Handy Aid Books and Clementine Paddleford

When the first glimmers of a resurgence of interest in my cookbooks began among a number of book collectors and food enthusiasts who contacted me, I thought, “HOW GREAT!” I had stopped writing and publishing my Handy Aid Cookbooks more than 40 years ago. The years went by, my husband, Dick, and I retired to travel, cook, and pursue our art collecting. But there is a long story to tell about these times when writing and cooking were my life.

I recently read David Brooks column in the New York Times asking for readers over the age of 70 to give him a gift in the form of an essay: “a brief report on your life so far, an evaluation of what you did well, of what you did not do so well and what you learned along the way…and give yourself a grade.” He thought maybe the young could learn from it. He also mentioned that he had a collection of bios from Yale classmates of 1942 written for their 50th reunion. ‘Well,’ I mused, ‘My 65th reunion is coming up, and it might be a good time to write the essay that David Brooks requested and that my classmates might want to read.’ When I think about which of my life’s experiences might be relevant to life for women in 2012, I think of the history of the creation of my Handy Aid Cookbooks.

Handy Aid Book: Cuisine ArtsWhen I graduated from Smith College in 1947, diploma in hand and a brand new marriage to a veteran of World War II, I remembered what our graduation speaker, Edward R. Murrow, advised the graduates: “You young women are going out into the world and if you want to keep your husbands with you during the times ahead, it would be wise of you to assume some of the financial burdens and share in the world of work.”

Well, I took this very seriously, and I wish I could tell Mr. Murrow that his words inspired me to work side by side with my husband for 46 years. These were the best years of our lives and everything good that happened to us throughout these years began with Handy Aid Cookbooks.

And here’s what the New York Herald Tribune’s Clementine Paddleford said in 1951 about my endeavor, just one year before my Bartender Box lent much of its recipe content to A Guide to Pink Elephants, Volume 1: “Bartender Box Helps the Novice Mix Drinks” Plastic Recipe Cards for Most Concoctions
New York Herald TribuneWomen are knuckleheads when it comes to drink mixing. Men say it’s so and most women swallow their pride and agree. Ruth Rosen’s husband, Richard, wouldn’t let her make as much as a high-ball. “Women are chronic recipe changers,” he said. “How would I know you wouldn’t try just a dash of vanilla?”
Ruth thought the matter over and decided men had plenty of cause for disdain. After a little “Galloping” poll of her own, she discovered two main reasons why women brew insipid mixtures. First they seldom remember what goes into a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned without referring to a book of directions, and usually they haven’t a book handy. They start the drink as they think it ought to be and add an inspirational touch or two as they go along. Woman’s second mistake is her inclination to pour by-gosh and by-golly, all without measuring.
Ruth Rosen decided any woman could mix a perfect drink if she had a guide at hand. Thinking about it, she decided to make a Bartender Box, modeling this after her Recipe Tender which has been selling like hotdogs at Coney since fall. The box itself is plastic, fitted with injected metal hinges; spill-proof when the lid is closed. It won’t reopen without finger action even when the box is held upside down. The cards are plasticized, which means they wash as easy as china.
EASY TO USE–Bartender is divided according to kinds of spirits, with one section for wines. The divisions are arranged alphabetically: brandies, cordials, gin, party punches, rum, Scotch, vodka, and whisky. There is one card in the fore of each section which lists the drink formulas and gives the card number. In all, 200 drink recipes are included, all made of the basic stuffs to be found in virtually every man’s liquor closet. Mrs. Rosen doesn’t believe in junky stuff, you know, bottle after bottle of things nobody cares for or knows what to do with. Pictured with each recipe is the correct glass for its service. Also, there is a brief description and a few interesting facts about the various spirits. The wine section has a chart on wine service detailing the type of wine for each course and for different types of food. Also the correct temperature for serving.
PASS IT WITH PRIDE, Bartender on the shelf, any woman can mix a drink and pass it with pride. But follow directions explicitly. Another little nudge! Never mix a drink without measuring. A bar man doesn’t, so why should you, a novice, think to judge what an ounce looks like in a glass that looks like a half gallon?
And one last warning mouth-hot from Mrs. Rosen: don’t change the recipe. If you substitute one ingredient for something else or change a single proportion in a drink, you no longer have the drink as named. You have a new concoction. It may be good but it’s something else. Get the taste buds primed for a dry martini and feed them martini with something substituted for the vermouth and, as any man will tell you if he’s being honest, “It’s the damnedest tasting stuff!”
Ruth Rosen’s Bartender sells for $1.89 at Lord & Taylors, B. Altman’s, Wanamakers, McCreery’s, Bloomingdale’s. These same stores have her Recipe Tender, and for the same price, “200 recipes, almost all of them in the economy class.”


  1. Enjoyed this post soooo much. How wonderful to know about Ruth. Amazing woman

  2. Wendy Ceracche says:

    This is so teriffic! I think you are REALLY “on” to something here. The 50’s is a nostalgic era for baby boomers. It was a simpler time—no microwaves, no computers—slow cooking was the norm, in fact life seemed at a slower pace all together. Bringing back your cookbooks “to life” will strike a chord with many people all over the world. I forecast another “boom” for your books. Ruth, your wonderful writing skills enhance an already fascinating website and I look forward to your Thoughts of the Week and continued success for sales of your marvelous cookbooks.

  3. Liz Freeland says:

    How wonderful, Ruth—thanks so much for sharing this. Frankly I am horrible at mixing Clint a Gin and Tonic (I don’t measure…maybe I should heed your advice!). Any chance you’ll bring back the Bartender Box for another tour? In all seriousness though, your experiences and accomplishments are inspiring and commendable, and you’re a role model for women everywhere.

  4. Wow! Ruth — how great your BLOG looks and I’ve put it on my favorite places so will keep up with you….. Nancy Bernard (no the other Nancy)

  5. polly daeger says:


    fondly–polly rosenberg daeger

  6. Dear Mrs. Rosen
    Do you remember that you were my first job out of school and you and Mr. Rosen helped me so much with my life up until I married Allan Gold.
    I thought you were both brilliant and kind and loved your books because they only had a few ingredients, after 6 or so an Author loses me.
    I think of you often and was very saddened to hear of Mr. Rosen’s passing which I hope is correct as I got this information online.
    My daughter and I are now living in Orlando, Fla. and very happy. Best Wishes,

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