The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook was my mom's go-to resource whenever she was making something new or experimental. (She just called it "the red and white checkered cookbook, and I was a teenager before I realized that wasn't actually it's official title.) It's the cookbook that taught me to cook, laboriously working my way through from Baked Alaska to Zucchini Parmesan, while my long-suffering family was obliged to consume whatever I'd attempted.
If I could only have one cookbook on my shelf, I'd want it to be this one. But I'd want one of the older editions, not any of the post 1980s editions.
The recipes have changed subtly, I suspect to make them simpler and more accessible for cooks who don't grow up with a mother who once taught Home Ec (when they still had Home Ec in high schools)—but simpler to make doesn't necessarily translate to better cooking. In fact, sometimes those two goals are diametrically opposed. I discovered this completely by accident, after buying a new copy to replace my trusty old graduation-present cookbook that went missing during a house move. I've bemoaned its loss for years, now. So imagine my utter joy when I received a trusty older edition for Christmas, this year.
Thumbing through the indexed sections, seeing the well-loved recipes I haven't made in years, was like returning to a much-loved childhood home.