Synopses & Reviews
Americans pride themselves in their knack for innovation, and nowhere has America’s can-do attitude been more apparent than at the supermarket.
Need a cheese that is virtually indestructible? Want to find a way to stretch a pound of hamburger into a hearty main course for a family of five? Hard pressed for time to throw together a home-cooked meal? In the early decades of the twentieth century, and from the world wars to the cold wars, food producers and everyday dreamers met these challenges with the same ingenuity and resourcefulness that launched the country to the moon and back, with groundbreaking packaging, new technologies, and improvements on Mother Nature.
Better Than Homemade is food biographer Carolyn Wyman’s freewheeling and entertaining cultural history of the innovative packaged foods that changed the way we eat. With dozens of archival ads and original product shots of Hamburger Helper, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Minute Rice, Coffee-mate, Green Giant Canned Peas, Lipton Cup-a-Soup, Pillsbury Crescent Rolls—and many more revolutionary products—Better Than Homemade highlights the fascinating stories behind the food inventions; the histories behind the brands and icons that have become synonymous with them; the jingles that have made them such a large part of our popular culture; and the recipes that have tutored generations of homemakers and comfort food master chefs.
"In an effort that will perhaps be best enjoyed by baby boomers who have yet to overdose on the Food Network, Wyman (Spam: A Biography; Jell-O: A Biography) unwraps 46 very familiar products to reveal their histories, revel in their mysteries and devour their marketing ploys. Anyone still intrigued by Hamburger Helper, Twinkies, Wonder Bread and Jiffy Pop will enjoy the efforts at wordplay ('Velveeta, All-American Hunk') and the concise narratives (the saga of Minute Rice in a two-minute read). Trivia connoisseurs will be happy to learn it takes more than 90 minutes a day to wash the walls and floors at the Marshmallow Fluff factory and that 'among Hispanics with Caribbean roots, Clamato (and most other shellfish-based foods) is considered an aphrodisiac.' Odder than the inclusion of Beer Nuts in a chapter entitled 'Triumphs of Technology' is the fact that Instant Mashed Potatoes and Minute Rice are delegated to the more humble 'Homemaker Helpers' section. Most interesting is the chapter on 'Marketing Marvels,' which explores Jell-O flavors that are no longer available, the voice behind the classic SpaghettiOs jingle and the birth of the Jolly Green Giant. The book's graphics sparkle and should induce cravings for Mrs. Paul's Fish Sticks and a nice Hawaiian Punch." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
From Green Giant and Hamburger Helper to Jiffy Pop and Jell-O, syndicated columnist Wyman reveals the fascinating origins of America's favorite "food" products.
(1)Who put the Minute in Minute Rice? (2)What, exactly, is Spam? (3)And why do Pringles come in a tennis ball can?
Discover the answers to all these questions and more in Better Than Homemade, a freewheeling illustrated history of the packaged foods industry. From Green Giant and Hamburger Helper to Jiffy Pop and Jell-O, syndicated columnist Carolyn Wyman reveals the fascinating origins of your favorite food products along with never-before published advertisements, innovative packaging (cheese in a can!?), and hilarious unauthorized uses.
You'll learn that Birds Eye frozen foods were invented by an Arctic adventurer; Kool-Aid got its start from an 11-year-old entrepreneuer; and Twinkies were once used to capture a gang of escaped baboons. Perfect for fans of the Food Network's Unwrapped, this guide is the ultimate paean to processed pleasures!
(1) Afghan prince Attaullah Durrani, who brought the idea to General Foods.
(2) According to Spam's website, Pork shoulder and ham, mostly. Mostly?!
(3) To answer consumer complaints that potato chips were greasy and broke too easily.
About the Author
Carolyn Wyman is the author of Jell-O: A Biography, Spam: A Biography, I'm a Spam Fan, and The Kitchen Sink Cookbook. Her food column for Universal Press Syndicate runs in more than 100 papers nationwide. She has written for the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, and the New Haven Register. She lives in Philadelphia.