After 84 years on bookshelves around the world, Nancy Drew has inspired generations of girls to think for themselves, face their fears and boldly go where they might not have gone before. But did you know that Nancy also inspired them to cook? Yes, in 1973 Carolyn Keene (whoever that was) released The Nancy Drew Cookbook: Clues to Good Cooking. And I, for one, was forever changed by it (so, no doubt, were the family members who had to eat my Nancy Drew meals).
Before my mom bought me the cookbook, I’d never had any interest in cooking. I had seen how hard she worked in the kitchen day after day, and it just seemed like pure drudgery to me. But when I found out that Nancy Drew liked to cook, well, that changed everything. Why? Because every girl knew that Nancy only did smart, exciting things.
So, I rolled up my sleeves and thumbed through the cookbook in search of a recipe. With each page, I was drawn deeper and deeper into the enigmatic world of cooking by intriguingly named dishes like “Mysterious Mannequin Casserole,” “Double Jinx Salad” and “Whispering Statue Sherbet.” After doing some serious investigating for a recipe with ingredients that appealed to my then 12-year-old palate, I settled on “A Keene Soup.”
The soup, as I know now, was actually not so “keen.” It called for milk, peanut butter, and either celery salt or cinnamon (naturally, I chose the latter). And you were supposed to top it with whipped cream and paprika (as if the celery salt wasn’t bad enough)! Undaunted by this culinary crime, I followed one of Nancy’s cardinal rules: to “add that secret little touch of hers” or come up with a secret ingredient of your own. So I scratched the paprika and opted for crunchy peanut butter instead of smooth.
After heating the ingredients on the stove and adding the whipped cream, which were basically the only directions, I proudly served the soup to my father. He took a cautious sip (it was hot, after all), choked a little as he swallowed it (on one of the peanut pieces, of course) and nodded wordlessly. I was thrilled because I was certain that he was just too overcome by the flavor to speak (which was true, in a way).
High on my seeming success, I resolved to make every recipe in The Nancy Drew Cookbook. But then my mom reminded me that I had to wash the dishes, and I again became convinced that cooking was pure drudgery. Do I still feel that way? Uh-huh. But thanks to Nancy, I’m not clueless in the kitchen, and I did write my own mystery series.