Laura Shapiro on…
American Originals: Rethinking the Pillsbury Bake-Off
The 1950′s and 1960′s were tumultuous decades in American food history, and nowhere is there better evidence of their contribution to our culinary sensibility than in the Pillsbury Bake-Off. The Bake-Off is often represented as a mirror of American cooking, but in truth, it’s far more of a case study in domestic ingenuity, honoring the impulse to invent, manipulate, and cajole. At mid-century, the startling configurations that won acclaim at the Bake-Off made perfect sense to the judges and contestants because they understood these dishes as emblems of pure creativity, rather than expressions of appetite. In this talk, Ms Shapiro will describe the rise of originality as a virtue in American cooking, exemplified by the triumph of Magic Marshmallow Crescent Puffs at the 1969 Bake-Off.
Laura Shapiro was a columnist at The Real Paper (Boston) before beginning a 16-year run at Newsweek, where she covered food, women’s issues and the arts and won several journalism awards. Her essays, reviews and features have also appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Gourmet, Gastronomica, Slate and many other publications. Her first book was Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century (1986), which the University of California Press has reissued with a new Afterword. She is also the author of Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America (Viking, 2004), and Julia Child (Penguin Lives, 2007), which won the award for Literary Food Writing from the International Association of Culinary Professionals in 2008. Her work is represented in the Library of America’s American Food Writing, The Virago Book of Food, and Best Food Writing 2002. She is a frequent speaker and panelist on culinary history, and contributed a regular column on a wide range of food topics to gourmet.com, the Gourmet magazine website. During 2009-10 she was a fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.
Most recently, she was co-curator for “Lunch Hour NYC,” an acclaimed exhibition documenting the mingled histories of New York City and the American midday meal, which opened at the New York Public Library in June 2012.