☆ Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century (Modern Library Food) Ä Download by ë Laura Shapiro The story was pretty new to me I knew the general story of women becoming active in professional reform organizations near the turn of the 19th Century, such as Jane Addams at Hull House, but I d never heard much about this aspect of it It certainly explains many things about American food such as the weird propensity for mixing stuff with mayonnaise and calling it a salad like the thing my mother in law calls Ambrosia Salad, which is some monstrous combination of canned fruit, nuts, and marshmallows, all drowned in mayonnaise in America, the word salad has a much looser meaning than it does in New Zealand, where it pretty much means a mixture of greens, vegetables, and possibly some meat, with a dressing A NZ salad might have a few cranberries sprinkled on it, but it could never, ever be sweet Or contain marshmallow Honestly, as far as I m concerned, the minute you put marshmallow in something, it becomes a dessert Now I know that it s probably straight out of Fannie Farmer s Cook Book from 1905.
Perfection Salad is really about the origins of the domestic science movement, or what later became known as home economics Women in the late nineteenth century, denied access to careers in biology, chemistry, or business, made a space for themselves in their communities and in academia by elevating house work to a science Cooking schools opened by the dozen, their aim not the production of chefs, but well trained housewives and cooks who would elevate their families and homes by cooking solid, nutritious food, using scientific methods to keep their houses immaculate, and generally making sure their children and husbands were kept out of the borstal and the alehouse, respectively Eventually, many colleges opened domestic science or home economics departments Depressingly, university administrators often supported home economics departments as a method of keeping women out of the liberal arts, science, and business courses that were supposed to be the domain of men I had many aha moments while reading this it s fascinating, and explains a lot of the terrible food that became common in the USA and other Western countries in the 20th Century, such as canned meats, cake mixes, the disgusting thing they call French Dressing in the US which is about as French as I am , and white sauce on everything It s also depressing because although the pioneers of domestic science thought they were uplifting the American public to new heights of good nutrition, cleanliness, and morality, what they ended up doing was sentencing women to the kitchen and several generations of Americans to bland factory made food Many of the domestic science pioneers went on to have careers as testers and recipe creators for food companies, but sadly, many of them didn t think other women would be up to the challenge of careers in food science One of the good things I think Shapiro does in this book is unpack the motives and methods of the domestic scientists Many of them were genuinely interested in helping women improve the health of their families, but many were also obviously unnerved by the increasing foreignness of the people crowding into cities such as New York, Boston, and Philadelphia They saw food as a way to Americanize immigrants, and it frustrated the shit out of them that most immigrants ignored their advice and kept on eating their good Italian cheeses, and preferring olive oil over industrial vegetable oils, and paying for choice cuts of meat and salami Shapiro addresses that old saw that gets trotted out about poor people being poor because they don t know how to eat right if only they would learn to love lentils, damn it, they could dig themselves out of the tenements and become fabulously wealth members of society Oh, god, and the white sauce They were obsessed with white sauce They were obsessed with making food white, actually, whether it was with white sauce, mayonnaise, or marshmallow Funny that they should be into making things white right at the time when America as a nation was deciding which people were white or not you know, all those people who were considered non white in the 19th Century, like the Irish, and Italians, and Poles, and Slavs etc Of course, they were also into making foods green on St Patrick s Day, and pink and white on Valentines Day and other bizarre things like that People were, and continue to be, pretty strange.
This was a re read for me I shouldn t have wasted time on books I ve already read, but there it was, and it s fun to read Horrified fascination, much like reading memoirs of bad families the whole idea of scientific cooking, where taste and pleasure are not only unimportant, they are regarded as slightly dangerous, since they may interfere with getting people to eat a perfectly balanced diet is sort of creepy, and the invention of the profession of home economics is certainly a horror story to women of my generation, among the last ones to be FORCED to take home ec in junior high school, where we cooked some of the very same awful recipes described herein.
Perfection Salad Presents An Entertaining And Erudite Social History Of Women And Cooking At The Turn Of The Twentieth Century With Sly Humor And Lucid Insight, Laura Shapiro Uncovers Our Ancestors Widespread Obsession With Food, And In Doing So, Tells Us Why We Think As We Do About Food Today A look at the food science domestic science movement that went from about 1880 1914, which tried to make science chemistry calories the driving force behind food and therefore revolutionize the future of women and the domestic sphere while improving the lives of the poor especially Essentially taste and preference were seen as bad, and food was merely chemical reactions forming proper energy The facts were interesting The writing was dry It s from 1986 and began with, The domestic science movement was a solution for its own time to the same problems ambitious women always faced Indeed, the blind faith that characterized the domestic scientists and undermined their idealism is still with us We live in a time when feminism is considered passe, when rational assessment tells us that all the battles have been won, all the laws are in place, and the only decision women have to make is where to jump aboard But 100 years ago, people felt the same way Things never ever ever change I can see all of these moral reform underpinings from 1890 showing up today in gluten free paleo etc food blogs The idea was to create models of the ideal housekeeper their modern woman someone serene, unhurried, and with a mind fix on eternal truths, who would move through a day of chores and challenges like an invisible force for good Isn t that totally mommybloggers There was a battle between should women do the cooking because it was up to them to save the world or should they do it to love it, and I see those battles still being waved.
These are also the women, btw, who determined that women shouldn t like eating, and didn t really need it, and only liked lettuce and very light cakes and sweets never cake or pie These were evil And god help the boy who ignored his steak in favor of waiting for pudding, because that was feminine and must be stopped Salads were for women formed, molded, never loose or messy, always decorative and frail I mean, it s all so insane and despite everything, those ideals are still with us No, we don t use aspic or mayonnaise to mold things, and we re mostly past color theming, though those lasted decades past this movement, but men and women are still being pigeonholed into appropriate foods I find the author s assertion that this was what bright women were allowed to do and so they poured all their energy into it absolutely fascinating I appreciated seeing some of the differences in opinions and style there s no wonder Fannie Farmer is the only one who is still known, she s the least crazy of them all , and seeing how things changed from the 1840s to 1920s and to my knowledge of the 1960s, but geez We have got to get past this whole food as moral judgment crap.
I would move this to my read or 2008 shelf, but that would be dishonest, because I couldn t finish the book If I had been required to read it, for class or something, I might have gotten through of it I found the writing dense, much of the topical coverage uninteresting, and the 1 2 or 3 4 that I read largely scattered I wish this book had lived up to its promise to uncover our ancestors widespread obsession with food and tell us why we think as we do about food today but it didn t Skip it.
Loved this feminist history food book so much fun to see how cooking and the kitchen were transformed by modernity at the turn of the century Everything traditional, European, or made without recipes was thrown aside in favor of recipes which were standardized to always taste the same Add ketchup and whipped cream to everything This was really fun to read, not at all light reading but not too heavy Could have gone a little theoretical if she d tried It makes me want to write a paper about the non touching in food preparation Nonfiction book about basically the history of home economics, women, and cooking in America, in the late nineteenth early twentieth century You will see the origins of such bizarre foodstuffs as carrot raisin mayonnaise salad and other old fashioned dishes At one point, there was a whole white sauce craze, where absolutely everything was doused in a sauce of milk, flour, and butter, I think Lots of interesting little tidbits like that.
I found this book a bit dry, but there were some very interesting parts about how the history of attitudes towards food emerged For example, salads used to be just deemed messy, and back in the day, they were constructed as if they had to be contained in something, such as a bread bowl or hollowed out green pepper Back before anyone understood vitamins, eating lettuce and other vegetables just seemed kind of pointless to people It was all about getting in your meat and potatoes, and proteins and fats in general.

Fascinating look at the development of women s place in American society through the changing landscape of cooking in the late 19th and early 20th century Thought provoking and seriously entertaining at the same time I experienced true horror at some of the salads popularized by cooking schools in the 1890s Also the idea of chicken in banana sauce on a bed of popcorn Whoops Finished this several weeks ago and simply forgot to log it.
In all honesty, this started out well, got dry, and only became fascinating toward the end because of the Nanny State tendencies of the women who near the end of the period covered gained control of the movement, and that just angered me, since these control freak at best and tyrannical at worst, and it s not so far from one to the other types remain with us, always veiling their insistence that everyone eat the same, uniform diet, one often based upon mistaken data Ancel Keys, anyone with various nice sounding bromides As a history buff, I read a lot of books that can be a bit on the dry side a book about women and food was not one I expected to suffer this malady, and perhaps that made getting through it worse Alas I did enjoy the sketches of women like Fanny Farmer, and some passages are downright amusing things were so different during these years, and there s a lot of innocent charm involved in the way the ladies devised their perfect meals I can t deny that some of the things brought about by the women of the home economics movement were very good indeed frankly, I would mind a bit seeing homekeeping returned to its once admired status, as an honourable and important occupation who likes living in or even visiting a filthy house Reading about the cooking schools, their goals, and their students was interesting as well, particularly concerning their reception by the public and the way their menus often failed to satisfy, much less fulfill people s needs.
Overall, it sokay It is not bad, but it is not great, unless this is perhaps your field of study or if you are interested in the way individuals, groups, and governments try to control others, down to the minutiae of daily life I ll probably send my copy, upon which a few cups of tea were spilt, to one of my favourite Libertarians.
Perfection Salad opens up the mostly forgotten world of domestic science an attempt by social reformers to improve the lives of the poor through teaching the science of cooking and homekeeping Additionally, however, it was an attempt to elevate the status of women by showing the rigor and intelligence needed to properly caring for a family and running a household While the science of the 1890s has in some cases been disproved it turns out that fruits and vegetable do have nutritional value the focus is rightly on how domestic scientists were using the most recent scientific information in their crusade Their crusade was for nutrition and efficiency they did not eschew modern technologies or prepared foods To lesser extent there was an effort to create a sense of propriety through color coordination or other fashions of the time This was to help young wives elevate their family s social status or to help immigrants assimilate into American culture What there was not was any emphasis on was taste Bland was the key to easy, healthful digestion This also delves into the feminism of the time s the domestic scientists at the turn of the twentieth century weren t concerned with changing women s roles instead they wanted women s tradition role to be shown the proper respect Looking at this a century later, it isn t lost of me that we are still struggling with that Additionally, this book was published in 1986 The introduction includes references to how far feminism has come, but there is still work to do I ve considered myself a feminist for as long as I can remember, even as a small child Yet, I distinctly had my own feminist wake up call in the early 1990s The idea that in the mid 1980s people would ve declared feminism unnecessary is mind boggling In many ways there are parallels to the roles of women then and now The author however lets the reader draw their own conclusion rather than beat them over the head with that One particularly striking parallel to today is the vigilance and responsibility for other people s actions that is thrust on women In Perfection Salad the rise of consumer goods led to unscrupulous businesses selling dangerous products Domestic scientists wished to arm women with the tools to detect these products and save their families from them Wouldn t it have just been better for everyone if the focus had been on stopping businesses from selling tainted baking powder Eventually, the FDA was created, but that took some time When you think about it, that level of responsibility of assuming that this insidious product can kill your family if you don t prevent it isn t that far removed from having to be vigilant to save yourself from assault The book leads up to the transition from domestic science to home economics, and touches on that briefly Home economics in all its post war glory is another book, also by this author, for another time The focus on this very narrow window of social reform is enlightening, and shows how the American relationship with food has evolved for over a century.