Something from the Oven

by Amy Sherman
Print Email

somethingfrom.jpg Recently I was at a library book sale and as usual I scanned for hidden treasure among the cookbooks. Browsing cookbooks is nothing short of a history lesson. Here's what I found, as men came back from fighting overseas and Americans travelled abroad for pleasure, their hunger for exotic recipes increased and so did the number of international cookbooks. Cooking on a budget was a popular theme in times of recession like the 1970's. Curiously the cookbooks from the 50's and 60's were dominated by the use of processed foods. Browsing the volumes, I began to wonder, just how did processed food come to such popularity anyway?

Not long after my shopping trip I began reading Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America. Not a cookbook at all, but a rich and fascinating history of cooking in America in the post WWII period up until the early 60's. Suddenly it all made sense! The popularity of processed foods, of kitchen appliances like the blender, the "quick and easy" and even the "I hate cooking" trends in cookbooks were completely understandable.

If you've ever wondered about the history of the fictional Betty Crocker or how Julia Child came to such prominence you'll love this book. But you'll also discover a lot of other captivating stories of the people behind the scenes, who shaped what we cooked, ate and believed about food in America. The book illustrates the struggle for the soul of the American cook. Fully explored is how the spirit and values of American home cooks could not be broken by the corporations sometimes evil plots. Breathe a sigh of relief that dehydrated wine never caught on and laugh at what was considered "glamourous dining" just a few decades ago. Apparently all you had to was open a can of crab and you were on your way!

One of the most interesting stories in the book is how the food industry tried to convince women that cooking was a drudgery and a bother. Thankfully they didn't succeed. Or did they? Get a glimpse at modern day Sandra Lee and her frightening Semi-Homemade empire and you can get a peek at the vision corporations still have to get us to rely on processed food. A world of style over substance and fake food over the real thing.

Amy Sherman is a San Francisco–based writer, recipe developer, restaurant reviewer and all around culinary enthusiast. She blogs for Epicurious , Bay Area Bites and Cooking with Amy

Add comment

Security code


restaurant news

New York
by Michael Tucker

capizzi.jpgI’ve been in rehearsal this week for a reading we’re doing on Friday. It’s a fun piece called “Old Jews Telling Jokes” based on the website of the same name. All this is to say that this week I’m...

Adams Avenue Grill - San Diego
Southern California
by Kitty Kaufman

Adams Ave 3The whole Friday night crowd is out in University Heights. Good thing we reserved at Adams Avenue Grill. This is really something: they start at 8 am and serve lunch until 2 and open at 5 for...

A Night at Angelus
London - British Isles
by Carolan Nathan

angelusLondon has become a mecca for great restaurants...contrary to the myth that has grown up probably due to ignorance and jealousy especially by the French and also by many Americans unfortunately. A...

The Malibu Fish Market
Los Angeles
by Anna Harari

malibuseafood.jpgMy mother used to tell me she would drive to Malibu several times a week.  She wouldn't stop there, just drive there and back.  To relax…to write in her figure things out. She doesn't do...