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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Favorite Celebrity “Cook”

Years ago, chefs were only found in restaurants and a cook was in your own home, usually your mom.betty crocker book titleLONG before there was Ms. Deen or other celebrity chefs, the US had a favorite cook rated as the second most famous and popular woman just behind Eleanor Roosevelt — and she wasn’t even a real person.

Betty Crocker never existed. Aside from being a cultural icon, she is entirely fictional. She originated in 1921 when a Minneapolis milling company, Washburn Crosby Company, wanted a way to personalize answers to consumers baking questions. The name Betty was considered warm, friendly and all-American; Crocker was after William Crocker, a retired company executive. Betty’s replies were signed and her signature was by a company secretary who won a contest. It’s still used on products today.

In 1924, Betty Crocker made her radio debut with the nation’s first cooking show, featuring 13 actresses working from radio stations across the country. The Betty Crocker School of the Air became a national broadcast, airing for 24 years.

Betty’s first portrait appeared in 1936 and while changed over the years always accommodated General Mills’ cultural perception of the American homemaker as knowledgeable and caring. The widely circulated portrait reinforced the popular belief that she was a real woman. An artist brought together women in the company’s Home Services Department “blending” their features into an “official” likeness. image
Betty’s portrait has changed over the years. No one has ever  posed as a model, rather the image is a composite of many women. imageimage

Betty’s face was recreated 8 times over the past 75 years. In 1955, she became younger and in 1980 thru 1986 became a “professional” woman. In 1996, “Betty” became multicultural acquiring  a darker, more “ethnic” look. The current image is a combination of 75 women of diverse backgrounds and age. Betty is only shown in head shots and never seen from the shoulders down.
betty crocker cookbook (16)

The impetus for this post was finding a copy of Betty Crocker Good and Easy Cookbook on the local library’s sale table last week. It seems that the 1996 publication date was older than books the staff reserves for major book sales (like the Firecracker Book Sale this week). The $1 shown is the price paid — SOLD!

Even though we’re downsizing cookbooks, some things, like favorite recipes don’t go out of style, just get revised or updated.
 
I still have my original Betty Crocker Cookbook in the 3-ring binder. It was bought after moving into my first apt and still in use today, over 25+ years later.

In my mind, certain things go together like cooking and Betty Crocker. Sorry, Paula, Rachel, Ina, Giada, Alton and others, but she has a lot more years of popularity in her favor, even if she’s only a fictional character.

What about you — favorite chef or cook ?

16 comments:

Karen @ away for the weekend said...

I don't think I have a Betty Crocker cookbook, although I must have grown up using "her" recipes. This was an interesting history! Favorites today, hmmmm, Probably Ellie Krieger - healthy, tasty, and no fad do's and dont's.

Country Gal said...

Our Canadian recipe book icon is Companies Coming . Company's Coming is a popular line of cookbooks that has sold over 30 million copies since 1981. The series is produced by Company’s Coming Publishing Limited based in Edmonton, Alberta. The series was written by Jean Paré. But I use a lot of my mums recipes she grew up with being British ! Thanks for sharing . Have a good day !

Blackberry Lane said...

Enjoyed reading this. I have a few small Betty Crocker cookbooks that I picked up in thrift stores.

Wishing you a safe holiday.

Lois Evensen said...

Oh, yes, we have several versions of Betty's books. They are all good. :)

Montanagirl said...

I remember having a Betty Crocker cookbook!

Anvilcloud said...

Neat info about the portraits.

A Quiet Corner said...

Remember Betty Crocker??? We use "Aunt Betty" all the time!...:)JP

Daisy said...

I think I have at least one Betty Crocker cookbook. I hear her name and can't help but think of my Mom's cooking. :)

Sandra said...

I confess to the fact I have never touched a cook book in my life, but i do remember Betty Crocker and am shocked she was a fake person. i had no idea... this is really interesting.

Out on the prairie said...

A standard in all my homes.I have a couple, they were printed where I grew up.

Tammy@Simple Southern Happiness said...

What!!! no such thing as Betty... its all been a sham... I am going to start a fire in the firepit and toast her book....

thecottagebythecranelaketwo said...

One of the few american chefs I've ever heard of and she isn't even real :-) :-) :-)

Have a great day!
Christer.

Debbie said...

oh so interesting!!

i love when my mom, or anyone cooks for me!!

Leonora said...

I still use my Betty Crocker cookbook which I was given in 1977. Over the years, I have searched for used copies to give my daughters as they move out into their own places. It's the best cookbook for containing all the basics- how to cook shrimp, roast all cuts of meats and still has the best, tried and true biscuit recipe. Thank you, Betty Crocker!

CountryDew said...

I still have my Betty Crocker Cookbook from 30 years ago, and my brother has my mother's, which must be 50 years old now.

Great blog post.

possum said...

My favorite cook was my Grandmom... she never used a cook book that I know of - at least I never saw one.
I got my Aunt Laura to write down some of her recipes when I was young and wanted to know how to make things taste like her home cooking. She confessed she did not "measure" stuff... Guess that's the way I cook now.

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