Author’s Note- This 47 page book of illustrations and recipes got me through a tramatic time in my childhood so I had to write about it. No little girl should be without one.
December 1, 1958.
Today I just got the “Fun to Cook Book” in the mail and I want to try each recipe. Margie Blake is Carnation Milk’s 10 year-old culinary star and I thought this book was very cute. My mother and I carefully collected six labels from the Carnation milk cans to order it and I will begin my cooking adventure tomorrow. My father just had to rush my mother to the hospital. She said she cannot feel her legs.
December 8, 1958.
The 47 pages of this book have suddenly become part of my life. I found out today that Margie Blake is as real as Nancy Drew’s Carolyn Keene and that really sucked! My mother is back in the hospital for a long time, so Margie Blake’s imaginary family has become mine.
I close my eyes and dream that Margie’s mother Mary Blake is waiting for me in her blue dress and apron everyday when I come home from school. I made the meatloaf today all by myself and I know if Mary was really here she would have made me mashed potatoes too. But she wasn’t, so I just had canned peas and the peas looked as lonely on the plate as I am.
December 10, 1958.
I loved the idea that my Carnation cookbook ‘family’ would make hot tomato soup on a cold winter’s night. They served it with delicious grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato slices on the side. I imagined that we would all sit down together at the dining room table and speak about cooking safety tips that Margie discussed in the cookbook.
Always turn that pot handles in and I remembered to do that as I made the soup tonight. My mother is going to have an operation on her spine tomorrow. I wish I could bring her tomato soup. Maybe that would make her feel better?
December 14, 1958.
My favourite page was the middle of the book with all the Carnation Milk pies. In my dreams Margie and I made a new one every day. I had a few mishaps with the Tropical Freeze and my scrambled eggs turned out a little dry, but I completed them. They operated on my mother yesterday and they still could not find out what was wrong with her. They are going to bring in the *world renowned specialist Dr. Gingras
to the *Darlington Rehab Centre to see her. He is flying in to Montreal from Russia and is going to treat her like a guinea pig my father said.
December 20, 1958.
Saturday I brought over Margie’s recipe for Hot Cocoa to a friend’s house to make after a skating party. All of us sat warming ourselves in front of the fireplace while we stirred a large marshmallow in our cup of hot cocoa. It was delicious! My friends asked about my mother and I began to cry. Even the Cocoa did not help and I left early.
December 31, 1958.
Today I am making the very last recipe. It is Margie’s 1-2-3 Hot Fudge Sauce. My babysitter Janet is coming over tonight. She wears big skirts with a huge crinoline and wears pink lipstick. Her boyfriend looks like Fabian and he is coming over too. It’s 1-2 3 Hot Fudge Sauce for everyone with ice cream!
My father just told me they do not know what is wrong with my mother. He got angry, slammed the door and left and that is why Janet is coming over. I wish Margie Blake was real and could stay with me because I think my mother is never coming home.
Photo Sheila Wallet Needham
My mother, Bernice Ethylene Crittenden Knight died five years later in 1963 at 34 years old. Her death was listed as a heart attack as they had no idea what was wrong with her.
My mother was operated on, probed, tested for five years and never complained once. She never regained the feeling in her legs– yet never lost her smile
In 1997 when my sister Robin died at age 40 from cancer the doctors finally figured out that my mother had Lymphoma on the spine. In today’s day and age this disease is hard to detect as it was in my sister; so imagine the 50’s.
The Fun to Cook Book got me through hard times in life and I will always thank my imaginary friend Margie Blake from Carnation Milk. In my china cabinet are two vintage Fun to Cook Books for each of my granddaughters when they get older. I hope the cookbook means that much to them as it did to me.
Notes from the Peanut Gallery:
One of my favorites of your posts- Kevin
“Never give up and focus on remaining abilities rather than on those lost.”
Stories about Bernice Ethelyne Crittenden my mother: