Monday, December 1, 2008

My Mother is Betty Crocker

Black and White Woman with Flour Sifter

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Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America's First Lady of Food Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America's First Lady of Food by Susan Marks

...or could have been! I just picked up this book at the Dollar store yesterday. I was surprised at Betty Crocker's secret life... though my favorite cookbook is the 1958 Betty Crocker one my Grandma gave me, Betty Crocker is in my mind regulated to a red spoon on a cake mix box (and I do not like cake mixes, as I was raised on a home-made dinette cake, which recipe I just now remembered came from a Betty Crocker cookbook!)  There are recipes and boxed foods with Betty Crocker's name on them, but "she" is no more to me than that. But in the old days, she was so real to Americans that they thought she was real. She was the second-best-known woman in America behind Eleanor Roosevelt. She received nearly 5,000 letters a day. I never knew she was a radio personality. And what she said on the radio surprised me even more. 

I could just imagine a time when homemakers prepared dinner in the kitchen, or folded their laundry, and listened to Betty Crocker (aka Marjorie Childs Husted and many actresses across the country who read Husted's scripts) dispense not only cooking advice and flour advertisements, but housekeeping advice, husband-keeping advice, and shared listener's letters from across America. As encouraging as it was to 1920's gals who could not cook to have an on-air cooking school, it would have been more encouraging to hear the motherly woman's voice cheering folk on during the depression, a world war, and lastly as a homemaker's champion in the early 1950's. 

The eerie thing was that the Betty Crocker of back then, so much more than a red spoon on a cake mix box, sounded just like my mother. I know it could not have been her, as she came on the scene too young to participate by the time Betty Crocker's radio career had ended. I told Mom that she could be the new Betty Crocker-- filling that empty part of the housekeeper's day that we did not know we were missing! 

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