John D. Ivanko
March 28, 2012

Pouring cake batter in cake pan with eggs and spoon
Courtesy Hemera/Thinkstock
Forget brownies from a box. At Inn Serendipity, we like to bake our treats farmstead-style—from scratch!

Born in 1921, in Minneapolis, Minn., she’s the author of more than 150 cookbooks. Her name, as familiar in most American kitchens as Julia Childs and Martha Stewart, has headlined cooking schools throughout the country, and her trademark signature graces packages of everything from cake mixes to Hamburger Helper. She even had her own national radio show in 1927.

Who is she?

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If you replied Betty Crocker, you’re correct.

A cultural food icon, the Betty Crocker persona was conceived by the marketing minds at the food conglomerate we know today as General Mills. Since 1921, Betty has never aged and her fashion has kept up with the times. Her identity and name “have become synonymous with helpfulness, trustworthiness and quality” reads the General Mills fact sheet you can download from the company’s website. We’ve been lead to believe she’s one of us, the trusted friend down the street from whom you can borrow a cup of sugar.

The 1950 Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook is a classic, for sure. It’s a quintessential, everything-under-the-kitchen-sink cookbook contained in an easy-to-use, five-ring, reinforced binder. Like millions of Americans, we have one, too. Functional and practical, this cookbook is not written by some celebrity chef with fancy photographs making it bound for the coffee table, recipes untried. This cookbook is written by “Betty,” someone you can trust alongside you in the kitchen. “Berries picked at the height of the season are more flavorful, require less sugar, and make the most delicious pies,” writes Betty. We totally agree!

However, when the industrial food system took over feeding America and food technologists discovered how to make Twinkies last forever, Betty changed, too. She seemed to go rogue, with her name on cake mixes, Potato Buds, and for those on health kicks, Fiber One. The trusted home economist that helped us navigate the kitchen, organize the spice rack, and bake a soufflé with real butter, flour and eggs suddenly became the name on processed foods that are quick and convenient.

As for the ingredients used in some of Betty’s products, you might as well call the farmers by their ingredient names: propylene glycol mono, sodium aluminum phosphate, partially hydrogenated soybean or cottonseed oil, monosodium glutamate (MSG). Taste through chemistry.

Of course, few of us reading this blog have Betty’s frosting mix sitting on our shelf. We can make a delicious frosting with real organic butter, cream cheese and sugar to top our carrot cake recipe. But we’ve probably all eaten something “made” by Betty at some point in our lives—especially at “snack time.” It’s engineered to be tasty, convenient comfort food. It’s anything but pure, but the preparation is definitely simple. Just add milk or margarine. Or just add water and microwave for five minutes.

The sugar-, fat- and salt-infused dishes with chemical colors to make them look good mask our desires for greater connections to our food, our families, our community. It’s here that we can’t get no satisfaction with Betty. It may be why millions of Americans are putting on all those unwanted pounds. We’re looking for comfort in all the wrong places.

But more of us than ever are craving real food made with real ingredients. Added to this is the joy and happiness we seek through strong connections to community and the outdoors, and of course, savoring it all during a meal prepared in the kitchen with fresh ingredients.

So on this April Fool’s Day, celebrate the taste of real ingredients with a home-cooked meal—and don’t be fooled again by Betty.

Savoring the good life,

John and Lisa's Signatures

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