Thursday, April 5, 2018

Pizza Potatoes — For When You Simply Don’t Give A F*ck

The Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library series from 1971 is a plastic time capsule of grotesque food photography.

Their food stylists and photographers never met a dish they didn’t shoot on a table set with a dizzying array of additional food accompaniments or props. A heavy emphasis was placed on hardware: the serving dishes, drinking vessels and various pouring devices which crowded their place settings. The food was never enough to speak for itself, always requiring the elaborate costume such clutter provides to suggest an appeal.

The dishes are always shot from an angle which places the card reader at the table — from a diner’s eye-level. The scenes are brightly, but artificially lit and appear to feature real food with a minimum of styling, which on occasion is sorely missed, such as when an element melts, creating an unappetizing look.

Although each and every card is a brightly colored catastrophe, one recipe distinguishes itself as a close-up which should not have been. In Pizza Potatoes, all we see is a gooey mess in a white bowl, with a curve of red tablecloth beyond it, chosen, clearly, to accent the pepperoni swamped by cheese. The interior of the dish is crusted at the edges and gives the impression of a difficult clean-up.

This is not a dish which lends itself to beauty or detail. With our faces just inches from the rim of the bowl, it feels as if we’re leaning in for a sniff. A swampy morass of melted cheese looks like a greasy heart attack, and there’s no hint of a salad to provide any relief. This is a recipe for pizza toppings on top of potato, after all — all of which come from packages supplied by General Mills.

Budget Casseroles Card #25 Pizza Potatoes, Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library, 1971

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