Saturday, May 26, 2007


It was not just mad, over-arching ambition that drove me to try the Betty Crocker pre-mixed cake.

I really felt like the universe was winking at me in a suggestive, encouraging manner. First, in a Bloom County strip Milo developed a crush on Betty, the epitome of American womanhood, and all that she stood for – clean living, mom, home-bakes, family picnics, a forgotten, pre-lapsarian America. Following a lead in The National Enquirer, he set off to find her and was shocked to meet a crusty, cynical broad, who actually didn’t know what a sheesh kebob could be.

Then, we found this amazing Betty Crocker Outdoor Cookbook at the FBD sale. It was printed in the ’60s and was spiral bound with a hard cover. It had lively, small, two-colour illustrations, incredibly cheesy text and lurid pictures of family picnics. And this totally chatty, Reader’s-Digest tone of happy bonhomie. Plus lots of recipes for sheesh kabobs and the like. The illustration for the ‘Outdoor Indian Pilaf’ recipe (An excellent accompaniment for beef… adapted from a famous dish of exotic India) was hilarious. Two dancing girls, bindis and loopy smiles on their faces, stood with their hips stuck out at an angle, and arms laden with plates full of rice. Sort of like slim, happy, pilaf-serving Kalis. And the book began with a letter from BC herself (Starts Dear Friend, Who doesn’t love eating outdoors… and ends with a flourish of Cordially, Betty Crocker). There was something reassuring about that cheerfully upright signature, like this was someone you could trust to take you smiling thru every cooking Situation. More about that signature later. 

My cousin got me a Betty Crocker pre-mix from Canada, and I was thrilled. Not because I knew the first thing about baking, but because, well, if you can't trust foriegn pop culture icons, I mean, who can you trust? I felt like I'd been delivered an industrial strength nudge in the midriff. That's why I went mad and tried baking.

In the subliminal way that we know most American icons, I felt I ‘knew’ Betty. I took my doubts to google and discovered that Betty was a phoney. Like the red-clad, rosy-cheeked Santa Claus. Of course. Thank you, Corporate America!

I giggled dismissively to myself and marched onwards and upwards to my almost-first attempt at baking a hopefully fool-proof cake... Of course, what I ended up making was Cake, With a Frosting of Dark Thoughts

1 comment:

Aishu said...

I thought you knew that Betty Crocker wasn't real!! They were doing this whole show about it on the Food Network over here. They made her up!!! They made her up I tell you!But really, i can't believe you messed up the cake, the PRE MIX cake!