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Creating a Common Table in Twentieth-Century Argentina

Doña Petrona, Women, and Food

Rebekah E. Pite

Publication Year: 2013

Rebekah E. Pite is assistant professor of history at Lafayette College. Doña Petrona C. de Gandulfo (c. 1896@-1992) reigned as Argentina's preeminent domestic and culinary expert from the 1930s through the 1980s. An enduring culinary icon thanks to her magazine columns, radio programs, and television shows, she was likely second only to Eva Perón in terms of the fame she enjoyed and adulation she received. Her cookbook garnered tremendous popularity, becoming one of the three bestselling books in Argentina. Doña Petrona capitalized on and contributed to the growing appreciation for women's domestic roles as the Argentine economy expanded and fell into periodic crises. Drawing on a wide range of materials, including her own interviews with Doña Petrona’s inner circle and with everyday women and men, Rebekah E. Pite provides a lively social history of twentieth-century Argentina, as exemplified through the fascinating story of Doña Petrona and the homemakers to whom she dedicated her career. Pite's narrative illuminates the important role of food--its consumption, preparation, and production--in daily life, class formation, and national identity. By connecting issues of gender, domestic work, and economic development, Pite brings into focus the critical importance of women's roles as consumers, cooks, and community builders. Argentina’s culinary superstar

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-8


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pp. viii-11

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pp. xi-19

This book, like any good meal, has benefited from many busy hands and keen minds. From its inception, Sueann Caulfield helped me to craft and consistently improve the manuscript, generously reading countless drafts and providing sage advice at every turn. For over a decade now, she and Rebecca J. Scott have served as incomparable mentors, inspiring me with both their scholarship and their...

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Introduction Setting the Table

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pp. 3-22

In 2002, a wizened bookseller in Buenos Aires pushed a copy of El libro de Doña Petrona into my hands. “This is the cookbook you are looking for,” he explained. “It is the bible of the home.” Not being sure what this meant, I purchased the book, determined to find out. After some preliminary research, I discovered that this cookbook, first published in 1934, had since ...

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1 The Elevation of Cooking in Turn-of-the-Century Argentina

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pp. 23-54

As a child, Petrona Carrizo prepared pastelitos de dulce. As this 1934 recipe in the first edition of her cookbook attests, there were many steps. First the cook mixed, kneaded, and smoothed the dough. Then she covered it with butter. After that she folded the dough a couple of times to give the pastry layers. Then she cut the dough...

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2 Creating a Public in Buenos Aires & Beyond

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pp. 55-90

Inspired by the interest and persistence of her fans, Petrona C. de Gandulfo would publish her first cookbook, El libro de Doña Petrona, in 1934. Along with a thousand other dishes, she included the above recipe for a decorative homemade ice cream sundae named in honor of the magazine El Hogar. It was a dessert that required the type of technology that this magazine touted and the time that...

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3 Expanding Consumption & Middle-Class Domesticity

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pp. 91-120

Even today, many Argentines celebrate the Christmas and New Year’s holidays by sharing some pan dulce de navidad with friends and relatives. While many people buy it at bakeries, others still make it at home. Those who prepare it themselves sometimes proudly mention that they made it “with Doña Petrona.” Over the..

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4 Professionalizing a Thriftier Homeaker

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pp. 121-150

Doña Petrona presented this recipe, Maryland-Style Chicken, in her cookbook and on her television program during the 1950s.2 It was a dish that reflected Argentina’s culinary diversity and the growing interest in the cuisine of the Americas. The name of this recipe referred to a classic preparation, Maryland Chicken, a dish from the state of the same name in which the chicken is pan-fried and covered to...

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5 Shifting Priorities & Entertaining Inequalities

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pp. 151-182

In the mid-1960s, Doña Petrona presented a recipe for meat-filled empanadas on the television program Buenas Tardes, Mucho Gusto. Wearing a decorative apron and a confident expression, she demonstrated how to make empanadas with a “quick dough” and a canned-meat filling. In her characteristic sing-song cadence...

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6 Cooking In & Out of the Spotlight

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pp. 183-218

To commemorate Argentina’s home-field victory in the 1978 World Cup, Doña Petrona elected to put a photograph of her World Cup cake on the cover of the seventy-third edition of El libro de Doña Petrona, released one year after the tournament. On five layers of cake, she carefully placed little toy soccer players beside soccer...

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Conclusions Keeping the Table Set

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pp. 219-228

On 6 February 1992, when Petrona C. de Gandulfo was in her late nineties, she passed away, with Juanita Bordoy at her side. All of the major national papers published obituaries celebrating her tremendous career. The journalists who wrote these articles made simple and yet profound claims about her importance. For example, Fernando Muñoz Pace began his article: “She ...


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pp. 229-278


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pp. 279-308


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pp. 309-343

E-ISBN-13: 9781469608044
E-ISBN-10: 1469608049
Print-ISBN-13: 9781469606903
Print-ISBN-10: 1469606909

Illustrations: 24 illus.
Publication Year: 2013