Portrait of a Happy Housewife (Richard Armour, Better Homes & Gardens. 1954)
She has a brand-new recipe,
A range that she can fricassee
Or bake or broil or fry it on,
Ingredients, both fresh and canned,
Knives, spoons, and cups on every hand,
A dish on which to serve it, and
And a husband she can try it on.
This morning I did a bad thing according to my inner 50’s housewife. I didn’t have breakfast ready and waiting for my husband, and I certainly wasn’t done up to the 9’s when he saw me. I did however leave the house under cover of night to run 5 miles with my Hope in Motion team. I’ve mentioned before that I am training for a half-marathon in support of the hospital I work for. The goal of the event is to raise awareness of the community services provided by Phoenix Children’s Hospital and to show support of the children and families who never give up. I will be aiming to raise $1,000 in donations and I have about 20 weeks to do it in. This morning I was up bright and early (dark and early is more appropriate) to complete another training session. We ran along Tempe town lake and it was beautiful!
Let’s go back to that poem a few lines up… That was the portrait of a happy housewife? Technology, gadgets and a willing taster was all it took apparently. In preparation for this weeklong project I’ve read several texts dealing with women over the past 100 years and one of the most thought-provoking was Dinner Roles by Sherrie Inness. The focus of the book is about American women and the (home) culinary culture or who cooks dinner (cleans, shops for and plans meals,etc) ?
In the 1950s the US was suffering from growing pains. Scores of men returned home from the war to reclaim their place in the family and in the workplace leaving no more need for the Rosie Riveter crew. The problem was, women had spent enough time bringing home a paycheck and being self-sufficient that they were unsure they wanted to return home and stop working. That’s when the marketing geniuses started working full-force on new gadgets and color schemes to make the kitchen and the home a joy to be in. This message was even drilled into cookbook readers. As Sherrie points out, “Betty Crocker [in her 1950’s picture cookbook] was passing on more than how to make the perfect pie crust. She was teaching readers how to act like correctly socialized women.” Uhh… What? A cookbook can teach you how to be a lady? Interesting. Another important point about the messaging around this time period was the ideal being presented – you guessed it – young, beautiful, middle-class and white. That is what a happy, successful housewife looked like.
King Queen in the 50s as were canned foods. Technology and convenience were the buzzwords, and fun recipes like marshmallow chicken, or frankfurter supper quickie (sorry, dear readers, but I will not be making these recipes for the blog… I hope you’ll forgive me). Now I am not a huge fan of canned foods and I wasn’t raised on casserole dishes but I can see the appeal. It gives you a chance to be creative, not spend too much time and having canned goods laying around means less shopping for and spending on fresh items. Alas, the only canned item featured in today’s recipe is tomato sauce – I talked myself out of making the sauce purely for the purpose of our little chat here. Oh and I used some frozen spinach, how’s that for convenience foods?! For our Sunday evening dinner I opted for manicotti – it’s sort of a casserole in that it’s a complete meal in one pan and can be made ahead and reheated though it lacks marshmallows and hotdogs.
Spinach Manicotti (adapted from Weight Watchers)
- 8 uncooked manicotti shells
- 1 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta
- 5 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 10oz frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
- 3 tablespoons egg substitute
- 1 bottle reduced-fat roasted garlic tomato sauce
- Cook manicotti shells according to package instructions. Preheat oven to 350.
- Assemble filling: in a medium bowl, mix 4 ounces of mozzarella, 1/3 cup parmesan and the ricotta with egg substitute, herbs and salt and pepper to taste.
- Spray a 9×13 dish with nonstick spray and coat with half of the tomato sauce.
- Fill the manicotti evenly with the cheese mixture. Arrange filled shells in pan nestled in the tomato sauce.
- Top manicotti with remaining tomato sauce, then sprinkle with remaining parmesan and mozzarella.
- Bake 20 minutes, then turn broiler on and cook 5 minutes until the cheese is brown and crispy.
- Let manicotti sit for 10 minutes before serving.