Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Cold War, Hot Kitchen: Secret Weapon X-61

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Cold War, Hot Kitchen: Secret Weapon X-61

Article excerpt

In 1958, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to a series of cultural exchanges. One of the first was a Moscow exhibition the following year of American products, including the model home where Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev held their famous "kitchen debate" The exhibition and the debate are recalled by Peter Carlson in K Blows Top (PublicAffairs), and by contributors to Cold War Kitchen (MIT Press), edited by Ruth Oldenziel and Karin Zachmann.

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The Moscow exhibition's focus on consumer goods was part of what sociologist David Riesman termed the "Nylon War," an effort to enfeeble the communist system from within by showing Soviet women how luxuriously their capitalist counterparts lived. From the outset, the approach provoked criticism even in America. Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. said that the United States appeared to be battling "godless materialism" with "godly materialism." To former (and future) presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, the exhibition suggested that Americans embraced "the supermarket as our temple and the singing commercial as our litany. …

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