Saturday, February 04, 2023

22. Baking Powder Wars

Baking Powder Wars: The Cutthroat Food Fight That Revolutionized Cooking. Linda Civitello. 2017. 264 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Business is war. Cooking is chemistry. Food is political.

Premise/plot: At its simplest, Baking Powder Wars is just that a history of the evolution/revolution of baking powder. The book begins pre-baking-powder-era and tells the story of what once was, of how bread [and cakes, etc.] used to be made. It then goes step by step through its evolution/revolution. [If it sounds dramatic, well, it's for good reason. It's a story of industry, corporations, commercialization and advertising, espionage, bribery, politics...and plenty of homemaking and 'domestic arts.' It has some to do with the role of women inside the home, and the role of the home inside society. The author uses baking powder to tell the story of convenience, of our love affair with convenience--fast, easy, cheap, consistent. This book truly offers a little something to every reader. It's got recipes. It's got stories about cookbooks and the role they play in society. It's got tension--as companies (and families who own companies) BATTLE it out literally and figuratively for supremacy. You might think naturally this would involve advertising, media, and market space...but it includes actual politics and politicians. It's also a history of what we eat, where we eat, how we eat, etc. (Bread, quick bread, muffins, pancakes, doughnuts, cakes, cupcakes, etc.) What we eat has definitely evolved through the centuries. It isn't just a story of one product--but of many. (Think Bisquick, Martha White, cake-mixes, etc.)

My thoughts: Until the last little bit--second half of last chapter--this one was actually fairly absorbing. I found that while it covered many subjects and seemed to present facts and factoids almost at random, it was almost always interesting and entertaining. The last half of the last chapter brings readers "up to date" on the families who started the big baking powder companies. These "updates" had nothing to do with food, advertising, cooking, etc. Most of them had to do with RACING. And it was like WHY IS THIS IN HERE? DO I CARE ABOUT RACE CARS? NO, I DO NOT. But so much of this one was interesting to me. 

This one admittedly won't be for every reader. But for those who have an interest in the subject--be it food, cooking, baking, domestic arts, advertising and marketing, business, history of cookbooks, history of supermarkets, history of society/culture "becoming" modern and industrialized...I think this one has a little bit of everything.


© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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