In this captivating blend of culinary history and popular culture, the award-winning author ofPerfection Salad shows us what happened when the food industry elbowed its way into the kitchen after World War II, brandishing canned hamburgers, frozen baked beans, and instant piecrusts. Big Business waged an all-out campaign to win the allegiance of American housewives, but most women were suspicious of the new foodsand the make-believe cooking they entailed. With sharp insight and good humor, Laura Shapiro shows how the ensuing battle helped shape the way we eat today, and how the clash in the kitchen reverberated elsewhere in the house as women struggled with marriage, work, and domesticity. This unconventional history overturns our notions about the '50s and offers new thinking on some of its fascinating figures, including Poppy Cannon, Shirley Jackson, Julia Child, and Betty Friedan.
Author Biography: Laura Shapiro was an award-winning writer at Newsweek for more than fifteen years, and has written for many publications, including The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Granta, and Gourmet.
Shapiro apologizes that her book ''focuses almost exclusively on middle-class women,'' but there's no need for guilt -- the hegemony of Nescafe, Bisquick and Jell-O extended almost immediately to the blue-collar kitchen, and the reaction against it has benefited all classes of society. Shapiro's tale of how America gradually turned from eating TV dinners to using the television to learn how to cook real food cheers up immensely when she leaves behind the Cheez Whiz and sherry (added to pep up broccoli) and, in a chapter called ''Don't Check Your Brains at the Kitchen Door,'' introduces Poppy Cannon, the first of the many engaging heroines of this deliciously readable book. Paul Levy