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How do you improve a classic cookbook? Our 1996 Edition of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook is a collection of dog eared, food stained, sticky-tagged pages. Along with a couple of other well known standards, this book is in the middle of the middle shelf so we can easily find it and secure that recipe we need.

The new 15th Edition has just been published, and it’s a very serious extension of this key culinary tool. Compared to my 1996 edition, the book has grown from 539 pages to over 660 with far more recipes. The book is organized by chapter devoted to specific cooking areas. This edition seven new or altered chapter titles to reflect the new trends in how we shop, cook and eat:

  • Breakfast and Brunch
  • Cakes and Frostings [Yeah! Frostings get to be part of the title!]
  • Casseroles
  • Convenience Cooking
  • Cookies and Bars [Bars, i.e., brownies get deserved recognition]
  • Sandwiches and Pizza
  • Slow Cooker Recipes

Some of these new chapters include old recipes just put in a new place: the Reuben sandwich, for example. But that sandwiches chapter has a great new subsection for wraps, too.

The Convenience Cooking chapter has quality recipes. Convenience means quickness, but that speed can still be achieved with remarkable flavor. The pot pie recipe and the Tex Mex skillet are solid ways to cook very tasty food very fast.

As I noted, there are more recipes in this book. The Grilling Chapter has more than doubled and that ignores an extensive list of grilling tips that are sure to aid you. The Candy Chapter has exploded: seven fudge recipes instead of two. [Guess what I’ll be doing this weekend.]

What about other changes? Well, some of the recipes with the same name but have been tuned. Same ingredients but the proportions have gently shifted to make them more tasty.

Now, some of the old recipes are gone. Let me tell you, when Suzen tested for another standard cookbook, she cried when some of her favorites did not make the editor’s cut. When I look at a good cookbook now, like this one, I just speculate about the “other” things that did not make it in. In my 1996 edition of Better Homes, there is a chocolate buttermilk cake and frosting that did not make it into this edition. My advice: buy this edition and keep your old ones. If you don’t have old ones, get them. Think of this as a cooking encyclopedia that grows over time. You want the latest and greatest, but you’ll treasure all that history too.

There are other significant changes in the book to make it better for you. Subtle, typographic changes that you are not intended to notice but make the book easier to read. There is less ink on each page. The font has changed from serif to sans. The leading, the space between the lines, has increased. Even though the font is smaller, the book itself is definitely easier to read. The old lines above and below each recipe title are gone: less ink, more brightness, and less for your eyes to deal with.

You’d be surprised, but those changes are significant. This edition “looks” different because it is. And readability is key. You just won’t use a cookbook if it’s tough on the eyes. So this edition is truly an advance.

Lastly, each chapter has a divider with the chapter recipes indexed there. In my edition, the recipes were all just listed in one glob. Now, the recipes are broken into sections making it easier to find what you need — an important improvement given that increased number of recipes. So that Candy Chapter has a subsection for fudge alone. So convenient for discriminating candy enthusiast.

And truly lastly, that subsectioning has been expanding to the photos, too. Some chapters, like Meat, include a photo section showing different varieties. For beef, the picture now has subsections by cut, so now you can clearly see the 10 kinds of beef chuck to look for in the market. That’s a great addition that will help you deal with the “meat counter overload” that so many of us experience.

Brian and I just got our copy of this book. You should get your. Yes, I’ll be cooking out of it this weekend. Well, it will be Brian and he’s planning on starting with fudge. First things first.