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Dinner Roles

American Women and Culinary Culture

Sherrie A. Inness

Publication Year: 2001

Who cooks dinner in American homes? It's no surprise that “Mom” remains the overwhelming answer. Cooking and all it entails, from grocery shopping to chopping vegetables to clearing the table, is to this day primarily a woman's responsibility. How this relationship between women and food developed through the twentieth century and why it has endured are the questions Sherrie Inness seeks to answer in Dinner Roles: American Women and Culinary Culture.

By exploring a wide range of popular media from the first half of the twentieth century, including cookbooks, women's magazines, and advertisements, Dinner Roles sheds light on the network of sources that helped perpetuate the notion that cooking is women's work. Cookbooks and advertisements provided valuable information about the ideals that American society upheld. A woman who could prepare the perfect Jell-O mold, whip up a cake with her new electric mixer, and still maintain a spotless kitchen and a sunny disposition was the envy of other housewives across the nation.

Inness begins her exploration not with women but with men-those individuals often missing from the kitchen who were taught their own set of culinary values. She continues with the study of juvenile cookbooks, which provided children with their first cooking lessons. Chapters on the rise of electronic appliances, ethnic foods, and the 1950s housewife all add to our greater understanding of women's evolving roles in American culinary culture.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Title Page

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pp. ix-x

My first words of gratitude are for Julie M. Hucke. She is a rare person, and she makes my life better in an infinite variety of ways. As a writer, she shares her passion for her work with me. As a critic, she gives me the advice that any author needs. As a teacher, she shows me the importance of being kind and considerate. As a friend, she shares with me her tremen-...

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pp. 1-16

Who cooks dinner in most American homes? It is difficult to escape noticing that cooking in the United States is very much considered to be mom’s responsibility, not dad’s. Food and its preparation are strongly gender-coded as feminine. How has this gendered relationship to food developed over the twentieth century, and why has it proven so enduring? The purpose ...

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Chapter 1. "Bachelor Bait": Men's Cookbooks and the Male Cooking Mystique

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pp. 17-36

‘‘As far as I’m concerned, Men and Cooking is an oxymoron. Oh sure, lots of guys cook something. But if your life depended on someone to cook for you, who you gonna call? A man? I doubt it,’’ wrote Suzanne O’Malley in a 1990s Cosmopolitan article (166). Even in our liberated times when a woman is supposed to be free to give up a housewife’s saucepan in ...

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Chapter 2. ‘‘The Enchantment of Mixing-Spoons’’: Cooking Lessons for Girls and Boys

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pp. 37-51

The Betty Betz Teen-Age Cookbook (1953) informed its readers: ‘‘If a girl is reasonably attractive and a good cook as well, she has better odds for marriage than her playgirl friend who boasts that she ‘can’t even boil water’’’ (Betz, 1). ‘‘Remember that the good-looking girl who’s also a ‘good-cooking girl’ stands more of a chance of sniffing orange blossoms!’’ Betz ...

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Chapter 3. Paradise Pudding, Peach Fluff, and Prune Perfection: Dainty Dishes and the Construction of Femininity

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pp. 52-70

In the popular magazine Delineator, Betsy Standish wrote about an up-to-date party for the modern hostess. Her article "Two Dainty February Festivals" (1915) emphasized the importance of serving delicate dishes: "The time-honored tradition of a groaning table ... has been abandoned. ...

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Chapter 4. Waffle Irons and Banana Mashers: Selling Mrs. Consumer on Electric Kitchen Gadgets

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pp. 71-87

‘‘Cookery by electricity is swathed in mystery and surrounded by . . . many phobias,’’ wrote Ethel R. Peyser in a 1924 House and Garden article (‘‘Some Aspects of Electric Cookery,’’ 82). She stated the concerns of many. In the early years of the century, numerous women (and men) felt anxious about the unknown powers of electricity, which seemed almost ...

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Chapter 5. "Fearsome Dishes": International Cooking and Orientalism between the Wars

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pp. 88-108

We do not often think of the years between World War I and World War II as a period when foreign foods were widely consumed; after all, this was a time when America stood for apple pie, not sushi. If Americans ate foreign foods during this era, we assume, it was usually in ethnic enclaves—safe niches where Italians could relish lasagna or Mexicans could consume...

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Chapter 6. ‘‘It’s Fun Being Thrifty!’’: Gendered Cooking Lessons during the Depression

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pp. 109-123

What do lima beans au gourmet, grilled macaroni, lima beans supreme, and baked bean croquettes have in common? They were all Depression-era recipes suggested as possible replacements for the expensive main meat course that many families could not afford (‘‘Why Not,’’ 43).1 These inexpensive meatless main dishes were one small sign of an economy that ...

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Chapter 7. ‘‘Wear This Uniform Proudly, Mrs. America!’’: Rosie the Riveter in the Kitchen

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pp. 124-140

‘‘Wear this uniform proudly, Mrs. America!’’ declared a World War II advertisement for Stokely’s tomatoes. ‘‘It’s just a kitchen apron. Not a bit dramatic. Yet you who wear it perform a service without which this war cannot be won. . . . Planning good meals with rationed foods. Keeping everyone on the job. Holding home together, no matter what’’ (Stokely’s Finest ...

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Chapter 8. Of Casseroles and Canned Foods: Building the Happy Housewife in the Fifties

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pp. 141-164

A few years earlier, Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book (1950) appeared. Women lined up for hours to purchase a copy, and General Mills received scores of letters from women who were desperate for the company to produce more copies of the popular work (Marling, 203–4). By 1951, a million copies were already in print (Marling, 203). Armour’s poem and Betty ...


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pp. 165-186

Works Cited

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pp. 187-216


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pp. 217-225

E-ISBN-13: 9781587293320
E-ISBN-10: 1587293323
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877457633
Print-ISBN-10: 0877457638

Page Count: 238
Publication Year: 2001

Edition: 1