Betty Crocker – The Early Years


When I first got married in 1964, I didn’t have a clue about how to be a housewife. I was still in my last semester of college, and all I knew was what a knife and fork looked like and which appliance was the refrigerator. I did have experience at the sink, washing my hands and getting a drink of water, but as a teenager I had studiously avoided Mom’s kitchen. It really was a studied avoidance, because after dinner, I often gave my mother the excuse that I had to study, so I couldn’t help with the dishes. Unfortunately, it was true. I always had so much homework my eyes fell out every night at 10:00.

But I’m getting behind myself. My husband and I managed to eat out for the first few nights. My mom had given me her Betty Crocker Cookbook and after several days of screw-ups, mishaps, and culinary disasters, I decided to make chicken, mashed potatoes and peas. At least I knew about the three food groups: easy, difficult, and impossible.

Betty’s Cookbook  informed me how to bake the chicken, which turned out to be blackened but edible. It was the mashed potatoes that proved impossible. The recipe said to put the potatoes in a pan with ½ inch of water. Betty forgot to mention that the water needed to cover the potatoes and have an extra ½ inch on top of them.

Anyway, I burned the potatoes. I did cook the canned peas in a small saucepan with water and they turned out fine (1964 was during the pre-microwave period in culinary history). I think my husband was still hungry after dinner, but he didn’t say anything. The next night we went to “Big Boy” for hamburgers and fries.

My history of not-so-good dinners finally changed when I had children and was forced to stay home all day and take care of them. I began to care about cooking. Really, I began to care about eating, and I was serving Kraft Macaroni and Cheese every other night, so I needed to study up on making nutritious, edible and tasty dinners.

A neighbor taught me how to make a delicious pot roast. I’m getting hungry just talking about it. I had finally conquered baked chicken and I understood every step of making creamy mashed potatoes. My girlfriend found a great recipe for spaghetti sauce and I learned how to make that. At that point I was able to boil noodles.

“Mom, I learned to make spaghetti sauce from scratch.”

“Really?” Mother was astounded.

“Yes, it’s delicious.”

“Better than Chef Boy-ar-Dee?” Mom looked incredulous.

“Yes, Mom, even better than Chef Boy-ar-dee.” I remember laughing to myself because Mom thought sauce that came in a can would be better than homemade sauce.

So finally, as National Feast Day comes around again, I think back to Betty Crocker and Chef Boy-ar-dee, and although their food was not nutritious the way we insist our food be now, it was fairly good and kept us from going hungry when Mom was busy.

Chef Boy-ar-dee is a real man from Piacenza, Italy whose name was spelled Hector Boiardi. He had a famous restaurant in NYC and was one of the first chefs to package his ingredients together in a box for sale to the public. People ate it up!

Unfortunately, Betty Crocker is a crock. Yes, I’m sorry to burst your bubbles, but Betty isn’t a real person. She was started by the Washburn Crosby Company in Minneapolis in 1921, invented to give a personal touch to thousands of requests they received about baking. Here are some pictures of Betty during her early years.

Betty Crocker

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Greta Hanesworth
    Nov 24, 2013 @ 09:21:52

    I, too, was in the dark about cooking back then. I found Adelle Davis’s book called “Let’s Cook it Right” at a corner store in San Francisco where we moved right after we were married. She taught not just recipes but also techniques and from Adelel I learned how to make healthy suop, stew, and lots of things from scratch. (but not how to spell.) I am grateful to Adelle, she was a great teacher and one of the first into ‘health-food’.

    Reply

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