Betty Crocker is a phenomenon created by the advertising department of a flour ccompany that eventually became General Mills. Wholly fictional, she was created in 1920 by combining the name Betty (“warm and friendly”) with Crocker (name of a retired company executive) and the signature of a secretary who participated in a company contest to choose that signature. The signature remains today–Betty’s image over the decades, however, has changed radically from a gray-haired woman in 1936 to today’s younger olive-skinned dark-haired image.
Betty Crocker’s Guide to Easy Enertaining, published in 1959, is a neat little cookbook that opens flat. It pretty much covers entertaining at the close of the 50s. In the introduction, Betty Crocker (acting as if she’s a real live person), says: “Perhaps you are one of my many friends who has written asking about suggestions for special entertaining. . . . So, here is a book about hospitality and how it can be easy and fun for the hostess as well as the guest.” Its sub-title is “How to have guests–and enjoy them.” I have already mentioned this book in Blog #18-3 in connection with the lastingness of the Frosted Sandwich Loaf as one of the classic items for a Retro Ladies Bridge Lunch.
In just 172 pages Betty covers everything from Barbecues to Small Dinners and even Brunch. Lunches comes between Stag Parties and Teas. Covered for each type of event is planning and inviting guests, menu examples and how to behave when guests arrive and leave. When asked by a bride about how to give her first big luncheon party, first question is when to use the word lunch, when luncheon? Betty responds that lunch is a meal for women-only and during the week. Luncheon implies a larger group and a more formal event with a more elaborate menu, or a weekend party including men.
The same was true as to differences between a bridge lunch or a bridge luncheon. My memory of that era is that the term bridge lunch was used for weekly or bi-weekly bridge clubs. The more formal luncheon was more likely for bridge clubs that met monthly. Or a party for a group who did not necessarily play bridge together as a club. Or a fund-raising bridge luncheon by a church or the DAR. That word luncheon, added Betty Crocker, is “best used to describe the event as in a news release or as text for a printed invitation” but you don’t say ‘come to luncheon’ even if the party is big enough and formal enough to qualify–sounds pretentious–just say “come to lunch.'”
Or, she says, for a bridge party, a simple: “Lunch at one, bridge later” will do.
The mythical Betty Crocker published over 200 cookbooks over the years–still going strong today. My copy of Guide to Easy Entertaining is a first edition, and these books are collectibles. Not sure what it’s worth today, nor do I remember where I picked it up but it probably was at a wonderful 2d hand book barn that used to exist in Meredith NH. I love 2d hand books for the inscriptions they so often have. This one says in very pretty handwriting,
“Dear Babe, May this little book bring you good health, celebrations and happiness always in your daily living. Always with love, Mother.”
In 1924 Betty hosted the first ever radio cooking show. She came in second to Eleanor Roosevelt in the 30s as most famous woman in America. Hundreds of cookbooks have been created under her name as General Mills created representativesing Age.