Kitchen Culture in America: Popular Representations of Food, Gender, and Race / Edition 1

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At supermarkets across the nation, customers waiting in line—mostly female—flip through magazines displayed at the checkout stand. What we find on those magazine racks are countless images of food and, in particular, women: moms preparing lunch for the team, college roommates baking together, working women whipping up a meal in under an hour, dieters happy to find a lowfat ice cream that tastes great. In everything from billboards and product packaging to cooking shows, movies, and even sex guides, food has a presence that conveys powerful gender-coded messages that shape our society.

Kitchen Culture in America is a collection of essays that examine how women's roles have been shaped by the principles and practice of consuming and preparing food. Exploring popular representations of food and gender in American society from 1895 to 1970, these essays argue that kitchen culture accomplishes more than just passing down cooking skills and well-loved recipes from generation to generation. Kitchen culture instructs women about how to behave like "correctly" gendered beings. One chapter reveals how juvenile cookbooks, a popular genre for over a century, have taught boys and girls not only the basics of cooking, but also the fine distinctions between their expected roles as grown men and women.

Several essays illuminate the ways in which food manufacturers have used gender imagery to define women first and foremost as consumers. Other essays, informed by current debates in the field of material culture, investigate how certain commodities like candy, which in the early twentieth century was advertised primarily as a feminine pleasure, have been culturally constructed. The book also takes a look at the complex relationships among food, gender, class, and race or ethnicity-as represented, for example, in the popular Southern black Mammy figure. In all of the essays, Kitchen Culture in America seeks to show how food serves as a marker of identity in American society.

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Editorial Reviews

Inness (English, Miami U.) has gathered 11 essays that investigate ways that ethnic and gender roles in America have been informed by popular representations having to do with food. The contributors are professors and graduate students of Afro-American studies, American and women's history, literature, English, and cultural studies. Topics include: candy, gender, and consumer culture from 1895-1920; gender and long shelf life; black women cooks as fetish in American ads in the first half of the 20th c.; cookbooks and racial prejudice; gender and processed foods in the 1950s; frozen foods and postwar families; and culinary autobiographies. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From The Critics
Kitchen Culture in America provides a review of popular representations of food, gender and race and uses everything from television to ads and magazines to examine how women's roles have been shaped by the practice of consuming and making meals. From 1895 to 1970, this provides examples which argue that 'kitchen culture' instructs women in acceptable social behavior patterns.
From the Publisher
"Thoughtful and well researched."—Lambda Book Report

"Inness's authors . . . marshal an impressive array of archival materials to demonstrate the force of the social equation between femininity and cooking. The analyses . . . are original."—Times Literary Supplement

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812235647
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.17 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Sherrie A. Inness is Distinguished Laura C. Harris Chair of Women's Studies at Denison University. She is the author of Tough Girls: Women Warriors and Wonder Women in Popular Culture, also published by the University of Pennsylvania Press; The Lesbian Menace: Ideology, Identity, and the Representation of Lesbian Life; and Intimate Communities: Representation and Social Transformation in Women's College Fiction, 1895-1910.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Thinking Food/Thinking Gender 1
1 Bonbons, Lemon Drops, and Oh Henry! Bars: Candy, Consumer Culture, and the Construction of Gender, 1895-1920 13
2 Campbell's Soup and the Long Shelf Life of Traditional Gender Roles 51
3 "Now Then - Who Said Biscuits?" The Black Woman Cook as Fetish in American Advertising, 1905-1953 69
4 The Joy of Sex Instruction: Women and Cooking in Marital Sex Manuals, 1920-1963 95
5 "The Enchantment of Mixing-Spoons": Cooking Lessons for Girls and Boys 119
6 Home Cooking: Boston Baked Beans and Sizzling Rice Soup as Recipes for Pride and Prejudice 139
7 Processed Foods from Scratch: Cooking for a Family in the 1950s 157
8 Freeze Frames: Frozen Foods and Memories of the Postwar American Family 175
9 She Also Cooks: Gender, Domesticity, and Public Life in Oakland, California, 1957-1959 211
10 "My Kitchen Was the World": Vertamae Smart Grosvenor's Geechee Diaspora 227
11 "If I Were a Voodoo Priestess": Women's Culinary Autobiographies 251
List of Contributors 271
Index 275
Acknowledgments 285
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