Good, Better, Betty

Mr. Night and Ms. Day battle it out over dessert-icon supremacy

People (well, Bill O'Reilly, anyway) love to believe that the liberal, left-wing media is unified on all issues. Legal drug use, gay marriage, vodka vs. gin in the lunch martini -- we all line up on the same side of these issues, right?

Wrong. The recent arrival of Susan Marks' "biography" of culinary icon Betty Crocker, Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America's First Lady of Food, has driven a wedge between the heretofore un-riftable front that is Night & Day Global Industries. It seems Ms. Day is a firm believer in the Betty Crocker mythos, as codified in "Big Red" (more formally known as Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book). Mr. Night, ever the sexist contrarian, declares Ms. Crocker to be a sham perpetrated by The Woman to make men feel inadequate in the kitchen; he stands firmly in the corner of Mr. Duncan Hines, he-man and know-it-all. Like true crusading journalists, they take their struggle to the page:

Mr. Night: Listen, Duncan Hines was a real person. He was a food and travel writer who had a sterling reputation for honesty and integrity (he never took ad money from any business he recommended), a reputation he then licensed to a line of food products. Mr. Night knows that when he eats his morning can of Duncan Hines chocolate frosting, it is of the highest standards, in regard to both flavor and journalism.

Betty Crocker:  the face of cake  in America
from Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America's F
Betty Crocker: the face of cake in America

Details

7 p.m.; 314-367-6731 or www.left-bank.com) on Tuesday, April 12. The reading is free, and no frosting will be served.
Left Bank Books, 399 North Euclid Avenue

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Ms. Day: Well, even though Night eats icing straight from the can (something Ms. Day supports, by the way), Americans probably wouldn't even have icing in a can (or cakes to put it on) if not for Ms. Crocker and her perseverance during the cake-mix wars of post-World War II America. See, before cake mixes people had to make the layered desserts from scratch. But thanks to innovations like Betty's sinfully delicious Devils Food Cake Mix (one of her best sellers even today), kitchens slowly but surely began adapting to the "modern" way of baking (and without the yucky dried eggs in competitors' -- ahem, Mr. Hines' -- mixes).

Mr. Night: So she won the cake-mix wars -- but at what price? If we had adapted to dried eggs, we'd be eating our frosting on the moon. Hines was a visionary. With his travel and food acumen, he knew dried eggs were a necessity to get to the ultimate vacation destination: the Dark Side of the Moon. We could be Night & Day Lunar Industries if only Crocker hadn't convinced the nation to continue using old-fashioned eggs.

Ms. Day: What are you talking about? Pink Floyd? Do you even know what your old friend Duncan looks like? Although "Betty Crocker" isn't a real woman, she always has and always will embody all women. From the 1920s through the Depression, and from World War II to the present day, Betty has always offered updated tips and recipes that match the times, much like her "look." And speaking of her look, did you know that the modern-day "Betty" is a composite of the 1986 "Betty" and 75 other women -- and one of those 75 is a lady from Affton, Missouri?

Mr. Night: So? So? More frosting!

 
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