I didn't choose Betty. She chose me.

I didn't choose Betty. She chose me.
The Betty Crocker Kitchens 1940

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy New Year!

Don't forget to served corn sausage pie in the new year! And then just sit back and watch the forks fly!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Betty Mystique (A film by Susan Marks) Screening and Book Signing

Just a reminder that my award-winning documentary film on Betty Crocker will be screening at the Mill City Museum next month! So make plans to head down to the Mill City Museum on December 3, 2009 @ 7pm sharp. I say sharp because a bunch a of my dear, dear friends came late to my last book signing and missed almost all of Garrison Keillor giving his thoughts on historic photos. According to every last one of them, they had no idea that these types of things start on time. So for the record, these things start on time.

Come get your Betty on! Film. Q&A. Book Signing. Also, please sign my book at the event. Oh, and bring all your friends. Did I mention it's free?

Oh and if you want to read more about the event on facebook check out: Betty Crocker Documentary Film Screening

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Betty Mystique (A film by Susan Marks) Screening

Save the date! December 3, 2009 at the Mill City Museum at 7pm in Minneapolis, MN.

Almost every damn day someone asks me when they can see my documentary film on Betty Crocker. Your one and only chance is likely this December. Don't live anywhere near the Mill City Museum you say? Book your flight now and do your X-mas shopping while you are in town. How about the Mall of America? A lot people shop there and get all excited about it.

Or better yet, head over to St. Paul and shop at Common Good Books or at the Mill City Museum gift shop. It's really your call.

So come and get your Betty on and quit your crying! ;)

Did I mention it's free? A free event that is open to the public. You're going to wonder how you got so lucky.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Betty Crocker Search for the American Homemaker of Tomorrow

I love your Betty Crocker scholarship stories. Keep 'em coming! Were you a Betty Crocker scholarship winner? At your high school? And did you make it to finals? Did you win the national scholarship? How did it impact your life?

Funny, I've heard from so many people that they won at the high school level, but were not interested in Home Economics. More often than not, I hear that the winner was just "good at taking tests."

I just have to share this photo with you. It was one the favorites in my private collection and was given to me by a former Crockette. (the one writing in the book) This is from the first Betty Crocker Kitchens in downtown Minneapolis. Don't you just love it? It's so overly posed that it's charming.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Historic Photos of Minnesota Has Successfully Launched!

Thanks to everyone who made it to Common Good Books for the book launch of Historic Photos of Minnesota. What a night! Garrison Keillor was a wonderful host and everyone was all smiles. Standing room only - a book loving crowd. Happy to be a part of it!

Of course there was a cake - shaped like Minnesota - made from Betty Crocker cake mixes.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Book Launch - Historic Photos of Minnesota

What could be more Minnesotans than having a book launch at Common Good Books with none other than Garrison Keillor? I can't wait. I hope you can join us on July 9, 2009 at 7:30 pm for an evening of Minnesota history and a very special Minnesota cake.

From Common Good Books' website:

Common Good Books favorite, Susan Marks, author of the Finding Betty Crocker and Historic Photos of Minnesota is joined by special guest host Garrison Keillor. Garrison Keillor will be on hand to interview Susan about her new book.

There will be cake. The Event is Open to the Public and Free to All.

A little bit about Historic Photos of Minnesota:

Minnesota's past is defined by its remarkable natural resources, and shaped by its native peoples and early settlers. From the fur trade and the establishment of Fort Snelling, to harnessing the power of the Mississippi River as a means to fuel emergent logging and milling industries, Minnesota's history is that of a land like no other.

Pioneering Minnesotans embraced everything that the sprawling prairies, rich farmlands, and more than 10,000 lakes offered. Boomtowns and small towns sprang up and were connected to the thriving metropolises of Minneapolis and St. Paul through a great labyrinth of railways. From the time photographers first started pointing their cameras in the direction of Minnesota's land and people, crystallized moments from the state's history were captured, and stories preserved.

The archival images collected in Historic Photos of Minnesota offer unique insights into the state's not-so-distant past. Spanning more than 100 years, this book documents everyday lives and significant events in Minnesota's extraordinary history.

Do you want to see some photos from the book?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Betty Crocker Search for the American Homemaker of Tomorrow

I love hearing your Betty Crocker Search for the American Homemaker of Tomorrow Scholarship stories. Keep sending them my way!

I'm also still hoping to hear from a state or national winner. Recently, I paged through this test to see how I would fair. And I say without the least bit of modestly that I would have failed. This test is tough! I've heard over and over again from winners (at the high school level) that it was an easy test. I'm mystified. I think the winners are smarter than they realize.

But still, some questions are fairly easy. Here is a sample question:

A homemaker will enjoy her housekeeping task more if she:

A. has the right equipment.
B. has someone to talk to while working
C. does the task systematically and regularly.
D. has a working plan suitable to herself and her family.

I'm guessing the answer is "D". I say this because I don't have the answer key - just the questions. This was a timed test, so the participants could not spend too much time on one question.

Do any of you remember the questions from the test? Do you remember your answers?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

In lieu of getting a tattoo...Happy Mother's Day to anyone who mothers anyone or anything.

And to my own mother, Alice Lucy Springer Marks - a woman who could give Betty Crocker a run for her money - I want to share a few words of wisdom that you have imparted upon me. These words have profoundly shaped me and I thank you for that.  Two of my favorites:

I was nine years old and unbelievably seriously about everything. I told you how I was unfairly treated by a neighbor girl and I was crushed that I thought of a good retort... the next day. Sympathetically, yet almost laughing, you told me, "Is that the worst? Oh well, life is full of 'I should of's." Boy, you're weren't kidding. I can't tell you how many times your words helped me let go.

Another thing that you said that rings in my ears happened when I was 18 or 19. I thought you went overboard with decorating for some minor holiday (I think it was Flag Day) and I didn't hesitate to tell you so. You shrugged and smiled and said, "There's so much sadness in this world, I'll take any opportunity to celebrate." At that moment, I was struck by how wise you are.

On this day, Mother's Day, even though your kids are far away, I know you are celebrating in style.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Just when I thought Betty Crocker didn't live here anymore...

I spent seven years of my life devoted to Betty Crocker - researching, writing, interviewing, baking, looking for her - in a sense. Sometimes I was even heartbroken in the process.

I wanted to so much to tell the story about the mythical side of Betty - the archetypal need she filled in so many people's lives. Like the Greek Goddess, Hestia - Keeper of the Hearth and Home. But my lofty connections didn't fly with my publisher, nor academia, nor did it really fly in my film. (Although I blame lack of funding on why it didn't fly in the film)

I let it go. I moved on. Started new projects. I declined some speaking engagements, pulled my website, failed to mention my "involvement" in Betty Crocker when I met new people - even when I had a freelance writing/producing gig at the Betty Crocker Kitchens last year.

But suddenly, a few months ago, Betty Crocker found me. Emails started pouring in, people want to talk about Betty Crocker, read the book, see the film, connect with something...

Honestly, I believe it has nothing to do with branding, marketing, cake mixes, etc. I think Betty's mystique was set in motion back in the 1920s. She (through her staff) was there for people during the uncertain times of the 1930s and 1940s. (See the letters in my book) And now, in these uncertain times, people are looking again to that comforting figure - not the corporate version of Betty, but the Betty of the past - the Betty that meant something to their mothers, and grandmothers.

It's too early to go public, but this renewed interest in the mystique of Betty Crocker has granted me the opportunity to finally tell the story I've always wanted to tell.

Thanks everyone, for telling me your personal stories about Betty! Have a beautiful weekend.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Oral history research for Finding Betty Crocker

While researching Betty Crocker for Finding Betty Crocker and the Betty documentary film, I was lucky enough to interview quite a few "Crockettes" - former Betty Crocker Kitchen Staff. Truly an impressive bunch - college-educated, home economic experts, and overall committed to the "girlfriend to girlfriend" aspect to their jobs. They were their own customer base.

From time to time, I will post some photos and snapshots that were given to me by the "Crockettes." The photos didn't make it into the book, nor the film, so they are special, just for this blog.

Above: The late Marge Gibson around 1950, serving up a test batch of spaghetti and meatballs to General Mills employees, while another Crockette takes notes.

That's right! Even Betty needed a break from baked goods.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Review Blurbs for Finding Betty Crocker

Over the past few years, my book has been reviewed hundreds of times. Sometimes I know about it, but a lot of times I don't. Above is a reprinted review from the Minneapolis Star Tribune that my parents saw in a Corpus Christi paper.

The reviews in Canada were especially good. I didn't think I was deserving of such high praise, especially since the Canadian leg of my book tour was so strange. At the time (2005) there was a huge anti-American sentiment because of the war, so I definitely experienced some less than friendly comments and attitudes. But in the end, Canadians seemed to like Betty quite a bit - maybe granting her special treatment because of her North American-ness. There was actually a Betty Crocker Kitchens in Toronto once upon a time. I told this to a room packed with 400 plus Canadians - they seemed rather unimpressed. I also mentioned that I got a letter from Margret Atwood (famous Canadian author) about Betty Crocker. I even brought the letter with me to show anyone who wanted to take a look - only one person did.

At any rate, Judy Solomn of Grand Rapids, emailed me the following review highlights that she copied and pasted this from the University of Minnesota Press website. (They published the paperback version of my book.) I think Judy is as swell as they come, so I'm sharing here just in case anyone else wants to see how Finding Betty Crocker is being promoted. Thank you, Judy!

An informative and entertaining social history of a culinary icon. While Betty Crocker is often associated with 1950s happy homemaking, she originally belonged to a different generation. Created in 1921 as a “friend to homemakers” for the Washburn Crosby Company (a forerunner to General Mills) in Minneapolis, her purpose was to answer consumer mail. “She” was actually the women of the Home Service Department who signed Betty’s name. Eventually, Betty Crocker’s local radio show on WCCO expanded, and audiences around the nation tuned her in, tried her money-saving recipes, and wrote Betty nearly 5,000 fan letters per day. In Finding Betty Crocker, Susan Marks offers an utterly unique look at the culinary and marketing history of America’s First Lady of Food.

"Susan Marks offers an entertaining and informative history of this cultural icon, including her original role as the public face of the
Washburn Crosby Company home service department, her career as a local radio personality, and her life as a happy, frugal homemaker." —Minnesota Magazine

“Before Mr. Peanut and the Energizer Bunny, before Charmin’s Mr. Whipple and the Maytag Repair Man, before the Pillsbury Doughboy and the Aflac duck, there was Betty Crocker. . . . Necessity was her mother. Dad, according to Marks’s engaging social history, was one Samuel Gale, the advertising manager for Washburn Crosby (now General Mills).” —Wall Street Journal

“The heartfelt letters Marks has collected, written with good manners by real people asking for real help and receiving it from the General Mills staff representing Ms.
Crocker, are extraordinary and moving—a testament to trust well placed.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Susan Marks delves into the colorful history and powerful influence on American eating habits of this fictitious character.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“As sweet and compelling as a just-frosted cupcake.” —Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

"Susan Marks offers an entertaining and informative history of this cultural icon, including her original role as the public face of the Washburn Crosby Company home service department, her career as a local radio personality, and her life as a happy, frugal homemaker." —Minnesota Magazine

"Marks tells a compelling story of the creation of Betty Crocker and her role as the 'first lady of food.' Enhancing the story is a host of photographs, advertisements and such popular Betty Crocker recipes as Snickerdoodles, Service Cake and Victory Icing, and Chiffon." —Hutchinson Leader

"An amazing look at an enduring culinary and marketing history figure, illustrated with vintage black-and-white photographs." —Midwest Book Review

Susan Marks is a writer/producer/director with her own production company, Lazy Susan Productions.

Finding Betty Crocker - Large Print & Otherwise

The Betty frenzy is in full tilt.

Folks are in touch daily, asking where to buy Finding Betty Crocker. I wonder if it's because Mother's Day is around the corner and folks are looking to make mama happy.

I know some folks are looking for a large print version of the book and I know that's a little tricky So I did some research this morning and found a site that has large print, used, new, paperback and hard cover - you name it. Click on "Finding Betty Crocker" above and it will take you right to Abe Books.

Oh and to those of you who are not procrastinating and are thinking of mama on her special day this far in advance - I applaud you!

By the way, this 1950s Betty Crocker Colorvision Ad is one of my favorites. I have it framed in my kitchen. 

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Betty Mystique (A film by Susan Marks)

Last month, I was thrilled to screen my film, The Betty Mystique, at General Mills HQ in Golden Valley, Minnesota.

I believe 225 people were in attendance. I introduced the film, did a Q&A afterwards and a book signing. It was a great event, great audience, great everything.

My friend and colleague, Molly, was especially taken with this rare image of Betty in green!

I hear from folks who would like to see my documentary film on Betty Crocker, and I'm sorry to say that the film isn't currently being distributed or broadcasted. That could change in the future, in which case I will let everyone know via this blog, but for now the film only screens at select, non-profit venues. There just might be a screening this June. It's too early to tell, but it looks promising!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Betty Crocker Would Approve

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm crazy for cake. And I'm clearly not alone.

Recently, I tried researched several recipes for Red Velvet Cake before I found one I could modify just so. The result was a moist, tasty, light cake that got rave reviews. And as you experienced cake bakers know - Red Velvet Cake be tricky!

Frankly, I was kind of shocked that I would have such good luck with an experiment "from scratch" cake, but that's the thing about cake, it always keeps you guessing, and more often than not, it's a pleasant surprise. That's why I'm so excited to read Leslie F. Miller's new book, Let Me Eat Cake: A Celebration of Flour, Sugar, Butter, Eggs, Vanilla, Baking Powder, and a Pinch of Salt.

Pick up a copy and let me know what you think! And while we are on the subject of cake, what's your favorite cake to make? What about boxed cakes mixes? Friend or foe? I have a few stories to tell about cake mixes and "canned frosting"...for another day, another blog.

Happy Easter and Passover!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Is Betty Crocker real?

Wow, two posts in one day! You may be wondering why? What gives? Well, again, I'm getting a lot of daily requests for Betty-related information and I now have Betty on the brain.

Do you have a Betty Crocker-related story to share? Not to be picky, but is it something other than, "I have my Mom's old Betty Crocker cookbook?" No offense, but who doesn't? I've heard that one a few million times. It's time for something new!

How about: Did you ever think Betty was real? Were you crushed when you found out the truth? Do you wish she was real? Is she real to you? Did you ever write her a letter like my Grandma did? Who else did you think was real and found out otherwise?

You can buy Finding Betty Crocker by Susan Marks on Amazon. There are more than a few stories in the book about the myth of Betty Crocker and how people cried and cried when they found out "Betty Crocker isn't one person, but many people."

Finding Betty Crocker by Susan Marks

I'm wondering if there is some sort of Betty explosion going on. So many people have been writing to me about Betty. Sure, that's not uncommon, but lately it's been a dozen or more each week. More often then not, people want to know where to buy my book on Betty Crocker. Usually, I don't get involved in the book selling aspect of my books. The way I look at it, I'm the author, not the book seller, but at the same time, I don't want to be a jerk to all the kind folks who are asking where and how to get my Betty book. So here's what I suggest:

Down and dirty suggestion - go to amazon.com
It's just so darn easy. You can order the paperback version or the hardcover. (I suggest the paperback version - it's cheaper and in these trying economic times, we can't just throw our money around at every hardcover we see.)

But, I only want a hardcover version and I'm on a budget, you say?
Well, then head on over to eBay. I saw a hardcover version of my book for $4. (used) $10.25 (new). Ebay changes hourly, so check it out and you may find a great deal.

So how about your local books store - independent or otherwise? Some people tell me they went to buy my book, but the bookstore didn't have it in stock. That is because it sold out. So you have to ask the booksellers to order it for you. They will be more than happy to do that for you. I've talked to many booksellers that tell me they don't know what people want unless they ask. So g'head! Ask!

If you live in the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis/St. Paul - head over to Common Good Books in the Cathedral Hill area of St. Paul, Minnesota. You will find Garrison Keillor's lovely little book store and you will find copies of Finding Betty Crocker. Also, if you want a signed copy of my book, order it through Common Good Books. You can call them at 651-225-8989. Garrison won't answer the phone, but his helpful staff will and they will take care of you.

What's that you say? You want a personalized copy of my book? Common Good Books can help you with that too. My book is a popular Mother's Day present and I'm happy to signed it "To the real Betty Crocker, Your Mom's Name Here." People asks me to do that all the time. I think it's sweet.

There is so much more to say about Betty. More than I could fit in one book, or one documetary or one blog. So for now, thank you for inquiring about the book and for being a reader! Us authors couldn't do it without you.

Happy Easter!