the “‘I Love Peanut Butter’ Cookbook” post

Like what I did there with the punctuation in that title?

Here’s a cookbook I found at the Soldotna Bishop’s Attic thrift store earlier this summer & I’ve had it sitting here and there around the house ever since. Whenever I see it, I snicker.

“Taste-tempting recipes for every course on the menu, starring one of America’s all-time favorite foods,” the inside cover flap boasts. “… peanut butter is a sophisticated food that adds a unique flavor and zest to anything it touches.”

Published in 1965, here’s a sampling of the recipes inside:

Celery stuffed with peanut butter horse-radish

Peanut butter ham squares

Peanut butter-bacon spread (calls for both finely chopped dill pickle AND two tablespoons of dill pickle juice)

Groundnut Chop

Peanut butter jelly surprise sweet potatoes (baked sweet potatoes are sliced in half, scoop out the centers, mash with milk and season with salt and pepper, put a tablespoon each of peanut butter and jelly in the shell, fill with sweet potato mixture, bake for another 15 minutes)

In the dedication, the author, William I. Kaufman, thanks Tom and Bobbie for “projecting their peanut butter enthusiasm to me.”

Apparently there were multiple editions because Amazon has this 1988 paperback version.

What intrigued me about the book, besides its recipe for Broiled Teen Special, was this inscription inside the front cover. Who was this Freda Basie who lived on East 11th in Anchorage in 1965, and was the house still there? How did the book get to Soldotna? 47 years after she wrote her name in this book, I went out during the same month of August in search of her house.

It turns out that 11th is one of those annoying Anchorage streets that stops and starts over and over again, one dead end after another because of parks and other obstacles. I zigged and zagged my way down the entire length of the street because I made the mistake of first navigating my way to West 11th and had to make a u-turn and head east. As I finally reached Freda’s block, I got pretty excited when I saw this little house:

Isn’t it cute? It probably wasn’t purple back then, but I liked to think of her living here, thumbing through her peanut butter cookbook. I was momentarily tempted to sneak up to the front door and leave the book on the front step, propped open to Freda’s inscription. But alas, when I got a better look at the house numbers, I realized this was her next door neighbor’s house. Freda’s house was apparently knocked down to build this ugly apartment building:

The house across the street was a cute little button of a boxy house too though so Freda’s was probably just like it.

Maybe her house was red. Maybe she had purple irises and yellow daylilies growing right where that dumpster sits today. Maybe…

My googling uncovered the following information: “Freda Basie (1914 – 1979) was a member of the Basie family. Freda was born on November 19, 1914. Freda died on March 1979 at 64 years old.” I’m not sure if it’s the same person but the dates are about right and she has a pretty unusual name. Based on the batter splatters on some of the pages, she stuck with making cookie recipes from her copy of the “‘I Love Peanut Butter’ Cookbook,” and she marked one for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies with the handwritten word, “Good.”

I filled up on Alaska State Fair food last night so I should probably lay off the cookies today, but I’ll be making these one day soon for sure.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

1 c peanut butter

1 c shortening

2 1/2 c sugar

4 eggs

2t vanilla

4 c flour

1 c cocoa

4t baking powder

1t salt

1 c milk

Cream peanut butter and shortening together. Add sugar and beat until light and fluggy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Sift dry ingredients together and add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, mixing only enough to blend. Drop by teaspoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a moderate oven (400 degrees) 8 minutes. Yield: 7 dozen cookies.

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