Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?
American Women and the Kitchen in the Twentieth Century
An engaging look at the relationship between women and cooking in American culture
In the rural America of the past, a woman's reputation was sometimes made by her cherry pie—or her chocolate layer cake, or her biscuits. As America modernized and as women left the home, entered the paid labor force, and battled their way to success in the professions, mastery of cooking remained an accepted sign that a woman took her gendered responsibilities seriously. Ironically, over the course of the twentieth century, as ready-made foods and kitchen appliances made home cooking less essential and labor-intensive, skill in the kitchen continued to be perceived not only by society but often by women themselves as a measure of a woman's true value.
This book shows how cooking developed and evolved during the twentieth century. From Fannie Farmer to Julia Child, new challenges arose to replace the old. Women found themselves still tied to the kitchen, but for different reasons and with the need to acquire new skills. Instead of simply providing sustenance for the family, they now had to master more complex cooking techniques, the knowledge of "ethnic" cuisines, the science of nutrition, the business of consumerism, and, perhaps most important of all, the art of keeping their husbands and children happy and healthy.
"This book would be an excellent beginning for in-depth research or for a pleasant introduction to the field. It will have a wide appeal to those interested in women's roles in the 20th century and in home cooking."—Choice
"An enjoyable excursion, bringing together history, cookery, narrative, women's studies, and biography/autobiography in ways that will help readers make new connections and will give them new interests and insights."—Anne L. Bower, editor of Recipes for Reading: Community Cookbooks, Stories, Histories
"An easy read—graceful and often witty. I was often charmed and just as often instructed. It is a book that could be used in American studies and women's studies courses, as a route to understanding that activities of daily life that are often treated as unproblematic have social and political histories."—Linda K. Kerber, author of No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship