My friend Jane gave me a cookbook for Valentine's Day. Published in the 1940s, "Mrs. Appleyard's Kitchen" was written by Louise Andrews Kent, a novelist who also wrote books for children. What makes the work so interesting is that it is written in the style of a novel, or an autobiography, perhaps, and Mrs. Appleyard is beautifully developed as a wise and thoughtful wife, mother, philosopher and cook.

Not only are wonderful recipes and stories shared, but Mrs. Appleyard recounts--with a light and loving New England humor--her culinary triumphs and disasters, as well as her innumerable secret methods.

The following excerpt, an exchange between Mrs. Appleyard and her editor, takes place in the kitchen as Mrs. Appleyard is baking oatmeal lace cookies.

" 'Now, just one more question, Mrs. Appleyard,' the Editor said, hoping she would break another cookie. 'I've heard it said that a well-known painter when asked what he mixed his paints with, said "With brains." Now do you feel that--to sum up what you've told me--people should cook with brains? May I quote you?'

"Mrs. Appleyard put another batch of cookies into the oven.

" 'Brains are not enough,' she said. 'You have to like things: the dishes you cook with, the people you buy the butter from, the field where the crows fly over the corn and the wind that blows through their wings. You have to like the table you put the food on, and the people who sit around it. Yes, even when they tip back in your Hitchcock chairs, you have to like them. You don't just like how the food tastes--you like how it looks and smells and how the egg beater sounds. You like the rhythm of chopping and the throb of the teakettle lid. You like to test the frying pan with water and see it run around like quicksilver. You like the shadow in pewter and the soft gleam of silver and the sharp flash of glass. You like the feel of damask napkins and the shadows of flowers on a white cloth. You like people eating in their best clothes in candlelight, and in their dungarees on a beach in the broiling sun, or under a pine tree in the rain.

" 'You like the last moment before a meal is served when the hollandaise thickens, the steak comes sputtering out of the broiler, the cream is cooked into the potatoes and the last drop of water is cooked out of the peas.' Here she was silent long enough to take the correctly lacy and golden cookies off the pan. 'Not with brains,' she repeated, putting down the spatula. 'With love.' "

A remarkable human being, Mrs. Appleyard, and equally remarkable are her Oatmeal Lace Cookies. OATMEAL LACE COOKIES (Makes about 3 dozen)

These are as much candy as cookies; they are completely flat, dark brown around the edges and porous on the top. 2 1/4 cups rolled oats 3 tablespoons flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 1/4 cups light brown sugar 1/2 pound butter, melted 1 egg, slightly beaten 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

In a large mixing bowl stir together oats, flour, salt and sugar. Melt the butter and stir it into the mixture. Add the beaten egg and vanilla (or almond) and stir together.

Place tablespoons of the batter far apart on a nonstick or lightly greased cookie pan. It is not only advisable--it is essential--to use at least 4 cookie pans (no more than 6 on a pan), and to use only one at a time. Unless the cookie pan has cooled completely, it will prove impossible to remove the cookies intact. This is indeed a cumbersome and time-consuming operation, but the results more than justify the effort.

Bake the cookies for 7 minutes at 375 degrees, watching them carefully. If they are sticky in the middle they are undercooked, and if they are scorched around the edge they are overcooked. (Mrs. Appleyard's advice is to never leave the stove, even if it means missing a telephone call.) Make sure that the pans have cooled before gently removing cookies with a spatula.

Store the cookies between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container. --From "Mrs. Appleyard's Kitchen," by Louise Andrews Kent