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Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America's First Lady of Food Hardcover – Large Print, Aug 2005

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Thorndike Pr; Lrg edition (August 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786276851
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786276851
  • Product Dimensions: 22.5 x 14.9 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

"Your talks... have given me hope," wrote one listener to the Betty Crocker radio program during the Depression, and according to Marks's largely chronological "biography" (there was no real Betty Crocker), it was human connections like this one that made Crocker one of the most successful marketing tools ever. Filled with treasures from the General Mills archive—including letters sent to Crocker during WWII, reprints of famous recipes and advertisements, and portraits updated through the years—Marks's book introduces readers to the people who breathed life into Crocker's image as the happiest of homemakers. There's Samuel Gale, her inventor, and Florence Lindeberg, who provided her trademark signature in 1921. Other important figures include Neysa McMein, who painted the first Crocker portrait in 1936, and Adelaide Hawley, who played Crocker on television in the 1950s. Marks, who created a documentary film on Crocker, devotes a chapter to the Betty Crocker Kitchens and chronicles the products that Crocker's folksy persona sold to the world, like Bisquick and various cake mixes. In another section, she touches upon—albeit too briefly—Crocker's role in "the fundamental shift in American diets toward... factory-processed convenience foods." Light on analysis but abundant with anecdotes, this is a solid basic history for casual culinary, marketing and American historians. Photos, illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

The 1920s brainchild of a group of advertising types looking for a leg up in what came to be called the flour wars, Betty Crocker surpassed all expectations, not only by becoming the first lady of the kitchen but also by serving as a barometer of America's changing attitudes toward women's work. Entwined in Marks' absorbing review of Crocker's evolution are a sampling of favorite recipes and letters from Crocker's loyal radio, TV, and cookbook following, as well as photos showing Crocker's changing public face--from the earliest portrait in 1936 and motherly Crocker at her peak in the 1950s to the sleek, youthful, working-mom version, a computerized composite, trotted out to celebrate Betty's seventy-fifth anniversary in 1996. As this isn't in chronological order, it's sometimes hard to follow the arc of history, but plenty of readers curious about the "woman" behind the products decorated with the big red spoon will pick this up and have a grand time seeing how an icon came to be. Stephanie Zvirin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I really liked this book.

For some people, the story in the book didn't turn out to be what they expected and they were disappointed.
When you know before reading it that it's gonna be about the impact of Betty Crocker on the society, there are no disappointments.

It was very interesting and I recommend it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars 17 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Remarkably interesting and engaging "biography". March 27 2005
By David J. Gannon - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Betty Crocker may hold the distinction of being the first "virtual" corporate employee in American history. She has been seen and heard by millions on radio and TV. She has corresponded with uncounted thousands of America's 20th centaury housewives. In 1945, she was voted in a survey as the second most admired woman in the US after Eleanor Roosevelt. All pretty heady stuff for someone who doesn't actually exist.

Betty Crocker was the invention of a corporate marketing effort. This is the story of how and why she was created and how, once created, she became one of the most successful marketing campaigns in American corporate history.

One wouldn't think on the face of it that this story would make much of a book. One would be wrong. This is a fascinating story that chronicles not only the Betty Crocker story but also the development of corporate marketing in the US in the 1900's in general. The book also, along the way, provides a lot of insight into the mechanics of a modern food processing conglomerate as well as the ways in which American's were convinced to include a lot of processed foods into their diet by these conglomerates.

It is an interesting, entertaining and somewhat nostalgic story. The times and issues that were the crucible for the creation of Betty are unimaginably bucolic in nature by today's standards. This is not only a book about Betty, but about our parents and grandparents as well.

There are some shortcomings-the author tends to skip over things and becomes a bit too folksy at times, but these are quibbles-this, against all my expectations, proved to be a very enjoyable read. Highly recommended to one and all.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decent view of a part of 20th Century food June 1 2005
By Lawrence W. Prichard - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed Susan Marks's "Finding Betty Crocker" a great deal, but cannot give it five stars.As a former professional cook, and still a devoted follower of food, a lot of her material is familiar, and other writers, (especially Jean Anderson and Sylvia Lovegren) have explored Betty's background. Marks has no new insights about the shift from scratch cooking to package/mix cooking starting in the 1950s. The real value of this book is in the earliest chapters, when Marks speaks about the pioneering Betty Crocker radio programs, including the "Cooking School of The Air," which ran from 1924 to 1948. Betty was of real help in the Depression of the 1930s, and the Second World War. A fascinating element in the chapter of how Betty has been illustrated through the years is Norman Rockwell's image of Betty. A near miss, in my belief. My favourite Betty is the one from 1965, sometimes called the "Presidential" Betty, for her slight resemblance to Jacquline Kennedy.This book is worth reading, but I firmly believe that four stars are sufficient.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing look at an enduring culinary and marketing history figure Oct. 5 2007
By Midwest Book Review - Published on
Format: Paperback
Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America's First Lady of Food is the true story behind a commercial icon of 1950's homemaking - Betty Crocker. Created in 1921 as a "friend to homemakers" for the Washburn Crosby Company (a forerunner of modern-day General Mills), "Betty Crocker" was in fact the collective women of the Home Service Department who signed Betty's name. Betty Crocker's local radio show on WCCO expanded, as audiences across the nation learned to appreciate her money-saving recipes and wrote her nearly 5,000 fan letters a day. An amazing look at an enduring culinary and marketing history figure, illustrated with vintage black-and-white photographs.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marks skimps on the criticism July 6 2005
By L. Shopp - Published on
Format: Hardcover
While Susan Marks' liberal use of uppity prose in this book helped keep my mind from my lackluster summer, I don't think "Finding Betty Crocker" performs to its fullest capacity. Marks goes to great lengths showing how Betty Crocker was a staple of '50s kitchen kitsch who served a greater purpose: helping millions of everyday women cope during the Depression and World War II. I walked away from this book with a greater understanding of why my grandmother and great-aunts spoke so fondly of their favorite anonymous homemaker. Marks' prose, however cheery, walks the fine line between nonfiction and public relations: she never mentions the role Betty Crocker and General Mills played in telling millions of U.S. housewives that culinary perfection would equal marital bliss during the mid-20th century or covering up a scientific study that showed white bread to be less healthy than perceived. If Marks had gone deeper with these issues and scrapped a 20-page chapter describing the various Betty Crocker Test Kitchens, I think this book would have been much stronger. That said, however, I could really go for some Devil's Food right now! I guess Susan has done her job.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deliciously informative Nov. 30 2009
By Laura Probst - Published on
A truly eye-opening look at the making of an American icon. I think we tend today to brush off or mock such kitchen staples as Betty Crocker, but it was amazing to read about the impact a fictional character had on the morale and skills of several generations of cooks, bakers, and homemakers, for good or ill. In some ways, she promoted a Stepford wife-like lifestyle for her followers, yet with the introduction of Betty Crocker's one-step and quick-step baking mixes and other time-saving food mixes, she freed women from the stove.

One thing's for certain: We know who to blame for the obesity epidemic we're currently suffering. Dieticians, nutritionists, and psychologists are having to fight against decades of "Love is food" advertising, perpetrated for the most part by Betty Crocker and her ilk. The overwhelming number of pamphlets and cookbooks produced in the name of Betty Crocker, enticing and exhorting wives and mothers to show their love to their families with delicious food has been pervasive for the better part of a century. No wonder, then, that many people turn to food for comfort. After all, Betty Crocker says it's okay, and that's okay for me!

Okay, so I may be exaggerating...slightly. However, reading this book definitely makes one aware of how our culture became food-obsessed, and how the creation of a fictional spokeswoman for a once-small flour company became the heart and soul of America's kitchens.