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OP: It's Fun to Cook

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by Lucy Mary Maltby

Let Dr. Lucy Mary Maltby (1900–1984) be an example of what a strongly-worded, well-written letter can achieve. The home economics professor was awarded a position as the first head of the Pyrex test kitchen at Corning Glass Works—which she ultimately ran from 1929 to 1965—after writing to the company, bemoaning faults in the product line. Specifically, she pointed out that small handles could not be gripped adequately by oven-mitted hands and that the pan sizes were inconsistent with standard recipe volumes. She played no small role in the ongoing success of the company.

In 1938, Maltby published what appears to be her only book—one directed toward young adults. It’s Fun to Cook follows twins Eleanor Ann and Elsie Jane as they learn to cook from helpful and instructive family, friends, and neighbors. The narrative serves to convey the basics of cooking and entertaining: measurements, table setting and service, nutrition, economizing, and thoughtful planning—in addition to stirring courage among timid or hesitant cooks.

Though a section at the back compiles all the recipes, the real fun is reading them within the story text, following along with the twins’ upper-middle class adventures and adversities. True to the fashion of the era, mayonnaise and gelatin feature strongly—as well as individual salads served in lettuce cups. And some have even suggested that the puffed wheat squares, set with molasses rather than marshmallow, were the inspiration for Rice Krispies Treats, invented in 1939.

Our copy is in what we would call Very Good Minus condition—or not at all bad for a book aimed at the young and carefree. Pencil marks, scribbles, and light food staining can be found throughout, though the majority of the pages are clean. The beige cloth of the case has darkened and shows light stains and scuffs, and the cloth is rubbed through to the boards in a few spots along the edges. It lacks the scarce jacket. A few newspaper-clipped recipes were found within; we’ve put them in a plastic sleeve to prevent further staining to the pages. No printing is listed, but we believe it to be early. Second color illustrations and black and white photographs add to the charm. Fun indeed!

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