Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook

1st Edition, 1950

Arguably, the most revolutionary cookbook of the 1950’s was the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, which contained lavish colour photography. While the first edition of the book is no longer in print, there are mixed views on the significance of this illustrated cookbook. There were a substantial amount of photographs but the aesthetic quality was perhaps quite poor. However, the use of food photography in this commercial outlet was significant, marking a rise in production, thus a rise in a need for food photographs. None the less, Betty Crocker was still a significant character in cookery at the time. A fictional character created by the Washburn-Crosby Company in 1921, created as an advertising tool to make the company more personable. Prior to publishing the ‘Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook’ various promotional pamphlets and baking books without colour photographs were released in the 1930’s and 40’s to aid war-time cooking. (Jarvits, J. n.d. [online]) 

Even cookbooks aimed at young cooks started to incorporate photography. Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cook Book (for the Hostess and Host of Tomorrow) in 1955 had step-by-step instructions line drawings and number of black and white shots. “there were beauty shots clearly meant to inspire the young chef—burgers, shakes, french toast. But the printing was poor and I don’t remember being inspired enough to, as the editors suggested, “fill up the family cookie jar.” (Shakely, L. n.d. [online]) While food photography was starting to appear more and more in cookbooks and magazines, it didn’t necessarily mean that these photographs had a better aesthetic quality than the previous illustrations. 

With thanks to Amy Alessio for her knowledge on vintage cookbooks!

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