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Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America Paperback – March 29, 2005
"100 Million Years of Food" by Stephen Le
A fascinating tour through the evolution of the human diet, and how we can improve our health by understanding our complicated history with food. Learn more
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From The New Yorker
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
One of the other more interesting topics in this book is the fact that the packaged food marketing trend of the 50's was based to a great extent on the efforts the food packagers made to prepare instant food preparations for the American army during World War II. The most famous of these preparations was Spam, which survives to this day, although in the 1950's the book recounts a good half dozen similar brands. Another great impetus to the prepared food movement was the introduction of frozen foods before the war, which reached its apotheosis with Swanson's creation of the TV dinner, created as a solution to the company's being stuck with an especially large shipment of frozen turkeys. As I recall only too well, frozen food simply did not take off as well as we may believe from the vantage point of 50 years later. Most homes simply did not have large freezers and the technology to successfully freeze a lot of foods was simply not there yet.Read more ›
The topics seem loosely connected, with no particular conclusions drawn. But it's a pop history book, not an academic tome, so sit back and enjoy an entertaining look at food from several historical angles.
Shapiro talks about the post-war need for convenience food. At least, manufacturers wanted there to be a need for convenience foods, whether American cooks agreed or not. There were a lot of experiments in the first days. Successful products included concentrated frozen orange juice and fish sticks. Unsuccessful product proposals included canned deep-fried hamburgers and concentrated distilled water. (I suspect if Shapiro is having us on with that last idea.)
The section on domestic literature was especially fun, although a lot of it had little to do with food. Shapiro discusses Shirley Jackson, Erma Bombeck, Peg Bracken, Bette MacDonald, Jean Kerr, and the Gilbreths of Cheaper By the Dozen fame, among others. She reveals that there was often a big difference between their supposedly non-fiction works and their actual lives. I look forward to rereading these old favorites with this new information in mind, as well as looking up some authors Shapiro mentions that I was not aware of.
The mini-history of Julia Child's career is entertaining, and the extensive bibliography is a treasure trove of further reading ideas. Recommended!
But I causally picked up, " Something From the Oven
: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America by Laura Shapiro,
and couldn't put it down.
It is cocked full of fascinating and almost forgotten history,
as well as being superbly written. Shapiro has read and
researched reams of source material and has come up
with a treasure trove. Ms.Shapiro's wit is a treasure too!
I actually read parts out loud to my husband...who asked for more!
Don't miss it
Her previous book PERFECTION SALAD was good-the rise of "white foods" at the turn of the century, the moment when cook books started specifying amounts in their recipes as "science," or an absurd version of it, became desirable in the kitchen.
But SOMETHING improves on PERFECTION, as it were. Shapiro plunges right in with the invention and promulgation of frozen foods, showing how American housewives took to them slowly and with the utmost discrimination, rejecting the ones that didn't taste good. She shows how serious chefs like James Beard and Dione Lucas started out scorning convenience foods but they, too eventually came to approve of some of them, using the same intuitive responses as the mass of US housewives. She then opens up the story by writing a gimlet eyed account of the original Pillsbury Bake-Off, showing how marketing and drive made the Bake-Off a double-edges sword, by promoting Pillsbury's convenience food but also showcasing the creativity and ingenuity of US home cooks.
Shapiro also reminds us that the 1950s was the age in which Alice B. Toklas published her famous cookbook. A sequel was prepared with the collaboration of the food writer Poppy Cannon, although it didn't do too well.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I really enjoyed reading this book. It looked at the changes in cooking from the 1950s and discussed some common misconceptions about ready made and frozen entrees. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Kristen A. Miller
I felt guilty giving any less than 3 stars, tho I can't say I enjoyed the book (it is an easy/quick read). Read morePublished 14 months ago by Nathaniel C. Womack
Loved this book a lot. Especially loved the pictures and the things I didn't know about food from this era. Things are not always as they seem.Published on January 5, 2014 by Julia D. Bove
This book describes the way food manufacturers promoted their product "improvements" to attract women who cooked at home, but had neither the time nor the knowledge to use... Read morePublished on February 10, 2013 by Frances S. Heales
For serious history lovers, especially those interested in social history, this book is excellent. Very detailed, and for me it explained why my mother cooked the way she did. Read morePublished on September 24, 2012 by K. Miller
If you like RETRO, come along back to the time when we were young, happy, and the Folks did all the work and worrying!
Shapiro definitely takes the cake for best food historian. In each chapter she presents a paradox or point of comparison. Read morePublished on August 19, 2010 by Lanny