezes well, too.
Banana Tea Bread
- 3½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ⅔ cups shortening
- 1⅓ cups granulated sugar
- 4 eggs unbeaten
- 2 cups mashed ripe bananas 4 or 6
- Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a Bundt pan or two 9"x5"x3" loaf pans.
- Sift flour, baking powder, soda, salt. With electric mixer at medium speed, thoroughly mix shortening with sugar, then eggs, until very light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Then, at low speed, beat in flour mixture alternately with bananas just until smooth; turn into pan.
- Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove. Cool before slicing.
Recipe adapted from Good Housekeeping Cook Book, 1942.