Highlights From The Nancy Drew Cookbook

by Melissa Locker

Need cooking tips? Ask Nancy Drew, because “Who would be more intrigued to be an adventurer in cooking than a girl who loves to solve mysteries!” [Sic.] As the story goes, Nancy asked her humble housekeeper Hannah Gruen to help her draft the cookbook, as well as her husky friend Bess and her … er, tomboy friend George. Then Nancy held a culinary focus group that included such luminaries as lawyer/father Carson Drew and three frat boys from Emerson College. Nancy cooked for the group, and the most well received recipes were included in The Nancy Drew Cookbook: Clues to Good Cooking, by Carolyn Keene (Grosset & Dunlap, 1977). As Carolyn Keene is also fictional, who knows who actually wrote this book. Maybe Betty Crocker?

The recipes are, in a word, mysterious. Yet sound surprisingly good! (I’ll take two of “The Case of the Smothered Pork Chops,” please.)

Organized from “Brunch for Sleepyheads” to the “Diary of Giveaway Treats,” the recipes are all given suitably inexplicable titles: “Broken Locket Meringues,” “Whispering Statue Sherbet,” and “Old Stagecoach Sausage Loaf,” to whet the appetite and the inner girl detective. (“What is sausage loaf?” you might ask yourself. “What are cranberry sauce and green olives doing in my ground beef?”) And while you may be tempted to omit the banana from “Diary Chicken Salad,” the introduction warns: “Unless you are an expert, follow the recipes exactly.”

“Nancy’s Nutrition Secrets,” often included at the end of a recipe, are a mystery, too. As in, how does a tablespoon of lemon juice, ½ cup of honey, and 2/3 cup of butter warmed and drizzled over waffles add nutrition to anything? George the tomboy fares the nutritional analysis marginally better, however, with her “George’s Keep In Shape Grapefruit” (see below).

Everyone in Nancy’s elite social circle contributed recipes to the cookbook. There’s Carson Drew’s Cheesecake, Ned’s Potato Pancakes (is Ned part of the tribe?), and Burt’s Pizza (on English muffin, of course). Putative best friend Bess Marvin’s sole contribution (you wouldn’t want to eat like the “husky” friend would you?) is a recipe for her “Secret Chocolate Waffles” (again, below), which may have earned their name because Bess eats them in secret locked in the bathroom crying.

While Nancy doesn’t go to school or have a job, she is aware that the less fortunate do exist and notes that, “These dishes are not for busy mornings — just for weekends and holidays.” Don’t strain yourselves making “Phantom Eggs” (eggs, undiluted tomato soup, bread crumbs) on a Tuesday, ladies.

And take note, men, Nancy has a tip for you, too: “Add intrigue to your gift balls.” By substituting butterscotch morsels for the chocolate ones, naturally. That’s how Ned Nickerson serves his!

Melissa Locker is also on Twitter.