This Betty Crocker Cookbook Started a Lifelong Tradition

Her father helped her save green stamps to get the cookbook. She’s made the Eskimo Igloo cake for Christmas every year since then. 

Posted in , Dec 27, 2021

A Betty Crocker recipe of an Eskimo Igloo cake; Illustration by Aura Lewis

Trips to the S&H Green Stamps redemption center were always exciting. One summer day before entering fifth grade, I watched Mama go to the counter with the books full of postage-like stamps she’d saved up. She knew just what she wanted. It had taken her two years of buying groceries to earn enough stamps to trade in for an electric waffle iron. She had dampened the back of each stamp, sometimes entire sheets, and slowly but surely affixed them in book after book until she reached her goal. I couldn’t wait to shadow her in the kitchen while she prepared homemade waffles. I dreamed of being able to cook like her someday.

While Mom waited in line to redeem her books, I wandered around the store looking at the items on display. Fishing poles, bathroom scales, floor lamps and bedding didn’t hold much interest. I checked out a fancy pencil case, a quarter book. Not worth it, I thought. And then I saw The Betty Crocker Cookbook for Boys and Girls. I opened it and slid my fingers across its pages. I scanned the recipes, complete with drawings and photographs. Recipes I could handle at my age. I could learn so much. But where was I going to get half a book of Green Stamps?

I brought the cookbook over to my mother in hopes she’d be won over.

“Hmmmm…” she said as she skimmed the pages. “Half a book of stamps is…”

“…an awful lot. I know.” I plowed ahead before she could object. “But I’ll do extra chores to earn enough stamps to buy it.”

I knew I could work hard enough. Every morning I watched my father leave the house early to drive his pickup from Garland, Texas, to his plumbing job in Dallas, and every evening I welcomed him home. I missed him when he was gone all day, but I knew he was earning money to provide for our family. Sometimes on the weekends, I jumped in his truck with him to go “fill ‘er up” at the gas station. I had learned the value of hard work from Mom’s example at home and Dad’s long days in Dallas.

Mama considered my S&H Green Stamps proposal. “Okay,” she said finally, “but you’re responsible for keeping track of your own stamps. And once school starts, you won’t have time for as many extra chores. School comes first.” We took home a blank book and I wrote my name on it.

I never worked as hard as I did that summer. Every day I had something new to do. “You can fold the clean laundry after breakfast,” Mom said one morning. “And sort the darks and whites for the wash after that.” I waved to my father on his way out the door and got started. We both had a full day in front of us.

I vacuumed and dusted. I got pretty good at ironing Dad’s work shirts. As I took care between the buttons, I thought of him doing his job in a shirt I’d pressed myself. It made me feel like he carried me with him all the way to Dallas, even if he didn’t know it.

The neighbor ladies heard about my project, and I polished shoes, washed dishes and ran errands for them too. By the time Dad got home in the evenings, we’d both worked up an appetite. Since Mom did all the grocery shopping, Dad didn’t have much experience with Green Stamps. But he loved Mom’s cooking, and one day I hoped he’d like mine too.

When summer came to a close, I turned the pages of my book, still not half full. Then I barely earned any stamps that fall. It looked like I’d have to wait until next summer to get what I needed, but I wouldn’t give up on Betty Crocker.

A week before Christmas I sat in the kitchen with my father. “How many stamps do you need for your cookbook?” he asked, sipping some coffee.

“Two more pages,” I said hopefully, “but my schoolwork is slowing things down.” I was surprised Dad still remembered my project. “Do you have a chore for me?”

“Yes, I do!” he said. “Grab your coat and your stamp book and come out to my pickup.”

I ran out to the truck and climbed into the passenger seat. On the dashboard there was an envelope with my name on it. “Open it,” Dad said.

I slipped up the flap and when I did, stamps spilled out over my lap. “They’re all for you, Sweetie Pie,” Dad said, starting up the truck. “Let’s go get that cookbook!”

“But Mom does the grocery shopping,” I said. “Where did you get these?”

Dad grinned. “The gas station started giving out Green Stamps. Every time I filled up the tank, I put all the stamps aside for you.” I licked them fast and furious on the way to the redemption center and wound up with more than I needed.

Back home that evening I let Dad pick my very first recipe, an Eskimo Igloo cake for Christmas. As I followed the recipe, I imagined Dad thinking about me every time he filled up his tank—maybe while wearing one of my crisply ironed shirts. My parents made a big to-do when I served the Igloo cake, even if it didn’t much resemble the picture in the cookbook.

I’ve made that cake every Christmas since. I’ve got the recipe memorized by now, but I still open up that cookbook just to see my father’s inscription on the title page. I had a dream, and between them, Mama, Daddy and Betty Crocker made it come true.

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