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American Advertising Cookbooks: How Corporations Taught Us to Love Bananas, Spam, and Jello

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by Christina Ward
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Ward, a culinary instructor and food journalist, traces the efforts of food manufacturers, some regional, some national, to increase the use of their products by creating recipes that promised some combination of innovation, sophistication, simplification, and modernity beginning in the late 19th-century.

Ward's survey, accompanied by extensive illustrations from cookbooks, brochures, and advertising, points out that some of these campaigns addressed an existing need. Kosher cooks, for instance, were delighted to have a pareve substitute for butter and a replacement for lard in the form of shortenings such as Fluffo and Crisco. Other campaigns simply promoted foods such as bananas, pineapples, and canned meat. And others even went so far as to push non-food items, such as breath freshener, roto-tillers, and rifles.

While there is an inevitable kitsch element to this book—unavoidable given the heavy-handedness of much of the advertising and the inclusion of recipes for gingered pear and chicken salad set in lime gelatin or ham and banana rolls in cheese sauce—Ward works to place the advertising in social and historical context, highlighting appeals to sexism and racism, as well as the pernicious politics of some of the largest corporations. A strong introduction to this wide-ranging body of publications.

Paperback. Color photographs throughout.

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