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The Food Section by Kimberly Voss

March 15, 2014
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In The Food Section: Newspaper Women and the Culinary Community, Kimberly Voss explores the work of women covering the “food beat” from 1945 to 1975, when the food sections were housed in the “women’s pages” of the daily paper and that was the only section where women could have an authoritative voice. In addition to providing recipes and preserving regional cuisine, it was not uncommon for these journalists to cover issues like poverty and nutrition. Remembered mostly as the “powder puff side of journalism,” the food sections during that period actually laid the foundation for food communities today.

The Food Section explores what can be gleaned through serious study of this body of work and finds that the sections reflect gender roles, health standards, government policies about food in the community, and the developing demographic of many cities as new immigrants settled into communities and shared dishes.

The women also made significant contributions to the study and preservation of regional cuisine. Clementine Paddleford, of the New York Herald Tribune, catered to a more national audience and published How America Eats in 1962. It took 12 years and over 800,000 miles, during which she often piloted her own plane, to gather the information. She interviewed 2,000 cooks and spent three weeks in New Orleans. This is widely considered the first book to really explore regional cuisine in the United States.

Notably, former Times-Picayune Food Editor Julie Bowes is listed among the top female food editors during that time. Working under the name “Sue Baker,” she began her 30-year career in this position in 1949. She wrote a twice-weekly column that included recipes that she tested on her husband and five children.

Voss examines the origins of food journalism in the U.S., the rise of consumer activism, home economics, and the restaurant reviewer as journalist. She has written an excellent book that challenges popular notions of this often-misunderstood era in culinary journalism and demonstrates that food history for home cooks is much more complex than previously described.

The Food Section: Newspaper Women and the Culinary Community
by Kimberly Voss (Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group, April 2014). 244 pp.; $38

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