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Manly Meals and Mom's Home Cooking

Cookbooks and Gender in Modern America

From the first edition of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook to the latest works by today's celebrity chefs, cookbooks reflect more than just passing culinary fads. As historical artifacts, they offer a unique perspective on the cultures that produced them. In Manly Meals and Mom's Home Cooking, Jessamyn Neuhaus offers a perceptive and piquant analysis of the tone and content of American cookbooks published between the 1790s and the 1960s, adroitly uncovering the cultural assumptions and anxieties—particularly about women and domesticity—they contain.

Neuhaus's in-depth survey of these cookbooks questions the supposedly straightforward lessons about food preparation they imparted. While she finds that cookbooks aimed to make readers—mainly white, middle-class women—into effective, modern-age homemakers who saw joy, not drudgery, in their domestic tasks, she notes that the phenomenal popularity of Peg Bracken's 1960 cookbook, The I Hate to Cook Book, attests to the limitations of this kind of indoctrination. At the same time, she explores the proliferation of bachelor cookbooks aimed at "the man in the kitchen" and the biases they display about male and female abilities, tastes, and responsibilities.

Neuhaus also addresses the impact of World War II rationing on homefront cuisine; the introduction of new culinary technologies, gourmet sensibilities, and ethnic foods into American kitchens; and developments in the cookbook industry since the 1960s. More than a history of the cookbook, Manly Meals and Mom's Home Cooking provides an absorbing and enlightening account of gender and food in modern America.

About the Author

Jessamyn Neuhaus is an associate professor of U.S. history and popular culture at SUNY Plattsburgh. She is the author of Housework and Housewives in Modern American Advertising: Married to the Mop.

Reviews

"Have you ever wondered why women's cooking tends to be tired and routine, while men can make culinary magic with hotdogs, omelettes, and fried potatoes? Or why juicy steaks are man-food, while dainty salads are for women? These stereotypes may sit like a rock in the belly, but the message has been reinforced over the past century in American cookbooks, says Jessamyn Neuhaus, author of Manly Meals and Mom's Home Cooking. She explores generations of cookery instruction and finds they didn't stop at recipes for Jell-O salad and tuna casserole. From Fannie Farmer and The Joy of Cooking to The I Hate to Cook Book, cookbooks have long told women more than how much flour to put in their devil's food cake. They have reflected and reinforced social attitudes about the distinct roles of men and women... Readers—especially veteran home cooks—are likely to find Manly Meals and Mom's Home Cooking worth tasting."

- Julie Finnin Day - Christian Science Monitor

"An engaging analysis... Neuhaus provides a rich and well-researched cultural history of American gender roles through her clever use of cookbooks."

- Sarah Eppler Janda - History: Reviews of New Books

"Neuhaus examines a huge number of both well-known and obscure cookbooks, as well as hard-to-find magazine articles and offers persuasive evidence about the culture of the period."

- Barbara Haber - Women's Review of Books

"An excellent addition to the history of women's roles in America, as well as to the history of cookbooks."

- Choice

"The book has many strengths, including excellent research and cogent presentation... Good enough to entice more scholars to step into the kitchen."

- Journal of American History

"The entire book is well researched and documented, helping readers to see that cookbooks have supported America's dominant ideologies about gender."

- Anne L. Bower - Gastronomica

"Even if you missed Jell-O salads or Pu-Pu platters, after reading Neuhaus buying a cookbook will never be the same."

- Eileen Boris - American Historical Review

"This is a fascinating history that delves into the world of home cooking, cookbooks, and changing perceptions about males and females in food production, and is recommended for any college-level American history or culinary arts program."

- Midwest Book Review

Endorsements

"This detailed analysis of the gendered nature of American cookbooks surveys more cookbooks than any other work I'm aware of. The clear and consistent thesis is that these cookbooks reflect and reinforce a long-standing ideology of domesticity that situates women as the primary cooks, caretakers, and nurturers of the idealized nuclear family. With sound scholarship and a focus on prescriptive food literature, Manly Meals makes an original and useful contribution to our understanding of how gender roles are institutionalized and perpetuated."

- Warren Belasco, senior editor of The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink
Johns Hopkins University Press
2003
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9780801871252 : manly-meals-and-moms-home-cooking-neuhaus
Hardback
352 Pages
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Paperback / softback
352 Pages
$33.00 USD
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