FOOD: Transforming the American Table

Help for the Home Cook

Preparing food at home became easier—and more complicated—in postwar America. Manufacturers, advertisers, and the popular media bombarded home cooks with ever more advice about food and cooking. They introduced an array of “new and improved” appliances, kitchen gadgets, and convenience foods, promising “good as homemade” results and more free time for busy Americans. While many cooks embraced the latest shortcuts, others chose to maintain and enhance their “cooking from scratch” skills.

Ad, 1959

Ad, 1959

Courtesy of Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Tupperware was one of many new products that promised busy women “more time for family, friends and fun.”

Life in Mrs. Newcome’s Kitchen, 1962

Life in Mrs. Newcome’s Kitchen, 1962

The frenzied kitchen activity of a young mother in Saint Paul, Minnesota, contradicted the sunny imagery of advertising. Yet it still reinforced the notion that meal preparation was the sole responsibility of women.

“The Pillsbury Busy Lady Bake-Off Recipes” booklet, 1966

“The Pillsbury Busy Lady Bake-Off Recipes” booklet, 1966

Courtesy of Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Pillsbury sponsored an annual bake-off to promote the use of its products, publishing winning recipes, which often used prepared mixes and other short cuts. This edition, featuring Ella Helfrich’s Tunnel of Fudge Bundt cake, promised “homemade goodness with hurry-up timing.”

Pamphlet illustration, 1967

Pamphlet illustration, 1967

Courtesy of Archives Center, National Museum of American History

One romanticized version of a busy lady’s day from the Pillsbury Bake-Off recipe booklet.