Saturday, August 1, 2015

What I'm Reading in 2015, July: Something From the Oven

I was going to do this last night, but I am seriously tired and having a kind of a hard time of it this week, so I waited and decided to do this one a day late.

So, without further ado, the book I read in July was...

Something From the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950's America by Laura Shapiro

What is the book about?  Well, here's a synopsis from the back of the book itself...
"In this captivating blend of culinary history and popular culture, the award-winning author of Perfection Salad shows us what happened when the food industry elbowed its way into the kitchen after World War II, brandishing canned hamburgers, frozen baked beans, and instant piecrusts. Big Business waged an all-out campaign to win the allegiance of American housewives, but most women were suspicious of the new foods—and the make-believe cooking they entailed. With sharp insight and good humor, Laura Shapiro shows how the ensuing battle helped shape the way we eat today, and how the clash in the kitchen reverberated elsewhere in the house as women struggled with marriage, work, and domesticity. This unconventional history overturns our notions about the ’50s and offers new thinking on some of its fascinating figures, including Poppy Cannon, Shirley Jackson, Julia Child, and Betty Friedan."
I found this book utterly fascinating.  It was extremely interesting to read about food culture post WWII;  finding out how our culture of processed foods got started and how hard it was to sell the average American housewife on processed anything and how the food industry would not quit no matter the amount of times they failed.  They were determined to sell convenience and make a cash cow for themselves for years to come.  And once the processed food culture took hold, they got what they wanted, in spades.

As a woman who does use convenience foods from time to time but actually does enjoy cooking and doing domestic-y things, I was amazed how hard the women in this country battled convenience foods and how long it took for the food industry to brain wash people into thinking they needed convenience foods in their lives.

After a long, long battle with women in particular the thing that made convenience food culture take off was, I think, one of the main problems with our society today.  They sold the idea that we as a populace had no time.  No time to deal with a crying baby, no time to breathe let alone cook.  That feeling of rush and panic and exhaustion has taken hold in our society so heavily that I don't know if we could uproot it if we tried.  And we can thank the food industry for starting it.

I liked reading about cooks I never knew existed such as Poppy Cannon (who wrote a book called, "The Can Opener Cookbook").  Cooks that the author mentioned while talking about those cooks gave me about five books that I've added to my Amazon "read this" wish list.

By the time I got done with the book I was educated, entertained and had a deep seated want to go back in time and punch the food industry in the nose for really helping to give us the problems with high blood pressure and other health problems due to the high levels of stress that we've entrenched ourselves in.  Not that I don't appreciate convenience foods, don't get me wrong.  I really do like going into the store and being able to pick up things like cake mixes and such, but the feeling of ineptitude that the food industry promoted in people, telling them that they couldn't cook without processed just burns me for some reason.

Either way, though, I highly recommend this book.  It was a lot of fun to read, a fascinating look at food history post WWII, not to mention food marketing and a nice condensed biography of some of the best cooks of that time (including Julia Child). 

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