September 21, 2007

Little Chef Cookbook

An interesting article on children's cookbooks mentioned over at the Culinary Types blog this morning sent me off to dig through my own cookbook stash. I have many cooking pamphlets published by the food companies that were meant for children and teens.

Many of them were acquired from the estates of teachers and librarians, and in quantities that suggest the pamphlets were introduced to students through the classroom. The food manufacturers of today often offer "educational material" on their websites.

One of the children's cookbooks I came across was a bit of a surprise as I usually don't associate the series with any particular product.

Susie's New Stove - The Little Chef's Cookbook (1950, 42 pp.) is one of the popular Little Golden Books, a children's book series that began in 1942. It's a combination storybook and cookbook.

While this isn't a promotional cookbook published by a food company, it interests me because the book does seem to feature a real product that was being manufactured at the time. That product is a child's toy, the Little Chef Electric Stove, manufactured by Tacoma Metal Products Company of Tacoma, Washington.

The copyright page gives credit for the term LITTLE CHEF to Tacoma Metal Products and the stove is not mentioned by name in any other part of the book. In the text it's referred to only as a "really-truly little electric stove" or "my little stove". The book's subtitle is suggestive of either the two young children featured in the story who are learning to cook or as the brand name of the toy stove.

The color illustrations by Corinne Malvern are lovely. Pictures of the toy stove are featured prominently throughout the story and the recipe directions. The stove looks very much like the one from magazine advertisements, toy catalogs and of the ones available on Ebay.

Many of the eleven recipes included in the book are meant to be prepared on the miniature stove and the ingredient measurements are scaled down so that they'll fit into the tiny pots and pans (which look amazingly similar to the ones that came with the Little Chef stove).

Convenience foods are used but brand names are not mentioned in the ingredients, though it's my opinion that the illustrations subtly suggest brands that Mommy may have regularly purchased at that time: frozen vegetables (looks like Birdseye), cheese spread (looks like Kraft), canned soup (Heinz or Campbell's?) and pudding mix (Royal or Jell-O?).

I can't see any little girl or boy having this book and not wanting a Little Chef stove so that they, too, could prepare the recipes exactly the way they were done in the story.

I'd say product placement was alive and well back in 1950.

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At 7:54 PM CDT, Blogger T.W. Barritt said...

Kathy - thanks for checking out my article, and for digging out the Little Chef Cookbook - this is fascinating stuff, and a good indication of the ways we were all "enculturated" at an early age.


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