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Wednesday, June 01, 2005 

Who is Betty Crocker?

Originally in Newsday - though I didn't see it there. Here is the history of Betty Crocker, and how she has evolved over the years.
Back in the '20s, there were few cookbooks around compared to today. Pan sizes were not standardized and oven temperatures fluctuated. Cooks craved help, and Betty came to the rescue.

Betty was born not long after the Washburn Crosby Co., millers and purveyors of Gold Medal Flour, offered a premium of a pincushion resembling a miniature flour sack for the completion of a jigsaw puzzle that was printed in a 1921 Saturday Evening Post ad; 30,000 entries were received. Along with them came hundreds of letters asking such questions as "How long should I knead dough?" and "Why does my cake fall?"
How has she changed over the years?
Throughout her long career, Betty Crocker has promoted the idea that the way to a man's heart really is through his stomach. In a magazine advertisement, circa 1930, reprinted in the book, she suggested her own mixes for making a "kiss and make up cake" to top off a "splendiferous" dinner of thick steak and French fries when the situation called for it. Could food mend a rift? "Certain sure," she crowed. Betty had a personality, a signature and a face, painted by artists the flour company commissioned. Betty's first portrait was in 1936 and her most recent was in 1996, when ethnic diversity considerations turned those blue eyes brown. (Briefly, they were green.) In 1955, Norman Rockwell came in second to Hilda Taylor's painting of a soft, grandmotherly Betty when five artists were asked to paint new portraits and the public was allowed to choose a favorite.
Quite different from Betty Crocker is the emergence of farms run by women. As someone who grew up on a dairy farm in the northeast, I found this article in the NY Times quite interesting. Women find their place in the field. Here's one example from the article:

Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht, 32, whose first child is due on Friday, came of age a generation after many of her female colleagues. Ideas about sustainability, feminism and community-supported agriculture had already taken root in American agriculture, she said, and the idea of a female farmer was not new. She majored in environmental science at Harvard, has a master's degree in conservation biology and sustainable agriculture, and started a small organic farm, Garden of Eve, on Long Island, in 2001.

She farms with her husband, Chris, who grew up on a dairy farm. She says that farm work includes traditionally male and traditionally female skills, and that a farm needs both. "Like a baby," she said, "a farm needs as much nurturing as it can get. I can't imagine being a single parent to a farm."

Ever get confused by the different kinds of lettuce out there in the market? Gwen Schoen in the Sacramento Bee outlines what makes each variety unique.

What wine should you order on a first date? Jennifer Rosen goes through it with you.

Want to get the best of the classic American sandwiches? Leigh Belanger in the Boston Globe tells you what to look for in a good BLT, Club, Cuban, Monte Cristo, PB&J and Reuben sandwiches.