You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

And, before you ask, yes I am old enough to remember that was the slogan for that wonderfully girly, super skinny brand of cigarette, Virginia Slims. But, it turns out woman-power didn’t end with our ability to have our very own, gender-specific cancer stick. Oh no, we also came out of the kitchen and into the workforce (where a large number of us found jobs in, well, kitchens).

Sometimes, I forget just how far women have come on the domestic front. I take it for granted that my husband can cook, do laundry, and change a diaper, as well as mow the lawn, kill intrusive insects, and take out the garbage. (So, if I’m being honest, he’s totally more useful around the house than I am because I am afraid of our rotary lawn mower, bugs will crawl on me if I get near them, and I can’t seem to figure out how to get the garbage bag out of the can. Paul, meanwhile, is like some sort of whirling dervish of utility.)

I digress, as I often do… Today, I bring you two pictorial examples of lady-kind from the late 1930s. My mother-in-law gave me a wonderful book for Christmas: The American Woman’s Cookbook, edited and revised by Ruth Berolzheimer. The book was originally published in 1938. My copy is the 1952 edition, but judging from the dresses and hairstyles, most of the pictures were not updated with each new edition. (I can’t wait to make some of the recipes in this book. Noodle Ring with Vegetables, anyone?)

Ovens Are Our Friends

Woman bending over an open oven chock full of goodies

See the friendly oven. All warm, happy, and open.

If you find yourself in the kitchen and notice an oven standing all by its lonesome, please strike up a friendly conversation with it. You might be surprised to learn that ovens want to make your acquaintance, too. You have to figure that this lady was not allowed out of her kitchen. No wonder she has to make friends with the stove. I mean, really the refrigerator is a bitch–always judging you with it’s evil, ice boxy ways. And back in 1930-land, she didn’t have the raucous fun of the dishwasher yet. The oven is her only source of friendship. Poor lady.

Don’t even get me started on what the heck she’s baking either.  Look at those potatoes? Good God, woman, have you not heard of the Atkins diet? Oh wait, I suppose you have since you are baking a side of cow in there along with a pie (I love pie and will not fault her for that) and what appears to be a loaf of bread but could very well be a meatloaf. I know how they did it back then–meat, meat, and more meat. In fact, that pie is probably a meat pie and those potatoes are just going to be slathered with enough butter to give a Frenchman pause.

OK, on to exhibit two…

I Need to Find Me a Man

Gaping Oven with Food

What the heck is for dinner in this house? Whatever it is, I hope it brings the menfolk running.

Apparently, you can cook bacon strips, glossy buns (I’m just taking a stab at that one, because if they’re not glossy buns I don’t want to know about it), and fried eggs set in mashed potatoes all in the same oven. By the way, it is unclear to me if that is pepper in the center or parsley. If it is parsley, I applaud this home chef who so gallantly roasted leafy greens. If it is pepper (as I suspect it is), wowsers don’t bite into the middle of this concoction. Besides the obvious heart attack lurking behind the fiendish doors of this oven, please see what else waits for the unsuspecting woman. If you can’t read the caption, I’ll blow it up for you.

That’s right, this oven is just waiting… door open, full of anticipation… for you to have an occasion and a man. The occasion. Which I can only assume is a ye olde euphemism for something naughty that shouldn’t be happening near an oven anyway. As if any 1930-land man worth his salt would come into a kitchen. To this lady, I would have to say, “Save your fried eggs and mashed potato mess. Get out there and find yourself a man. They all go to work. You should start there.”

And, maybe that’s how the women’s liberation movement really started. We didn’t want to go to work and be a cog in the machine of the man. We were just sick of the oven telling us what to do all day. Sick of waiting for a magical man to appear and sweep us off our feet, away from the 90 lb steaks and the creepy glossy buns. We had to get out of the kitchen before the appliances drove us mad with their constant bickering. Little did those women know that the coffee pot at work is just as irritating as the oven at home.


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