I’ve been looking (and smiling) at lots of American baking ephemera this week—old advertisements, product brochures, package wrappers, mini-cookbooks, even antique cookware—in preparation for a talk I’ll be giving at the Home Baking Association on Monday in Vermont. The totally over-the-top vintage flour sifter is one of my own most spectacular 1950s culinary props, by the way!
As an avid culinary history buff and long-time writer on baking topics, I’ve loved learning the minutiae about earlier baking methods, ingredients, equipment, and recipes. But I’ve come away even more struck by what some of the various ephemera reveal about American 20th century social life. It’s actually hard not to snicker at the Brer Rabbit ad at left! (Interestingly, a number of their old ads hit this same “man-pleasing” theme.) For another post along these same lines, check out the vintage valentine cards featuring little girls baking up sweets for their sweetie pies.
Underscoring her point, many of the baking-themed visuals from that era are ridiculous and saccharine, presenting a homemaker who simultaneously: maintains both a spotless house and her looks, keeps the children well groomed and deliriously happy; pampers her man; and is relentlessly cheerful all at times. (Notice the pretty mother’s great delight and near-maniacal look of joy on the face of the little girl at left.)