All posts tagged: gender

Got Milk? Well, You Might Find 19th Century Politics in Your Glass

Marked with a logo depicting rolling green hills and blue skies, Garelick Farms dairy products are found in grocery stores across New England. Their “Dairy Pure” milk commercial often appears on television during the day while I work and study from my home in Brookline, Massachusetts. From its very name, Dairy Pure, this brand of milk promotes itself as a safe and perfect food. The commercial’s language and imagery are particularly interesting when analyzed alongside E. Melanie DuPuis’ Nature’s Perfect Food: How Milk Became America’s Drink. DuPuis tells the nineteenth-century story of how milk was transformed in the American conscious from a poison to a universally and naturally necessary, perfect food. The present day marketing for Dairy Pure milk also works to assuage fears about milk’s safety and promote milk’s place in the lives of mothers and children. DuPuis describes the high infant mortality rates of mid-nineteenth century America, which stirred many milk reformers into action. Increasing urbanization had caused changes in societal expectations and cultural norms for middle class women, as well as increased …

Blogging for Food Day 2012 – “No Room for Debate: The World of Food is Full of Women”

Last week, I had the distinct pleasure to guest blog for Food Day 2012, a nationwide celebration and movement toward more healthy, affordable, and sustainable food, created by Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The post appears on Food Day 2012’s blog and is republished below…  As the final Presidential debate concluded last week week, many issues occupied the minds of American voters, from the economy to foreign policy, education to job growth. Notably, women’s issues have been at the forefront throughout the campaign more than ever before. Most any reader of this post, however, likely works in a field in which women have long been a driving force—food. In fact, the situation is quite the opposite. In food-related professions from dietetics (a career field made up of 97 percent women) to public health nutrition, food activism to food studies, women are powerfully represented. While representation may not directly translate into equitable power and pay, women consistently fight on the frontlines in the battle for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food for all. As food producers, consumers, …

“It’s Always Summer-time in Your Kitchen:” Food Safety as Depicted in Home Refrigerator Advertising in the Interwar Years

What follows is an expanded abstract for the paper, “‘It’s Always Summer-time in Your Kitchen:’ Food Safety as Depicted in Home Refrigerator Advertising in the Interwar Years.”  Americans currently live in an age when food safety scares are headline news and an issue of concern for consumers. Take for example the ever-expanding peanut butter salmonella recall. While foodborne illness is a product of a long and complex food supply chain, its effects are often experienced in domestic environments of food consumption, such as the home kitchen. In fact, the evolution of the modern kitchen sits within a larger historical narrative of consumer food safety. Consider the home refrigerator, for example. Several scholars herald household refrigeration as one of the most important food safety achievements of the twentieth century (CDC 1999: 906; FPT 2011: 132; Roberts 2001: 29). Perhaps not coincidentally, the rise in home refrigerator ownership was coupled with, and fueled by, fervent consumer messaging from refrigerator marketers and home economics specialists alike. In his analysis, Peter Grahame argues that there is great variance among the content of …

Curating the History of American Convenience Cuisine

In the years following World War II, the United States took on a new shape and so did the way Americans ate. The 1950s witnessed the rise of “packaged-food cuisine,” a dietary change and gastronomic phenomenon that had as much to do with the postwar military industrial complex, women’s issues, and class-consciousness, as it did with food. This selection of five images explores these themes, using convenience food as a lens to explore the socio-cultural context of the 1950s. 1. The Evolution of Betty Crocker, 1921 – Present Created in 1921, the name and face of Betty Crocker has appeared in American grocery store aisles, pantries, and cookbooks for more than 90 years. Betty Crocker was developed as a “live trademark” by Marjorie Child Husted for Washburn Crosby, the company that made Gold Medal flour and would become General Mills. The Betty Crocker character formed bonds between customers and brands at a time when convenience cuisine was in its infancy, but primed to grow quickly. A combination of fantasy and reality, Betty Crocker was an instructor …

“Older Bird” Chick Flicks: Romance, Feminism, and Food for the Over-50 Crowd

What follows is a section from the paper, “Something’s Gotta Give in the Kitchen: Viewing Nancy Meyers’ Older Bird Chick Flicks through a Food Studies Lens.” Read another section from this paper in the post, “Transcending the Screen: Trophy Kitchens in Two Nancy Meyers’ Films.”  Called “Middle-Aged Chick Flicks” by Mimi Swartz and “older bird movies” by Cherry Potter, there is a recent trend of what Potter describes as “comedy dramas about the sexual awakening of middle-aged women.” A handful of film critics and scholars have considered this new genre. For example, Thane Peterson defines the older bird demographic as, “Affluent aging women who worry that they’ll never find romance — or even basic human respect — in our youth-obsessed society.” Margaret Tally offers her own analysis: What these recent ‘older bird’ films may also be reflecting, then, are the contemporary struggles to redefine what middle age might be for a generation who has lived through the women’s movement and the struggle to have children at a later age than earlier generations. Sexuality and motherhood become, …

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things…About Julia Child

Drawing record crowds, Siting Julia, a day-long symposium hosted by the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard explored three sites of Julia’s life: Post–World War II Paris; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and national television. Rather than regale you with a play-by-play of the day, I’ll instead share the four most wonderful things about Julia that I took from this symposium: Her Personality  Keynote speaker Laura Shapiro (author of Perfection Salad, Something from the Oven, and Julia Child) recounted what Paul Child called “Juliafication” — the phenomenon by which Julia’s warmth and attention lit up those around her. While many speakers discussed Julia’s caring, generosity, and sense of humor, Dana Polan (professor of Cinema Studies at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and author of Julia Child’s “The French Chef”) credits Julia’s personality for her success on television. And Lisa Abend, TIME correspondent in Spain, argues that we have Julia to thank for transforming food into entertainment. Her Love of Learning Julia was the eternal student. Alex Prud’homme (Julia’s grandnephew and coauthor with her of My Life in France) spoke of how even at the age of 91, Julia was planning her …

Transcending the Screen: Trophy Kitchens in Two Nancy Meyers’ Films

Nancy Meyers’ older bird chick flicks, Something’s Gotta Give (2003) and It’s Complicated (2009), provide both escape and hope to middle-aged female audiences, whose views on love, sex, and relationships are both informed and complicated by life experience — including marriage, motherhood, and divorce — and the stereotypes that accompany being middle-aged. Something’s Gotta Give is the story of fifty-three-year-old Erica (Diane Keaton), the successful, divorced playwright who in the setting of her luxurious Hampton beach house falls in love with both her daughter’s sixty-three year old boyfriend, Harry (Jack Nicholson) and a handsome thirty-something doctor, Julian, (Keanu Reeves). It’s Complicated also tells the story of an accomplished, divorced woman in her fifties, Jane (Meryl Streep), but in this version of the story, she is caught not between a man her own age and a younger man, but between her ex-husband, Jake (Alec Baldwin), and her new boyfriend, Adam (Steve Martin), the architect she has hired to build her dream home. Food and cooking serve as symbols and narrative devices in these two films, representing and communicating the multidimensional …

Chicken Fricassee Face-Off: 18th Century Haute Cuisine versus 1950s Can-Opener Cooking

When I was a graduate student in the Boston University Gastronomy program, Ken Albala assigned an intriguing final exam question in the course “A Survey of Food History:” to compare and contrast two Chicken Fricassée recipes. While it may appear at first glance that Francois Massialot’s recipe, “Poulets en Fricasée au Vin de Champagn” from Le Nouveau Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois (1748), is the culinary superior of Poppy Cannon’s “Chicken with White Wine and White Grapes” from The Can-Opener Cookbook (1953), such an assumption ignores the complexity of each recipe as a unique product of a particular time and place. As Anne Bower contends, a cookbook can be read as a “fragmented autobiography” (Bower 1997: 32) that reveals unique details not only of the author’s experience, but also those of his or her time. Cannon’s recipe in particular fulfills Bower’s assertion that the main theme of cookbooks is the “breaking of silence” (1997: 46-47), as it reveals the struggles and desires of the 1950s American housewife. Examples of Period Food Trends First published in 1691 and in revised additions throughout the early eighteenth …

The Woman Suffrage Cookbook of 1886: Culinary Evidence of Women Finding a New Voice

The Woman Suffrage Cookbook (1886), edited by Mrs. Hattie A. Burr, was created as a fundraising tool for Massachusetts suffragists, but it also provided a powerful new voice. It communicated with women of all classes in the common language of the cookbook about not only food and domesticity, but also the radical cause of women’s right to vote. The Woman Suffrage Cookbook also tracks changing cooking practices in the United States in the late nineteenth century, changes that mirrored larger transitions in society. The growing forces of industrialization, urbanization, and a variety of social movements—among them women’s suffrage—swept the nation, forever molding her into a new shape. This cookbook demonstrates the changes impacting women’s domestic and civic life at the time by documenting the transformation taking place within her kitchen. The Cookbook The cookbook begins: “This little volume is sent out with an important mission,” which we can assume has scope beyond “cookery, housekeeping, and the care of the sick” given when and why it was published. The Woman Suffrage Cookbook is the oldest fundraising cookbook in support of women’s suffrage. It …