Better Homes & Gardens and 1950s Barbecuing Culture


We bought a barbecue grill last weekend. As a joke, I pulled out this vintage cookbook I had picked up at an estate sale awhile back to scope out some recipes. Skewered Ring Bologna, anyone? Maybe with a side of Cottage Cheese Coleslaw and a nice bowl of Chilled Tomato-Cheese Soup? (No, I am not making these up. If you want the recipes, email me.) Needless to say, I didn't not find much culinary inspiration in this book. But I did find a few laughs. And it got me thinking a lot about barbecuing culture.


The cookbook was published is 1956 by Better Homes & Gardens. Not too long after our new house was built. It's kind of fun to think about what this neighborhood was like in the 50s. I imagine there were many backyard barbecues. And probably even a few homeowners owned this very book. 

Barbecuing was definitely portrayed as a man's job. And a dad's job. Women could apparently hold skewers of meat though, to pass to their pipe-smoking husbands. (Geez! Enough carcinogens in the air there? Poor little squirrel.)

And it was a more formal affair then it is today. But everything was more formal in the 50s.

Barbecuing wasn't just a means to get a meal cooked, it was meant "For building family memories." And with Dad on the grill, that meant "No kitchen chores for Mom"! (Look at those puffy sleeves! Good thing Mom wasn't "manning" the grill. Those things would've gone up in flames in two seconds flat!)

Chapter  2's opener is great. It equates barbecuing to a sport. I guess that's why Mom couldn't participate.

And no way was she cooking the meat because "This is Dad's domain." All she needed to do was sit back and admire her manly husband. 


"Tie on your aprons, men! You're the boss of the barbecue when steak's the special attraction."

Wow - talk about pumping up Dad's ego! The boss of the barbecue? That's a lot of pressure, though. Grilling might have been family fun, but it was also some serious business. One cooking mis-step and Dad would have ruined the whole day! Fortunately, the guy in the photo looks like he's got things under control.

So, what do you think? Is barbecuing culture much different today?  Have these 1950s ideals permanently permeated our perceptions of not just how to grill, but who should grill? Have we happily accepted barbecuing as a man's job? And, if so, is it a sexist perception? Or just a way to fairly divvy up cooking duties between the sexes?

Let's hear your thoughts!
Kelly BergComment