Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century (Modern Library Food) Paperback – February 20, 2001

4.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

See all 7 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
Paperback, February 20, 2001
$7.52 $1.12

2016 Book Awards
Browse award-winning titles. See all 2016 winners
click to open popover

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Perfection Salad, a dish that won its creator first prize in a 1905 cooking contest, consisted of pristine molded aspic containing celery, red pepper, and chopped cabbage. Laura Shapiro, author of this eponymous social history, part of the Modern Library Food series, takes the salad as a model for the domestic science movement, an intriguing women's crusade of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Bent on convincing housewives that the way to domestic order lay in cooking "dainty" nutritional meals from sanitary ingredients in "scientific" kitchens, the movement helped give birth to our mass-market food scene, with its reliance on home economics precepts, processed convenience foods, and no-cook cooking--our cuisine of boil-in bags and microwave frozen dinners. Entertaining and informative, but also unexpectedly moving, the book chronicles in numerous intriguing stories the ways in which an impulse to liberate women from the drudgery and imprecision of daily food preparation led to its debasement. It's a fascinating story, of interest to anyone who wonders why and how we cook and eat--and think about food--as we do.

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

From Publishers Weekly

A journalist who has written extensively on aspects of feminism, Shapiro presents a well-researched history of women as nutritional revolutionaries during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This serious study is lively entertainment, spiced by the author's wit and wry perceptions. Through her, we discover clues to the motives of women who turned American kitchens into laboratories, run according to the dicta of the Boston Cooking School and similar establishments that proliferated across the country. The most memorable of the culinary movers was Fannie Farmer, whose cookbook was published in a modest 3000-copy edition in 1896. Stories about Farmer and other domestic scientists of the period add strong appeal to Shapiro's report. So do the parallels between early feminists and today's advocates of equal rights. It is somber to realize, as the author emphasizes, that fear of significant power for women "even over themselves" kept their aims restricted. By 1900, they had settled for the status of experts in home economics instead of independence.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

New York Times best sellers
Browse the New York Times best sellers in popular categories like Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Books and more. See more

Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Food
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Reprint edition (February 20, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375756655
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375756658
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #907,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

on October 23, 2009
Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase
0Comment| 35 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on January 11, 2002
Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase
0Comment| 21 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on August 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
0Comment| 14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 13, 2001
Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase
0Comment| 10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews