Something from the Oven
May 15, 2019 10:10 PM - by Laura Shapiro - Subscribe

In this captivating blend of culinary history and popular culture, the award-winning author of Perfection Salad shows us what happened when the food industry elbowed its way into the kitchen after World War II, brandishing canned hamburgers, frozen baked beans, and instant piecrusts. Big Business waged an all-out campaign to win the allegiance of American housewives, but most women were suspicious of the new foods—and the make-believe cooking they entailed. With sharp insight and good humor, Laura Shapiro shows how the ensuing battle helped shape the way we eat today, and how the clash in the kitchen reverberated elsewhere in the house as women struggled with marriage, work, and domesticity. This unconventional history overturns our notions about the ’50s and offers new thinking on some of its fascinating figures, including Poppy Cannon, Shirley Jackson, Julia Child, and Betty Friedan
posted by Homo neanderthalensis (2 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This is an amazing follow up to Perfection Salad, and a much less depressing book. In Perfection Salad we saw how the "science" of home ec was weaponized first against women then wielded by them to essentially ruin food, in the name of science and keeping women in the kitchen. While the premise of this book would seem to be in the same vein, it's a remarkable tale about women in the kitchen fighting back. The women involved in cooking in this era were no shrinking violet, and lived remarkable lives. Yes, processed foods encroached into the kitchen pushed by male company men who'd probably never cooked in their lives- but you'd be surprised how much crap they pushed that women straight up rejected, while accepting some help that made their lives easier. And of course, the era might have spawned the heyday of Betty Crocker- but it also spawned Julia Child. If the dawn of the 20th century was marshmallow salads and food cooked to a theme, this era was the beginning of a return to flavor.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:17 PM on May 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

Another good read — It is proudly located on one of my bookshelves right next to Perfection Salad. I love culinary nonfiction!
posted by bookmammal at 12:50 PM on May 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

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