I have had the 1950 Edition of Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book for so long I have forgotten who gave it to me. I have never really flipped through it, but a few days ago I was wondering how to properly cook beef tongue while simultaneously vacuuming my home in high heels, and I knew just where to turn.
This thing is a classic kitchen staple. I think everybody I know has a copy. As I perused the recipes and kitchen tips, I realized just how sexist this book is.
Sometimes it is easy not to notice how much human culture is centered around food. How we obtain it, how we prepare it, which members of the household are responsible for these tasks.
The book is not without its charm. It features two-page color spreads of meticulously arranged meals that I imagine were quite impressive to the 1950s reader.
Some of the recipes for standard, classic American fare are truly useful and easy to follow.
Then the book veers into over-the-top sexist territory. It reminds us women that it is important to not only prepare a nine-course feast every evening, but also to have our husbands’ favorite cocktails ready for them when they walk in the door and be prepared to amuse him with funny anecdotes.
“Darling, it was just so humorous today when the neighbor’s cat got stuck in our tree. Fortunately I hadn’t started the Welsh rarebit and your vodka martini yet so I had time retrieve the poor dear.”
Betty Crocker also urges us to be comfortable while cleaning the home. Today’s version would have me vacuuming barefoot in yoga pants and a Metallica tee, with my wild mane of greasy hair pulled into a messy top knot. Hey, at least the vacuuming gets done.
The quotes from actual housewives also speaks to the time in which the book was published. What?! No help in your five-room home? Poor thing.
Ms. Crocker also reminds us to relax from time-to-time as we scurry about to make a happy home. Word is, the original versions came complete with your very own prescription for Valium.
Despite its flaws, I will keep Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book around as a good reminder of how much has changed in six decades. If the book was published today, I would be horrified by it and immediately boycott it, but the 1950s were a different time. It is also easy to see why women eventually became so annoyed with the status quo that they burned their bras and started the Women’s Liberation Movement.
So I will place Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book back on the shelf where it will stay until I need a potato salad recipe or decided to venture outside the box and prepare a meal of beef tongue. And I might just put my copy of The Feminine Mystique next to it on the shelf for good measure.