Ever since I've been old enough to use the stove by myself -- which was probably in seventh grade, when I took my first home economics class -- I've been fascinated with old cookbooks. My mom had a small collection from the 40's and 50's, which she got from her mom. Many of them had funny covers, like this one. Checa the hair! And the cute little salt and pepper shakers that fit into the stove! As I've grown up, I've wondered what my grandmother might have cooked, and whether she enjoyed cooking like I do. (Funnily enough, this particular cookbook above wasn't even hers. That's not my grandma's name scrawled on the cover.) I don't ever recall her making muffins or cookies or meatloaf, although surely she must have. I just remember her quesadillas. They were crackly and golden-brown, and thick with Monterey Jack cheese. If my grandmother were still alive, I would have loved to ask her if she knew of Josefina Velazquez de Leon. De Leon, a home cook with no formal training, wrote an amazingly prolific series of cookbooks (140-plus titles) for middle-class Mexican housewives in the 1940's-60's. Many dispensed practical advice about how to use leftovers and cook on a budget, but the most interesting thing was that they all dealt with Mexican food. At the time, no one had collected the country's most authentic, regional recipes, and put them in one place. She also opened a cooking school to teach her recipes, making her pretty much the Betty Crocker/Julia Child of her time. I didn't know any of this until a few weeks ago, when my friend Ruth. took me to a Condesa bookfair set up on a street median. A vendor there had at least a dozen Velazquez books on display, each with colorful covers depicting women with 1950's hairstyles and aprons. After Ruth told me about Josefina's history, my heartbeat quickened. I wanted to buy all of them, but instead I picked five. I've thumbed through most of them already, and I'll probably end up making something from the antojitos book first. Although part of me really wants to put on a vintage apron and make a whole five-course meal from "Los 30 Menus." Just found one I liked, on page 23: Sopa seca de pan (a layered, buttery, bread-and-tomato soup); tortilla florentina, an rolled-up omelette kind of dish filled with chicken livers and onion; hamburguesas con ensalada de papa (hamburgers with potato salad); taquitos de crema (small tacos filled with Mexican crema, poblano peppers and queso fresco... oh god), and gelatina de jamaica. If you want to join me -- I have multiple vintage aprons in my drawer -- let me know. Also, I'm curious: Do you have a favorite old cookbook of your own, or have you secretly harbored a desire to cook like Betty Draper on Mad Men? Please tell me I'm not the only one.