Creating a Common Table in Twentieth-Century Argentina: Doña Petrona, Women, & Food

Creating a Common Table in Twentieth-Century Argentina: Doña Petrona, Women, & Food

Creating a Common Table in Twentieth-Century Argentina: Doña Petrona, Women, & Food

Creating a Common Table in Twentieth-Century Argentina: Doña Petrona, Women, & Food

Synopsis

Dona Petrona C. de Gandulfo (c. 1896-1992) reigned as Argentina's preeminent domestic and culinary expert from the 1930s through the 1980s. An enduring culinary icon thanks to her magazine columns, radio programs, and television shows, she was likely second only to Eva Peron in terms of the fame she enjoyed and the adulation she received. Her cookbook garnered tremendous popularity, becoming one of the three best-selling books in Argentina. Dona Petrona capitalized on and contributed to the growing appreciation for women's domestic roles as the Argentine economy expanded and fell into periodic crises. Drawing on a wide range of materials, including her own interviews with Dona Petrona's inner circle and with everyday women and men, Rebekah E. Pite provides a lively social history of twentieth-century Argentina, as exemplified through the fascinating story of Dona Petrona and the homemakers to whom she dedicated her career.
Pite's narrative illuminates the important role of food--its consumption, preparation, and production--in daily life, class formation, and national identity. By connecting issues of gender, domestic work, and economic development, Pite brings into focus the critical importance of women's roles as consumers, cooks, and community builders.

Excerpt

In 2002, a wizened bookseller in Buenos Aires pushed a copy of El libro de Doña Petrona into my hands. “This is the cookbook you are looking for,” he explained. “It is the bible of the home.” Not being sure what this meant, I purchased the book, determined to find out. After some preliminary research, I discovered that this cookbook, first published in 1934, had since enjoyed over 100 editions. People in Buenos Aires explained to me that it “was in every Argentine home.” I wondered if this could possibly be true. and what might this cookbook, the claims about it, and the woman who wrote it, tell us about twentieth-century Argentina?

The Woman behind the Cookbook and a New History of Argentina

The woman who authored Argentina’s most influential and revealing twentieth-century book was Petrona Carrizo de Gandulfo. Petrona Carrizo was born toward the close of the nineteenth century in the northwestern province of Santiago del Estero to a mother of Italian and indigenous heritage and a father of Spanish descent. As part of an early wave of migration, this common woman moved from her province to the capital city of Buenos Aires in the late 1910s with her future husband’s family. in 1928, she took a position as an ecónoma (corporate home economist) for the British gas company Primitiva to lead demonstrations of their new gas stoves for small neighborhood crowds in Buenos Aires. By the 1930s, she had already begun to establish herself as a culinary professional in Buenos Aires and beyond. in addition to giving live cooking presentations for Primitiva in front of thousands of enthusiastic women, she began to pen her own magazine column, host a national radio program, and publish the first editions of her cookbook. With the arrival of television in Argentina in 1951, Doña Petrona became the first to cook on air, boosting her already considerable popularity to new heights. This entertaining brunette became famous for her elaborate dishes, provincial accent, matronly figure, didactic tone, and bossy treatment of her assistant, as well as her responsiveness to fans—she even gave her telephone number out on air. Doña Petrona continued to cook in the spotlight through the 1980s, cementing . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.