betty crocker

This has nothing to do with OR, but I have a flair for cooking and I want to share the first edition 1950 Betty Crocker cookbook I inherited with you. I have never been a fan of Betty Crocker, since I like more flavor in food than just salt and pepper, but I find the 1950 edition cookbook fascinating. The recipes are actually more diverse than the subsequent edition Betty Crocker cookbooks, with ethnic recipes from all over Northern Europe. This was probably because of the high rate of immigration at the time. Don’t get excited about the diversity–mayonnaise is used in all of the salad dressings. I tried a couple of recipes from the cookbook and understood why most of the recipes were replaced in subsequent editions of the cookbook. However, the instructions for how to cook and dinner party advice are great. I’ll hang onto the cookbook for sentimental reasons and an occasional giggle, but I won’t try another recipe.

The most interesting aspect of the 1950 Betty Crocker cookbook is more than a collection of recipes, it is primarily a guidebook for assimilating to American cuisine and eating customs. These are my favorite excerpts:

  • Each chapter begins with serving instructions and cultural notes, presumably for immigrants. These explanations are a nice touch, and are missing from every other cookbook I own. Very little attention is paid to food presentation these days, and I must admit that I don’t have the time or inclination to make pretty meals.
  • The cookbook refers to the seven food groups (green and yellow vegetables; oranges, tomatoes, and grapefruit; potatoes and other vegetables and fruit; milk and milk products; meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dried peas and beans; bread, flour, and cereals; and butter and fortified margarine). Yes, butter was actually a food group. Amazing. (The seven food groups were reduced to four in 1956, and the four food groups became a pyramid in 1992).
  • Betty Crocker recommends serving appetizers for “the hostess without a maid.” Was everyone that wealthy in the 1950s? (I have mixed feeling about this since the person who I got this cookbook from–Grandma–was a maid when she immigrated to the United States in the 1920s).
  • Betty Crocker likes eggs so much that wrote a nursery rhyme about them: “One, two–they’re good for you! Three, four–they taste like ‘more!’ Five, six–they’re fun to fix! Seven, eight–they’re mealtime bait! Nine, ten–here’s how and when! Eleven, twelve–dig and delve!” Now that’s enthusiasm for eggs!
  • Betty Crocker was not a vegetarian. She writes, “Without [meat], it is an unsatisfactory meal for most people.” However, she does recommend getting half of one’s protein from vegetables and grains. That’s fairly progressive by today’s carnivorous standard.
  • A single chapter (of 17) is devoted to vegetables. By comparison, there are 5+ chapters for dessert. Betty Crocker has a random musing about vegetables that turns into an odd value judgment: “[V]egetables are like people. By treating them with sympathy and understanding, they give us their best in color, nutrients, and flavor. Indifferent treatment, however, makes them drab and lifeless, their precious minerals and vitamins lost. Like people whose fine talents are wasted.”
  • When referring to adolescents (14-20 years old ): “A few pounds overweight at this period is an asset for health.” Enough said.

Amazingly, you can purchase a copy of the original Betty Crocker cookbook, and browsing inside this cookbook suggests that they have not changed a thing.

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