"Patti Lewis counted up her talents — nice looks, a knack for making friends, a gift for cookery. How could these lead to a rewarding career?" Why, through home economics, one of the most important careers a girl can have! Today's career romance for young moderns is 1956's Patti Lewis, Home Economist by Helen Wells, an earnest story of one young woman's fight for respect and perfect biscuits in a skeptical world.We meet Patti sliding a pan of rolls into a demonstration oven, doing a presentation for National Electric. "Be careful," she warns herself as she talks about waffles. "These men were all in the grain industry and they were holding their convention here in Chicago to promote the sales of the grain they grew and milled throughout the Middle West. She'd better do justice to their fruits of the soil or she wouldn't go very far as a home economist." Things continue. "On yellow paper plates, with a scalloped yellow paper napkin, Patti placed a hot buttered roll, a cheese tartlet, and a small ham cornucopia." However, one insolent young man in the audience keeps lobbing insolent questions at her, about her rolling pin, her methods, and the point of her work. "With dignity, and a trace of peppery temper, Patti Lewis explained why and how nutrition is as vital a field as nursing. Getting full nourishment out of foods — educating the public in good food habits — advising food manufacturers what Mrs. Public wants and can afford to buy - preventing waste and spoilage of food — in short, the job was to help all sorts of Americans to live healthily, economically, and well." The jerk is still skeptical — and his skepticism is confirmed when her Lady Baltimore Cake fails to rise! Patti is humiliated. He reminds her of her ex. "What right had Carl or the heckler to take such a dim view of this feminine profession, and of feminine talents in general?...Any challenge to her work did challenge her value as a person. She believed in her field so wholeheartedly!" Her training, we learn, has involved "chemistry, bacteriology, physiology, psychology, sociology and economics, to say nothing of cookery, administration and journalism. Her work for National Electric involves writing recipe booklets, answering consumer mail ("will you suggest a menu for a midnight buffet supper?"), and demonstrations. "What she really longed to do was creative or experimental cooking: to devise new food products." Instead, she's given work making cakes for Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays. "She'd had the idea of tiny individual layer cakes. With different sides iced in red (strawberry), white (vanilla, of course), and blue (only vailla with a touch of tint, but who cared?), they had genuine novelty." Next, she's transferred to the editorial department, writing cookbooks and copy for TV. "She was rather awed by the stunning high-voltage women in these penthouse offices." Work in the recipe test kitchen involves "three variations on a tomato juice cocktail" of which a "semifrozen one turned out to be exciting." Then, just when everything is going well, Patty encounters the furious guy again at a demonstration. This time he's accompanied by a languid beauty in furs. Patti manages to convince him of the wisdom of marinating lamb chops in French dressing, but the tension still seethes. Patti accepts a job working for Mid-West Flour in another state as their in-house development and home economics head. Imagine her shock, upon arriving, to find she's working for Jim Wheeler, the insolent skeptic! Seems he's the reluctant heir to Mid-West, who resents being stuck in Indian City. But Patti soon finds she has bigger problems than the disturbingly attractive Jim Wheeler. Leo Feist, the manager, thinks she's a young flibberdigibit with newfangled notions. She also has to find a way to sell more of Mid-West's biscuit mix. Meanwhile, she fixes up the gloomy test kitchen with new curtains and "an inexpensive wallpaper in a Pennsylvania Dutch pattern" and moves into the adorable apartment that's thrown in with the job (standard in these books). She gets to work in earnest on the biscuit mix, cranking out batch after batch of biscuits and soliciting comments from her colleagues. "Did they keep well? Could they be reheated, and not be dry or tough?" She also works to improve the packaging: "Did it keep the mix fresh? Was it easy to open, and close again?" She decides to promote the mix with a buffet supper "featuring a delicious chicken pie with biscuit crust, and fruit shortcake." Jim Wheeler, increasingly besotted with the vision of Patti in her trim white apron, pronounces the idea "slick." The supper is a success! Jim is thrilled and love begins to bud. But then there's a fiscal crisis! The grim fuddy-duddy is triumphant and wants the little company to be bought out by a big mill — unless they can lower their prices and make a superior biscuit mix? Can Patti create a lower-cost version of the mix, using soy flour? She can! A government order for thousands of pounds of mix gets them out of the hole and brings her glory. Jim, now a devoted miller, confesses his love. "What more vital work than to bring her scientific skills to the aid of hungry peoples? What more urgent work than preventing spoilage of food and easing famine? For this was no temporary situation, and Patti knew much of the world's unrest and war stemmed from hunger." And so, one imagines, dozens of starry-eyed high-school girls ventured into the important world of Home Economics, ready to make biscuits, win the boss's heart, and feed the word. Earlier: Career Romance For Young Moderns: A Measure Of Love
My mother-in-law was a home ec major at Cal Poly SLO in the early 60s. Which means she can make a huge fancy meal, sew a wedding dress or make a coin purse out of a sheep's nut sack. She was also the Poly Royal Princess (Homecoming Queen), which she won in a gown she designed and sewed.