Food: Part sustenance, part social, part historical

As I have mentioned in previous entries, I have been listening to a great courses daily podcast on “Food: A Cultural Culinary History”.  I own a domain name and website called “Our Healthy Eating“. I have been investigating recipes and am working on adding cooking techniques, recipes, and more to the site.  It is slower in advancement than this site is.As I plod along for an hour every morning on the treadmill, I have been listening to Ken Albala and these lectures.  There are 36 total lectures, but now I am returning to the lectures I found most fascinating.  I am sure you know how it is….I am listening, walking the treadmill and suddenly something makes my mind wander and I miss anywhere from a few sentences to 10 minutes of lecture. It is so easy for the mind to wander…and wander to places no sane person would want to go <giggle>.

So it has occurred to me to dig out my mother’s recipes from my growing up years and beyond. I had observed one thing about my mother’s recipes the last few times I looked at them.  She reflects exactly what I have been learning in these lectures:  The government and big business influenced what women of my mother’s time purchased to feed her family and how she prepared her meals for her family. I want to take these recipes and convert them to my way of cooking now – more like my grandmother cooked meals than the way my mother cooked meals.  It is also important that I note that my mother was considered one of the, if not THE, best cook in the parish and possibly the county.

Betty Crocker Fudge Brownies
By Source, Fair use,

I am not being critical of her cooking – rather stating that she was a product of her somewhat liberated environment when it came to her recipes. Given my penchant towards the Mediterranean Diet and modified vegetarian diets, her recipes, when I first reviewed them after many years, seemed rife with all the yucky stuff I have been getting away from.  As I think back through my thirties and forties, Mom completely influenced my efforts at cooking. I was considered by those I fed (and maybe they were just desperate to get fed <grin>) as one of the best cooks around.  But I used the same box mixes and easy to prepare packaged foods that my mother did.

The real hoot to all this was that my senior year in high school, I won (for my school) the “Betty Crocker Homemaker of the Year” award.  I took a 50 minute, 150 question exam and completed it with time to spare.  My teacher was shocked that I had won.  It was a rite of passage and a part of my Home Economics class in high school – all four years I took that class and excelled.  I gather from my research that this award program lasted 22 years.  I vaguely recalled the test included topics such as family values and relationships, child care, cooking, housekeeping and more.  Also my research revealed that there were scholarships awarded; however, I did not receive anything more than a medal. But I still have the pin.

My first cookbook was the Betty Crocker Cookbook with the red and white plaid striped cover. This would have been in 1969. That Betty Crocker was not real did not occur to me for many years since her persona was invented by the company which would eventually be called General Mills.[