A blend of culinary history and pop culture, Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in the 1950s America (Penguin, 2004) by Laura Shapiro tells the starling, yet fascinating history of many foods that now line the center aisles of super markets. With great research and quiet humor, she tracks how the food manufacturing world slowly seduced housewives in yielding long-held eating habits to the lure of “convenience” foods, aided and abetted by food writers of the day. In doing so, the era forever changed the way we eat in America – and increasingly the rest of the world, too. Shapiro breathes life into well-known and obscure characters from the era; the chapter on Poppy Cannon reads like a dramatic romance novel
Why It’s Important: I reference this volume in several place in my next book. So often, people forget that when you buy “food” in the form of goop or powder in a can or a
box, it’s vital to remember that such products are not just convenient, but they’re dressed-up army rations. Not enough food writers investigate what goes on inside and what’s behind the box. As Shapiro shows, there’s plenty of stories.