The Problem of Falling in Love. You often do, when you hate to cook, fall in love with one recipe which seems to have simply everything: it's fast, it's simple, and the whole family likes it. And so, like impetuous lovers since time began, you tend to overdo it. You find yourself serving the little gem three times a week, including Sunday breakfast. Your problems are solved. You're serene. Oh, you love that little recipe!When I read this in the car, after having found this book in a great coup of good luck at a flea market, it was as if I were transported from the present day to my teens, when I first read this book. I often think about the role that various cookbooks played in shaping my culinary life, starting with a birthday card my parents gave me when I was about 9, a birthday card that was actually an adorable pink pamphlet comprising several cookie recipes (lost to time, so very sad!). The gender relations embodied in Peg Bracken's book are like a perky version of Mad Men, which makes it an interesting historical artifact.
But no recipe can stand such an onslaught. After a while, it just doesn't taste as good as it did the first time. You begin to wonder what you ever saw in it. Presently, you stop making it. Eventually it's lost in limbo, and that's the end of that love affair.
Two things are responsible for this all-too-common occurrence: first, you overdid it, and, second, you probably started to kick it around. You felt so safe with your own true love that you began taking it for granted, not exactly following the recipe, using vinegar instead of lemon juice, or canned mushrooms instead of fresh mushrooms (because you had some vinegar or canned mushrooms). Soon, without your being aware of it, the recipe has undergone a sea change, and become something rich and undoubtedly strange, all right, but not at all the same recipe you started with.
The moral is this: Instead of going steady, play the field. When you make proper contact with a recipe, don't make it again for an entire month. Keep it warm and cozy, your ace in the hole, in your card file, or checked in your recipe book, while you try some more. Presently, you'll have several aces in the hole, which is a very delectable state of affairs indeed.
If you could take a peek, however, at the kitchen diary I kept when I was a young wife, you'd see that the basic advice here--don't cook the same thing over and over--was embodied in my own planning. I often planned shopping and meals for two weeks out (don't ask), with nary a meal repeated, except perhaps spaghetti, which remains a go-to option for me when the cooking seems almost too much to bear (sob, collapse). You don't want to wear out a recipe's welcome. Except spaghetti, which is like a very, very good friend showing up on your doorstep with a covered dish, and in the covered dish is spaghetti, thank God.