Let’s Cook: Steadfast at 100—Betty Crocker
She enters the family kitchen with an abundance of enthusiasm and maintains this until the task is completed. She has conceived and published cookbooks for Party Planning, Easy Entertaining, Boys and Girls and a standard all-around volume. She has always worn red garments for her professional portrait. She keeps up with the latest hairstyles and wardrobe. She is a calm and clever entertainer and has remained young and popular for 100 years! Happy Birthday Betty Crocker!
Betty Crocker’s cookbooks and recipe heritage can be tracked back to the 1890’s with the purchase and distribution of Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book by the Washburn Crosby Company, forerunner to General Mills. In 1921, “Betty Crocker” appeared as the signature on letters replying to thousands of questions about family cooking and baking.
It was Marjorie Child Husted, a home economist for General Mills, who was the brains and voice of Betty Crocker throughout her formative decades. Husted realized that women deserved a bright, smart and inspiring woman who could guide them to take the heat in the kitchen. In addition to this, she taught them to create delicious foods to serve at the red gingham tablecloth and still have time for a relaxing facial.
The name “Crocker” was chosen in honor of a popular company director, and “Betty” was selected because it sounded friendly and helpful like the neighbor next door. Betty’s signature was selected from female employees who submitted their signatures as Betty Crocker. A distinctive winner was chosen, and this signature has remained to be “write on” to this day.
Betty Crocker today is known and admired for her world-renowned kitchens where recipe development continues to take place. Betty releases three to four new cookbooks each year, with an edition of the “Big Red,” the signature Betty Crocker Cookbook released every five or so years.
Betty’s classic, simplicity cookbook made her popular on early radio. In the late 1940s, Betty transformed into a full-fledged television star. Between 1949 to 1964 actress Adelaide Hawley played Betty Crocker. Many may recall the “Betty Crocker Search for the All-American Homemaker of Tomorrow” competition that ran into the late ’70s. This enjoyable competition for high-school seniors awarded college scholarships and trips to the national awards ceremony based on their knowledge of cooking, baking and household management. It should be noted that winners felt that this award would be a worthy recall in their obituary.
People from all over the world soon realized that Betty Crocker was your on-call reference for successful cooking and baking for almost any occasion. Betty’s creation of Baking 101, which featured step by step pictures and exquisitely easy to follow directions, caused her to be a real jet setter. She moved swiftly across the globe in red fashions. Little did people know that in addition to lipstick, her purse always allowed room for a whisk. She was always prepared to stir things up in The United Kingdom, Iceland, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Australia; however, there are reports of her showing up in Balta, Ross, and Gardenia, too. After all, she was all about cracking the code to mastering recipes and arriving at the glorious red gingham finish line with delicious food. There was once a conundrum with a white sauce and a double boiler in Calio, and Betty knew how to handle it and came shining through.
Betty did not have her official portrait done until the 15th anniversary of the Betty Crocker name in 1936. This portrait was commissioned from Neysa McMein, a prominent New York Artist. The features of several Home Service Department members were blended by McMein to create a motherly image, which remained the official resemblance of Betty Crocker for nearly 20 years.
Over the years well-known artists, including Norman Rockwell, were invited to paint fresh interpretations of Betty Crocker. Once the images are completed, women from across the country evaluate the finished works and select the updated Betty. In her 100 years, Betty has had eight official portraits done. Portraits featured in this article’s photo are from 1936, 1965 and 1996.
For our wedding, we received the Betty Crocker Red Cookbook from Glady Rust, who was a long-time home economist educator in Underwood and Turtle Lake. She wrote in the cover of the book the following message “Trusting this may be a little help as you begin your lives together. This is a supportive cookbook to have in your kitchen library as it puts every recipe in an understandable light.”
For many years we have used Betty’s recipe for egg noodles. It is easy and a very basic recipe that allows you to make additions — such as different seasonings. Golden Rule No. 2 in our house: when trying a new recipe and you need clarification, let Betty help! Betty officially celebrated her 100th birthday on October 21, 2021. Thank you, Betty, for giving us spoonsful of wisdom and for allowing many of us to say when a one of your recipes shines at the table, “Call me Betty Crocker.”
From the Big Red Betty Crocker Cookbook
2 cups all-purpose flour (whole wheat can be used)
3 egg yolks
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup water
On the kitchen counter make a well in the center of the flour. Add egg yolks, egg and salt: mix thoroughly. Mix in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough is stiff but easy to work with. You may have to add more water if dough is dry.
Divide dough into 4 equal parts. Roll one part at a time into paper-thin rectangle on generously floured cloth-covered board. (keep remaining dough covered). Loosely fold rectangle lengthwise into thirds: cut crosswise into 1/8-inch strips for narrow noodles. 1/4-inch strips for wide noodles. Unfold strips and place on towel until stiff and dry, about 2 hours.
Break strips into smaller pieces. Cook in 3 quarts boiling salted water (1 tablespoon salt) until tender. 5 to 7 minutes; drain. This makes 7 servings. To serve, add butter as desired, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and dill weed. Extra seasonings such as garlic powder, pepper or seasoning salt many be added for more flavor.