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From Betty Crocker to Pinterest — A ‘Cooky’ over the years

The fictional Betty Crocker published 'Cooky Book' 1964. Five decades later many recipes certainly photos are thing past.  |

The fictional Betty Crocker published a "Cooky Book" in 1964. Five decades later, many of the recipes, and certainly the photos, are a thing of the past. | Erin Gallagher~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 26, 2014 6:25AM

Long before Pinterest and the Food Network, there was Betty Crocker. When it came time for Christmas cookies, there was only one true source: a Betty Crocker cookbook.

Looking back at holiday cookies, Betty told the story. In 1963, General Mills published a book called “Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book.” Back then, a cookie was a cooky.

Full of color photos and clip art, the book starts with a “Cooky Primer.” Back then, women everywhere, and doubtfully many men, learned the baking hints, such as how to make perfect holiday spritz. Today, cookie presses aren’t nearly as popular, and neither is the recipe for its “spritz” dough.

Five decades have passed since the Cooky Book was published. Many of the cookies listed are not wholly unheard of, such as cherry-coconut bars, peanut clusters or toffee squares. Others are truly original, such as Uncle Joe’s froggers or teen time chocolate nut bars. The magic carpet cookies may have a different interpretation over the years.

At the end of the book, the fictional Betty Crocker lists the best cooky of each decade.

“Fashions in cookies — like fashions in women’s dress — have changed down through the years,” it says on page 137.

The best cooky of 1880-90 was the hermit, rich with spices from the West Indies. Cinnamon jumbles were the “popular cooky of the gay nineties,” it said, offering notes on buttermilk. Oatmeal drops, followed by ginger creams were best after the turn of the century.

Brownies were much requested in the roaring twenties, according to Ms. Crocker. Cookies that “bashed the depression blues” were molasses crinkles, made with America’s chief sweetener at the time.

Toll House hit the scene making chocolate chips the rage into the 1940s, followed by caramel refrigerator cookies through 1945. Holiday fruit drops, salted peanut crisps and bonbon cookies brought us through to 1960. That’s when jet travel brought French lace cookies to American popularity.

That’s where the book ends. Fast forward five decades and holiday cookies are less common. We simply aren’t a society that makes 10 or 12 or 20 different kinds each season. Many families are happy if they get time to bake one.

So if you want a monkey-faced or storybook or Egyptian rose cookie, turn to Betty Crocker. For just about anything else, simply Google it.

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