From Publishers Weekly
"Your talks... have given me hope," wrote one listener to the Betty Crocker radio program during the Depression, and according to Marks's largely chronological "biography" (there was no real Betty Crocker), it was human connections like this one that made Crocker one of the most successful marketing tools ever. Filled with treasures from the General Mills archive—including letters sent to Crocker during WWII, reprints of famous recipes and advertisements, and portraits updated through the years—Marks's book introduces readers to the people who breathed life into Crocker's image as the happiest of homemakers. There's Samuel Gale, her inventor, and Florence Lindeberg, who provided her trademark signature in 1921. Other important figures include Neysa McMein, who painted the first Crocker portrait in 1936, and Adelaide Hawley, who played Crocker on television in the 1950s. Marks, who created a documentary film on Crocker, devotes a chapter to the Betty Crocker Kitchens and chronicles the products that Crocker's folksy persona sold to the world, like Bisquick and various cake mixes. In another section, she touches upon—albeit too briefly—Crocker's role in "the fundamental shift in American diets toward... factory-processed convenience foods." Light on analysis but abundant with anecdotes, this is a solid basic history for casual culinary, marketing and American historians. Photos, illus.
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The 1920s brainchild of a group of advertising types looking for a leg up in what came to be called the flour wars, Betty Crocker surpassed all expectations, not only by becoming the first lady of the kitchen but also by serving as a barometer of America's changing attitudes toward women's work. Entwined in Marks' absorbing review of Crocker's evolution are a sampling of favorite recipes and letters from Crocker's loyal radio, TV, and cookbook following, as well as photos showing Crocker's changing public face--from the earliest portrait in 1936 and motherly Crocker at her peak in the 1950s to the sleek, youthful, working-mom version, a computerized composite, trotted out to celebrate Betty's seventy-fifth anniversary in 1996. As this isn't in chronological order, it's sometimes hard to follow the arc of history, but plenty of readers curious about the "woman" behind the products decorated with the big red spoon will pick this up and have a grand time seeing how an icon came to be. Stephanie ZvirinCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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