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Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century (California Studies in Food and Culture) Paperback – October 2, 2008
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Beginning with portraits of early domestic movement reformers such as Catherine Beecher and Mary Lincoln, and investigating institutions like the Boston Cooking School, home of Fannie Farmer, the Mother of Level Measurements, the book then pursues "scientific cookery" into its mid-20th-century manifestation. "With the help of the new industry of advertising," Shapiro writes, "the food business was able to reflect Mrs. Lincoln's values [of food-production uniformity] by keeping its achievements in packing, sanitation, convenience, and novelty at the forefront." But greater ills ensued: the effect of the reformers, Shapiro contends, was to encourage women to become docile consumers tethered to commercial interests--and to rob our vigorous cooking and eating traditions of their rich life. In making that point, Perfection Salad reveals its true subject: the cultural priorities that defined American 20th-century life and, finally, the sorry nature of the order they established. --Arthur Boehm --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I love to cook, but among other working moms I'm friends with, I'm the exception. Women either hate cooking, don't mind cooking but don't know what to fix, or just flat out don't know how to cook. An awful lot of my friends rely heavily on fast food or packaged meals on a regular basis to feed their kids. I have long thought that there was a place in the schools for a revival of home economics, done better than what I and my classmates got in 7th grade - one year divided into a semester of sewing (let me tell you, that didn't take - almost no one I can think of sews), 1/2 a semester of cooking, and 1/2 a semester of a combination "household economy" (budgeting, nutrition, etc.) and sex education unit. Our cooking teacher freely admitted she hated cooking (she also wasn't exactly informative in the sex ed component either - her advice was "wait until marriage" and she showed her own childbirth video in class, if you can believe that) and her own distaste for cooking certainly didn't help us learn. By the time I got to high school, home ec was the "easy A" class you only took if you weren't in the college prep track (we had three coursework tracks - college prep, A and B, and home-ec was in the "B", or lowest, track).Read more ›
also helps readers to understand the convenience food mania of the 1950s.
American cooking is a unique beast--especially cooking from that era between 1850-1950 when food became possible to engineer, meaningfully study, and industrially process. As Americans struggled with putting into action the high and lofty ideals of their forebears, as our nation shuddered through a civil war, women themselves struggled between two differing aspirations: equality or carefully-outlined, carefully-sequestered, overly-sentimentalized, sickeningly-sweet and sanctimonious ultra-femininity. Housekeeping--specifically cooking--was seen as a way to elevate women and even society as a whole spiritually and morally, to assimilate a growing horde of immigrants into American culture, to civilize the poor, and to make women happier with their own inequality. As Ms. Shapiro points out time and again, that struggle resulted in the weird pseudo-empowering movement known as Domestic Science or Home Economics. The result is something that women even today have to fight against--the sequestering of women in "women's work" and "women's careers", and the elevation of men as not only the recipient of all that work but also the ideal to emulate.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I thought there would be some recipes besides the history.Published 9 months ago by Sharon K. Stancel
I read this book for a food and identity class. While the author is not a historian, she demonstrates fairly clearly how domestic scientists of the late 1800s and early 1900s... Read morePublished on October 24, 2013 by Nancy Maxwell
I LOVE this book. I read it for the first time many, many years ago- when it was first published- and it made sense of all sorts of things that otherwise looked random: the... Read morePublished on September 30, 2013 by Cissa
I found this book a bit dry, but the explanation of the women's "reform" movement in the late 19th century and its focus on "scientific" cooking and home economics explained a lot... Read morePublished on January 18, 2013 by Henri IV
Great book for foodies & those interested in the history of feminist pursuits. Shapiro gently tells the history of the missionary types who carved out a professional niche in the... Read morePublished on January 20, 2011 by B. Dombrowski
Amusing and thought provoking. I love reading books about the history of food and cooking, but many of them can be pretty dry. Not this one I found. Read morePublished on October 17, 2009 by Reader76
This is a "must read" for anyone who fancies themself a chef, professional or home-cook. The writing is fluid and interesting, laid out in a comprehensible and sensible manner, and... Read morePublished on June 8, 2007 by Patrick W. Crabtree