As I was decluttering, I found a wonderful stash of cookbooks with recipes I doubt you’d see today. I thought I’d share two of them and a touch of history.
They are both based on using boxed cake mixes. These handy mixes were invented in 1948 by Charlotte Cramer Sachs. (She was a prolific inventor.) With the introduction of cake mixes, cakes went from celebratory to common place. Food companies touted the release of women from the drudgery of cooking–freeing them to think and question and be full human beings. Push back made women feel guilty about doing anything but housework.
There is some feminist theory about this that’s pretty interesting. We could talk all day about the guilt that’s heaped upon women. I know that I spent much of my early life trying to be a scientist and keep up with the housework and all of the duties expected of me had I been a traditional woman. Once I had kids, that began to fall apart as it was impossible. But let’s move on to the recipes.
Root Beer Angel Cake:
Prepare 1 package of angel food cake mix as directed except substitute root beer for water.
Prepare a frosting from 1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted, 2 cups confectioners sugar, 1/4 cup crushed root beer candies. Add root beer a tablespoon at a time and stir until the proper consistency.
Mock Pistachio Cake:
1/2 cup slivered or diced almonds
4 drops green food coloring
1 package of angel food cake mix
Shake almonds and food coloring together in a plastic bag
Prepare cake according to package directions. Fold in the green almonds before baking.
If desired, add a glaze of confectioners sugar and 1-2 tablespoons of water to cooled cake.
We may look at these today and be appalled at how lazy or unhealthy they seem. However, put them into perspective: they allowed women to be both free and creative. They let women appear busy, as society demands, and yet maybe have time to read a book or even take a class at a local college or work and get their own credit card. (Although women couldn’t have their own credit cards until 1974.) You might even call them a stab at the freedom that still eludes most homemakers. And yet, as some have pointed out, for many women they simply filled time with meaningless and even unhealthy female busywork.
Women have more choices today. Let’s keep it that way. Make the cake or go to the bakery or give up sugar altogether. It all depends on what you want to do on the road to your freedom.