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Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century

by Laura Shapiro

Pub Date: April 23rd, 2001
ISBN: 0-375-75665-5
Publisher: Modern Library

Another in Gourmet editor Reichl’s new Food series of reprints (see Charpentier, above), this time a somewhat academic study chronicling the standardization of American cuisine at the turn of the century: a movement, based on supposedly scientific principles, that resulted in simply bland food. Kirkus (Jan. 1, 1986, p. 43) summarized Shapiro’s argument: the rise of domestic “science” spread from cooking schools to women’s magazines, hoping “to turn every home into a little laboratory.” Detailing some of the more risible facts gleaned from Shapiro’s narrative, we noted her account of the home-economics movement and “its apotheosis”—“the TV dinner.” But we also thought that too much was being “juggled” here, and that, “like a home economist’s menu,” Shapiro’s account failed to come up with “palatable or even digestible reading fare.” The aftereffect? “Dyspeptic.”