Cookbooks come and go from my shelves. I love nothing more than new recipes, a few of which I will try, but most of which I will only fantasize about making — the way other people might idly imagine being Uma Thurman or playing first base for the New York Yankees.

This ought to be the perfect season to crack open those little-tested volumes and become the kind of person who actually makes Pierre Hermé’s exquisitely fussy chocolate-passionfruit macarons. Instead, I am diving deeper into the cookbook I know best, a much-bespattered copy of Betty Crocker’s 1950 Picture Cook Book.

The Betty Crocker is said to be the most-sold cookbook in American history, and the iconic first edition, with its signature red cover, is the most-used book in my own house. By modern standards, the book is plebeian; it was conceived by General Mills to sell more flour, which is the same reason the imaginary “Betty Crocker” persona was invented. The stroke of genius came in realizing that the best way to do so was not to offer just another baking book but a compendium of the most popular midcentury, middle American fare.

The domestic scientists at the General Mills test kitchens turned out to be better than anyone else of their era at writing recipes any fool could use, no matter how little experience they had — and just in case, they illustrated both techniques and results with photographs. That meant the novice cook had a shot at producing something approximately like what the recipe called for, even if the technicolor hues then fashionable were unkind to their subjects. (Jello molds in particular.)

Armed with only Betty and an oven, the young bride of 1950 could become a culinary virtuoso of the midcentury American repertoire. But few modern cooks actually aspire to become the master of the molded salad. So why Betty? Why now?

Well, because for Betty’s core competency — things made with Gold Medal flour — the recipes are extraordinarily good. My mother, who frequently made her own croissants, used “Old Red” as her cake bible and her default source on pie filling. The book’s Bohemian Braided Bread has sustained my family while opening Christmas presents for half a century. And when I got my own copy, I discovered other treasures: The recipe for Delicate Fluffy Pancakes, for example, has made me (she said, modestly) something of a brunch legend.

I’m not brunching these days, though I’m still making those pancakes for what has been rebranded “Sunday breakfast.” Meanwhile, Betty has also become my evening helpmeet.

No, I haven’t tried to force her cocktail of hot clam juice upon my innocent husband. However, meatloaf turned out to be better than I remembered, at least under Betty’s tutelage. And last night’s puffy omelet with a floury, cheesy white sauce was stunningly good, and took half an hour from idle thought to table.

As I’ve explored, I have discovered two things: Many of those old-fashioned dishes are delicious, and they aren’t as dated as I imagined. The puffy omelet turned out to be the very chic, very now omelet souffle. Her excellent “refrigerator rolls” are a species of the no-knead breads that have so enraptured modern foodies. And when I read about a newfangled “reverse creaming” method for making cakes, what did I discover but that it was just Betty’s “double quick” method from 1950?

Betty’s unexpected modernity is, in fact, the reason I’m cooking from her book so much these days. Because, oddly enough, she was writing for the cooks of right now much more than the latest glossy tome from a celebrity chef.

The 1950 cookbook, after all, was written when food accounted for 30 percent of the average household budget, so cooks strove to economize on pricey staples such as milk and eggs. Many ingredients were unaffordable or unavailable for much of the year, so cooks had to manage with what they could get rather than what the cookbook wanted them to have. The green salad in Thomas Keller’s “Ad Hoc at Home” cookbook calls for little gem lettuce, satsuma oranges, tarragon leaves and a pomegranate. Betty is more forgiving: “A glance in your refrigerator, cupboard or garden will convince you that you always have ingredients available.”

Modern supermarkets were still emerging back then, so many housewives had to make multi-store shopping tours that rewarded advance planning and scrupulous repurposing of leftovers. And few cooks then could have imagined an era when “food away from home” absorbed nearly half of household food budgets. Eating meant someone had to come up with three meals a day, 365 days a year, out of pantry staples with long shelf lives. This breeds an entirely different approach than the one taken by modern cookbook authors, who know that they are always competing with takeout and, therefore, must strive to make cooking glamorous.

At the moment, it is Betty’s approach that resonates. And so sometime around 6 o’clock this evening, when we have finished walking the dog through Washington’s still-quiet streets, and dinnertime rolls around again, I will go into our kitchen, take down Old Red, and figure out how to turn our leftover cheese sauce into Welsh rarebit. 1950, meet 2020. I think you’ll find you have a lot in common.

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