Sunday, July 17, 2011

Who’s Afraid of Betty Crocker?

George and Martha are newlyweds negotiating that difficult transition from singlehood to coupledom and things have come to a head. Martha is saddened both by her inability to conceive and frustrated by her impotence in the kitchen. How to cook for two? George drinks too much and expects his young bride to start entertaining guests. The pressure’s too much!

In her desperation, Martha purchases Betty Crocker’s Dinner For Two Cookbook. For a little while, at least, this keeps the demons at bay; every night she and George sit down to dinners like this:

Hearty Ham Steak
Grilled Sweet Potatoes
Peas Almandine in Foil
Corn Muffins from the Grill
Banana Boats

and in time, they settle into a life of stupefying dullness. Every now and then, they even make torrid love after a night out at the cinema — (she pretends George is as handsome as Richard Burton, and he wishes Martha had Liz Taylor’s chutzpah).

Then, one night, during a party, Martha is asked which American woman she most admires, and having no other role models, she answers Betty Crocker. At this, George laughs in her face, saying “You know Betty Crocker doesn’t really exist, right?” Martha didn’t.

All her dreams shattered, she picks up the book to gaze upon Betty’s beatific face on the back. “Haven’t you ever wondered why she’s always in a painting, and not a photograph?” George taunts. “But…but she’s on television!” Martha protests.

“What sort of person actually mistakes fictional characters for real people?” George spits, shaking his head.

“I am George, I am” she replies, throwing the book at him. He catches it, rips off part of the back cover and stuffs it in his mouth. "Yum," he says, "Yum yum yum." 

Selections From Betty Crocker's Dinner For Two Cookbook, Bantam Books, 1982

“The twosome does have special problems, it’s true. But chin up — this book will show you how to tackle them.”

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