Helen Gurley Brown may have pissed off a lot of feminists in her day, but she was a force, a self made woman who pushed her vision of empowerment to her audience with truth and without apology. She also wrote a cook book that, had I not had a father to direct me towards Julia and Jacques, I could have most definitely used. I spied it last week at the library and though I was familiar with it and had taken it out long ago in the 90’s (and dismissed it then as “too Cosmo”) when I heard of Mrs.Brown’s passing I returned to take it out. I’m so glad I did.
The many chapters include “What a Friend We have in Cheeses” and “Oh God! He’s brought me his Fish”. YES!
There is multi-phase chapter chronicling the beginning and demise of “the affair” and how to cook for it, my personal favorite being “GoodBye Forever- Thank God!: Three dinners and One revolting Breakfast”. Her instructions on navigating the world of cooking alone, for friends and family or for a crowd more than hold up to today.
As I dug through the pages I found myself wishing I was single once more so I could rock some fake eyelashes while mixing up a French 75 for the first time and keep track of boyfriends by the various dishes I’d shared with them. (“Swiss Steak” and “chocolates in the living room”)
There is a chapter on menus inspired by favorite literary characters! Sign me up! She lauds the egg, “it’s very emotional” as well as French dishes of which there are many. She provides hundreds of far ranging recipes like bechamel, whole fish, duckling, to salami & cheese rolls (You know the ones!) and casseroles. She counsels on how to feed the love lorn and insists on spending for quality ingredients. I imagine this book was best friend to many a gal in the 70’s.
The text is lively and snarky and it’s illustrated throughout with fabulous line drawings of chic women in all manner of culinary situation (making breakfast in a nightie? Check!). You may have to look past very obviously dated aspects of some text, “Dinner for your boss should be elegant, you want him to know you’re as clever in the kitchen as you are in the laboratory..” (she was the editor of Cosmo and it WAS 1969 and hey, at least you are a scientist of some sort!) but you can delight when she suggests a Birthday Alone: “celebrate yourself” menu featuring a bowl of clam dip and a sack of potato chips.
She was my kinda lady!
R.I.P. Mrs. Brown