Creating a common table: Doña Petrona, cooking, and consumption in Argentina, 1928–1983
This dissertation is a social history of twentieth-century Argentina that focuses on a cultural phenomenon deeply embedded in daily life-the preparation and consumption of food. Through a variety of sources including cookbooks, oral histories, letters, newspaper articles, nutrition surveys, and government documents, it explores the domestic experiences of Argentines in relation to their most famous cooking expert, Doña Petrona C. de Gandulfo. Doña Petrona rose to national prominence through her live cooking demonstrations, magazine column, radio program, television show, and best selling cookbook. She maintained her predominance as Argentina's leading domestic expert over her long career (from 1928 to 1983) because she was able to remake herself in step with changes in gender roles and the nation's political economy. For this reason, analyzing Doña Petrona's career opens up our understanding of the gendered relationship between everyday life and economic and political dynamics.
During the twentieth century, Argentina went from being a very prosperous nation to one plagued by economic crises. In this unstable atmosphere of uneven decline, Doña Petrona joined forces with politicians and corporations in emphasizing the material and symbolic importance of women's food-related responsibilities. Political and business leaders urged Argentine housewives, who represented the majority of women, to engage in "economical" consumption practices to maintain the strength of their families and the nation as a whole. Doña Petrona's unparalleled success in selling her advice to other women suggests that Argentina's process of modernizing was as much about female domesticity and consumption as it was about the better known dynamics of male political participation and industrialization. It also reveals the persistence of the ideal of Argentina as a middle class nation in which upward social mobility through consumption was a goal, if not a reality, for many Argentines. During a period in which an imagined national unity began to supersede distinctions of region and country of origin, Doña Petrona and her cuisine came to represent a commitment to shared foods and patterns of domesticity around a common table.
Latin American history;
0336: Latin American history
0453: Womens studies