Every year, hundreds--maybe thousands--of new cookbooks are released. Some are great, but most are just OK. Many chase diet fads, while others focus on whatever the trend of the year is (there are 184 cookbooks on cupcakes for sale at amazon.com).
As much as I love shiny new cookbooks, my bookshelves contain several classic ones I return to often. The ingredient lists may be dated (Crisco, anyone?) and sometimes the instructions are vague, but the recipes are classics, or childhood favorites, and can't be replaced. One of these books is Betty Crocker's Cooky Book.
The Cooky Book was first released in 1963, and was the cookie-baking bible in many American households throughout the '60s and '70s, including my own. My young eyes were drawn to the photos of colorful cookies that run along the bottom of every page. Chocolate crinkles, candy-cane cookies, and dream bars. And full-page spreads showing trays of iced sugar cookies and waxed-paper-lined tins of thumbprint cookies and gingerbread. I pored over those pages for hours, flipping through the spiral-bound book over and over, begging my mom to make "paintbrush cookies" with me. Cookies! You can paint!
In 2002, the Cooky Book was reissued in its original splendor. The how-to illustrations and classic images remain unchanged in this reissue, as do the recipes. There are over 450 recipes inside, including most of the American classics: chocolate chip, peanut butter, and snickerdoodles. There are also many international recipes like sandbakkelser, Scotch shortbread, krumkake, and lebkuchen. The brief but helpful "Cooky Primer" at the beginning of the book has useful tips--like how to measure flour using the dipping method or correct dough that is too dry or too soft.
Recipes are divided into chapters such as Family Favorites, Quick 'N Easy Cookies, and Company Best Cookies. The recipes have held up over time, even though most specifically call for Gold Medal flour (any all-purpose flour will do), and some use shortening. But for those paintbrush cookies, the recipe is timeless: Mix egg yolk and water, divide the mixture among several small custard cups, and add a different food coloring to each cup. Using small paintbrushes, apply "paint" to Ethel's Sugar Cookies (p. 18) or Merry Christmas Cookies (p. 31).