April with Aunt Bettina


Meal Planning with Bettina


Tell me, housewife blithe and fair.
How does your garden grow?
Crisp and green the lettuce there,——
Onions, row by row,——
Radishes beyond compare!
Spring and I with tender care
Watch them well, you know!

Midway through you might notice a picture of the “Fantasy Island” house, which is at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Garden in Arcadia, CA. There’s also a picture of what I call “Snow White’s Cottage” right after it. Do you agree?


[Note: Spelling is original to book, and pictures are from a book with fewer chapters than the one I’m reading aloud, so the chapter numbers do not match the picture]


“I WAS so afraid Father wouldn’t let me come, Aunt Bettina!” exclaimed Mildred, after the first greetings. “And your letter sounded so jolly—about the cooking and all—well, if Father had said ‘no’ I should simply have died.”

“Died, Mildred?” asked Bob. “I must say you look fairly healthy to me, too much so to pine away soon!”

“I don’t intend to die now, Uncle Bob! I’m going to live and have the most fun helping Aunt Bettina! I like that so much better than lessons. I brought two aprons in my suit case; Mother said I acted as if I wouldn’t meet anybody in a three day visit but your kitchen stove. And to tell the truth, Aunt Bettina, I just hope I won’t! I’d rather help you cook than see sights or meet people.”

“Oh, dear!” exclaimed Bob tragically. “Just when I was counting on you to climb to the dome of the capitol with me, too! Why was I ever born?”

“You’ll have to do your climbing alone, I’m afraid,” Mildred replied cheerfully. “Now, Aunt Bettina, may I set the table for you? Do show me what you are going to have for dinner! Little custards? Oh, how cunning! Made in moulds and served cold with maple syrup? Aunt Bettina, I just believe I could make that dessert myself! Will you teach me while I’m here?”

The dinner consisted of: Round Steak En Casserole, Baked Potatoes, Lettuce Salad, Bettina Dressing, Steamed Custard,  Maple Syrup, Coffee

Susan Wheeler, Illustrator



“MILDRED helped me get the dinner tonight,” said Bettina, as they sat down at the table.

“Indeed I did, Uncle Bob!” exclaimed the little girl delightedly. “And I’m having so much fun that I don’t ever, ever, ever want to go home! Aunt Bettina is going to show me how to make cookies tomorrow!”

“Is she?” said Bob. “Well, don’t eat ’em all up before I get here. Save me six fat ones, with raisins in. Don’t forget the raisins.”

“I set the table, Uncle Bob, and I made the rice croquettes into that cunning shape, and when they were fried, I put in the jelly! Don’t they look nice?”

“The most artistic rice croquettes, I ever ate!” declared Bob.

“And wait till you see the dessert! I fixed that; Aunt Bettina showed me how. But I won’t tell you what it is—yet. I know you’ll like it, though.”

“Well, you’re a great little helper, Mildred, aren’t you!”

“That’s just what Aunt Bettina says. And I’ve learned so many things! I didn’t know before that it was easier to cut up marshmallows with the scissors than any other way. Oh, Aunt Bettina! I almost told him about our dessert!”

“Marshmallows? Marshmallows?” said Bob. “A clue, I do believe! I have it: ‘Marshmallows served with scissors!'”

“Oh, Uncle Bob, you’re too funny!” cried Mildred, shouting with laughter.

“Appreciated at last!” said Bob.

For dinner that night they had: Lamb chops, Rice croquettes, Creamed peas, Bread and Butter, Sponge Cake and Whipped Cream, and Coffee.



“COOKING a company dinner is such fun!” sighed Mildred. “I like the dinner part, but I always wish that the company would stay away at the last minute.”

“Oh, you’ll like Mr. Jackson, Mildred. He’s one of Uncle Bob’s best friends, and so nice and jolly!”

“The jolly men always like to tease, and the ones who aren’t jolly are always cross. I don’t intend to get married myself. I’m going to live in a nice little bungalow like this one and do my own cooking.”

“Will you live all alone?” asked Bettina.

“I’ll adopt some children—seven or eight, I think,—all girls. I don’t want any boys around.”

“Your bungalow will have to be larger than this to accommodate them all if you adopt seven or eight.”

“I don’t want a large one; that would spoil the fun. I’ll let the children take turns sleeping on the floor. Children always love to sleep on the floor, and mothers never like to have them do it! I wonder why? Now, will you let me brown the flour for the gravy?”

“Yes, dear. Put half a cup of white flour in that frying-pan over the fire and keep stirring it constantly until it is a nice brown color, about like powdered cinnamon.”

“This way?”

“Yes, Mildred; a little darker than that, but keep stirring it so that it won’t burn. There, that’s exactly right!”

That evening Bettina served: Leg of Lamb with Browned Potatoes and Gravy, Lettuce and Egg Salad, Strawberry Shortcake, Cream, and Coffee.



“I   HELPED to make the cunning little biscuits, Uncle Bob,” explained Mildred at dinner.

“You did?” said Bob, feigning astonishment. “You rolled them out with a rolling pin, I suppose, and——”

“Oh, no, Uncle Bob! You ought never to use a rolling pin, Aunt Bettina says!” said Mildred in a horrified tone, as if she had been cooking for the First Families for a score of years. “Good cooks always pat down the dough—they never roll it out.”

“Well, what do you do first? Stir up the dough with a spoon?”

“No, indeed; you use a knife. Then you pat the dough down, and cut out the dear little biscuits with a biscuit cutter.”

“And put them side by side in a nicely buttered pan? I know how!”

“But you don’t butter the pan,” said Mildred triumphantly. “Or flour it, either. Aunt Bettina says that lots of people think the pan has to be buttered or floured, but they’re wrong. It’s lots better to put the biscuits into a nice clean pan.”

“But don’t they stick to it, and burn?”

“No, indeed! They don’t burn a bit! Look at these!” said Mildred, delighted to find the opportunity to impart some of her newly acquired knowledge.

“Well, what else did you help Aunt Bettina to make?”

“These nice stuffed onions. It was fun to make them, even though I don’t like onions. I ground up the dry bread that Aunt Bettina keeps in the jar by the stove.”

“Well, you can tell Mother Polly that Aunt Bettina will make a good cook of you yet!”

For dinner that night they had: Rolled Stuffed Steak, Potatoes au Gratin, Stuffed Onions, Sour Cream Biscuits, Currant Jelly, Sliced Bananas, Cream, Coffee



“SO you’ve been teaching Mildred to cook?” asked Polly as they sat down to dinner.

“Oh, Mother, I’ve learned so much!” cried Mildred with enthusiasm. “And when I’m married, I’m going to have a dear little kitchen just like Aunt Betty’s! Aunt Betty does know the very best way to do everything! Why, Mother, I think she’s a better cook even than Selma, and not half so cross when I bother!”

“Bother!” said Bettina. “Why, Mildred, you’ve been a real help to me!”

“I hope so,” laughed Polly, “but I’m not so sure. Children never worry me—it’s fortunate, isn’t it?—but I don’t see how on earth anyone can cook with a child in the kitchen! I wanted Selma to teach Mildred, but I hadn’t the heart to insist when she objected to the plan.”

“H—m, Selma!” said Mildred with scorn. “Why, Mother, Selma doesn’t even know enough to line her cake pans with waxed paper! She butters ’em! And I don’t believe we have a spatula in the whole house!”

“A—what?” said Polly in a puzzled tone. “I don’t believe I——”

“Don’t you know what a spatula is, Mother?” asked Mildred didactically. “Why, it’s one of those flattened out spoon-things to use in the kitchen. We ought to have one. And—Mother, you ought to see how much mayonnaise Aunt Bettina makes at a time! It’ll keep, you know.”

“Goodness!” said Polly tragically. “What a dreadful thing it will be to live with a child who knows more than I do!”

For dinner that night they had: Veal Chops, Baked Potatoes, Escalloped Onions, Bread, Butter, Mocha Cake, Mocha Icing, Coffee



“I   SUPPOSE that when we get home again, Mildred will be insisting that we reorganize our household along the lines of yours, Bettina,” laughed Polly. “I can just hear Selma’s outbursts at the idea of any changes in her department.”

“But you can always smile Selma out of her ‘spells,’ Mother,” coaxed Mildred. “And just think, Selma doesn’t even know what a fireless cooker is! We’ll have to explain it to her.”

“What can you make in a fireless cooker, Mildred?” asked Polly of her little daughter, who was fairly bursting with her newly acquired information.

“Oh, Mother, this roast! Isn’t it good? Aunt Betty kept it in the cooker almost four hours, and think how much gas that saved!”

“Well, I’ll admit that such an item would appeal to your father, Mildred,” Polly replied, “so I think I’ll leave it to you to get around him and Selma. I’m sure,” she continued, turning to Bob, “that such an undertaking can reasonably be expected to occupy Mildred for some time. But I do like the roast.”

“The roast?” said Bob. “It is good, Polly, but you needn’t think that this is a company meal, especially. Why, Bettina gives me company dinners every day!”

For dinner that night they had: Pot Roast, Gravy, Boiled Rice, Soup, Apple and Nut Salad, Chocolate Pie, Coffee

Susan Wheeler, Illustrator



“NOW that this delicious little luncheon is over, Bettina,” said Alice, “I want to ask you something. How did you make the croquettes that cunning shape?”

“With a conical ice cream mould, Alice,” Bettina answered. “It is very simple. And I’ll tell you another thing. I made those croquettes yesterday, not today.”

“You don’t mean that you fried them yesterday?”

“Yes, I did, Alice. In deep fat.”

“But they were warm, not cold.”

“Yes, for I reheated them in the oven a few minutes before I served them. They really are as good as new when treated that way. I had always supposed that croquettes had to be served immediately after they were fried, and you know frying in deep fat is really a nuisance when it has to be done at the last minute. For instance, today I had the biscuits to make, and the soup and sweet potatoes to prepare. And I believe in being leisurely when giving a luncheon, so I certainly would not serve croquettes if they had to be made that day. I tried reheating them once when Bob and I were here alone and discovered that they were delicious. So I’ve always, ever since, fried my croquettes the day before.”

“Hereafter I’ll serve croquettes at luncheon myself,” said Alice. “You have taught me something.”

For luncheon that day Bettina served: Cream of Pea Soup, Toasted Sticks, Pork Croquettes,  Glazed Sweet Potatoes, Creamed Green Beans, Biscuit, Cherry Butter, Head Lettuce, French Dressing, Date Pudding, Cream, Coffee



“A   PENNY for your thoughts!”

Bettina started in surprise. “Why, Ruth, I didn’t see you coming up the walk!”

“I knew you didn’t. But what on earth are you doing out here on your front steps? Enjoying the weather?”

“Indeed I am! Isn’t it a wonderful spring day? But my thoughts weren’t very poetic, I must admit. I was just wondering if it was too early to put away my furs for the summer. I’m always tempted to do that when the first signs of spring appear, and then I’m generally sorry a few days later.”

“I’ll have to put mine away soon, too. Do tell me, Bettina, just how you go about it.”

“Well, I always hang mine in the sun for a while, then I beat them well, comb them out with a steel comb, and wrap them up.”

“With moth-balls?”

“That is a good way, but not at all necessary. I always wrap mine in a newspaper—a good tight package. Moths don’t like printer’s ink, you know, and furs so wrapped are perfectly safe.”

“Then, Bettina, you don’t need to add that you label the package, for I know that you do, you thoroughly thorough housekeeper!”

Bettina laughed. “Well, Ruth, I do label it. Labelled packages are so much better to have, for very often you need to get something out in a hurry.”

For dinner that night Bettina served: Broiled Steak, Lyonnaise Potatoes, Bean Salad, Bread, Butter, Date Rocks, Coffee


Lyonnaise Potatoes (Two portions) 2 T-onion, 2 T-butter, ¼ t-paprika, ½ t-salt, 1 C-cold boiled potatoes, cut in ½-inch cubes, 1 t-chopped parsley

Place one tablespoon of butter in a frying-pan and when hot add the onion. Let the onion cook until it is brown. Add the salt and parsley, the rest of the butter, the potatoes and the paprika. Stir well. Cook until the potatoes are well browned.



“OF course, I’ll help you, Ruth,” said Bettina. “I’d love to. A children’s party! What fun it will be! How many children will be there?”

“Twelve or fifteen, I think. Now let me tell you Ralph’s own idea for entertainment. I suppose I’m a doting aunt, but it sounds very possible to me.”

“Did Ralph suggest the kind of a party he wished? Well, isn’t he a clever boy! And he’s only eleven years old, too.”

“He suggested that the invitations invite the children to a circus. You see, we could write a little rhyme to that effect on animal paper, or with an animal picture pasted in the corner. When the children arrive, we’ll have the parade. We’ll have ready the horns, drums, and so forth, for the band, and some of the children will represent the various wild animals. The parade will lead to the refreshment table (after some circus games, perhaps), which will be set outdoors if it is warm enough. The table must represent a circus ground (I’ve seen those paper circuses downtown, haven’t you?), and the refreshments must carry out the scheme. So, Bettina, do help us to plan the details!”

Bettina’s dinner that night consisted of: Sliced Ham and Potatoes en Casserole, Baked Creamed Cabbage, Bread, Butter, Plum Pudding, Cocoanut Pudding



RUTH and Bettina led “the parade,” the band at its head, to the cheerful sunroom, where the table had been set. At sight of the “party” spread before them, the young musicians and the others gave a sudden shriek of delight.

“It’s a circus!” explained Ralph to curly-headed Margery, who was adding her own piping voice to the general din.

A small American flag floated from a flag pole in the center of the table, and around it were arranged paper circus tents and circus wagons of the five and ten cent store variety. Animal crackers were all about, and the animal sandwiches and animal cakes in flat baskets looked almost too real to be eaten.

Smooth boards on supports represented circus seats, and on these the children soon clambered, eager to eat as children always are.

The paper napkins, decorated with animals, were folded before the places to represent tents. The salad faces, which Ralph called “clowns,” leered up from the plates.

But the joy was not to be all in seeing. There was a favor for each child to carry away, the favors from the table being claimed by matching the numbers on each one with a corresponding number on the pieces of candy passed at the close of the meal.

The refreshments consisted of: Clown Salad with Pineapple, Animal Cookie-Cutter Sandwiches (Variety such as ham and egg salad), Picnic Lemonade, Brick Ice Cream, Fancy Cakes, Candies

Susan Wheeler, Illustrator



“IT won’t be hard, Ruth, if you plan it out in detail several days before. Decide on the menu, and if you find that some one dish is going to cause more trouble than it’s worth, plan something else in its place.”

“If it weren’t for Aunt Gertrude I shouldn’t worry at all, but she is such a wonderful housekeeper! And I am determined that Mother sha’n’t have one bit of the responsibility. She’s to feel herself just as much a guest as Aunt Gertrude.”

“I think it’s a lovely thing for you to do, Ruth. Now let me tell you how I think you should go about it. Make a visit to your grocery store or to the market tomorrow, and notice the good things that are in season and inexpensive. Build your menu around them. When you get home, sit down with a paper and pencil and plan everything out. Go into detail, even if it takes several hours of planning. It will be well worth it. I don’t mean by that an elaborate luncheon; it ought to be a simple and delicious one, but complete in every detail. When I plan, I write down the things that I can do the day before, and even the day before that. You know there are always so many things to see to—polishing the silver and writing the name cards and seeing that the table linen is in order. It ought to be planned so that the day of the party won’t be crowded full of ‘last minute things.’ Come into the kitchen with me, Ruth; I must baste my pork tenderloin.”

That night Bettina served: Pork Tenderloin, Baked Potatoes, Bread, Butter, Raspberry Jam,
Vegetable Salad, Salad Dressing, Tapioca Pudding, Coffee

Advertisement at the back of the book. Coincidence? I think not!



“DO stay to dinner, Ruth!” begged Bettina. “Bob is going to drive the new car out when he comes, and we’ll have him take us for a spin after dinner.”

“Oh, Bettina, has Bob really bought it? Will you really have a car of your own?”

“Yes, indeed, we will. I can hardly realize it myself, and although I’m so happy over it, I have a little haunting fear that perhaps it is too great an extravagance. But we’ll enjoy it so!”

“Of course you will. I’m so glad! Won’t the summer be delightful when you can get out into the country every day!”

“Ruth, you must stay to dinner and see the car for yourself! I planned a special little celebration dinner, a kind of salad that Bob particularly likes, and a good dessert, too. And now, if you’ll come into the kitchen with me, I’ll show you how to make peanut butter rolls. You never heard of them? Well, they’re a little like pinwheel biscuit. Don’t you remember the pinwheel biscuit that I make sometimes—baking powder biscuit dough rolled out and spread with butter and sugar and cinnamon—then rolled up and cut like cinnamon rolls and baked?”

“Of course, I remember, Bettina! They’re the best little things, and so easy to make!”

“Well, these peanut butter rolls are like them, but spread with butter and peanut butter. Come into the kitchen and I’ll show you how they’re made.”

For dinner they had: Lamb Chops, Saut├ęd Potatoes, Creamed Peas, Peanut Butter Rolls, Pear Salad, Cheese Wafers, Chocolate Pie, Coffee

Susan Wheeler, Illustrator


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