by Anniel 12/5/14
Thank You, Vance Packard • I became the family cookie and cake baker very young because my father always wanted some treat he could serve with the coffee when his friends dropped by. We kept chickens so only fresh eggs were used, and we churned our own butter, which meant not much Crisco for us. I loved baking with a passion.
Mr. Vance Packard wrote an important best seller published in 1957 called The Hidden Persuaders. I was young but decided to read the book to learn about Madison Avenue and the manipulation used by con-men and hucksters. There had been other men who tried to warn Americans about Snake Oil Salesmen and the like, but Packard’s book was the first really popular book on the subject available to me.
I was horrified by the outright Freudian psychology and manipulation described in the book, but the story that made me the angriest had to do with my passion for baking and caused me to become almost rabid in my desire to never be conned by advertisers.
As Mr. Packard tells the tale, cake mixes were introduced to the public in a big way shortly after World War II, but failed to make any sales headway. The manufacturers knew the cakes were every bit as good as home-made, and were much more convenient since all you had to do was add water, beat and bake. But women just wouldn’t buy the mixes.. All sorts of marketing ploys were used, but mixes seemed a losing proposition.[pullquote]To me he looks like a cadaver and even has purple lips to complete the picture . . . Obama’s narcissism and psychopathy were in evidence from the beginning.[/pullquote]
Someone finally decided to do a psychological study on why women bake cakes. What they discovered was that, to women, baking a cake is symbolically making a new baby for the family. (If you bake 2 cakes, do you present the family with twins?) Armed with this knowledge, the manufacturers removed powdered eggs from the mixes and began a campaign directed at women telling them “You Add The Fresh Eggs.” And cake mixes promptly took over the world.
I was incredulous when I read that account. What the heck, I had been baking babies for my dad and dumb brothers all those years?
I stewed over this revelation for days. I found the whole concept revolting and humiliating to women – probably the only feminist leaning I ever had.
In the end, as more and more women turned to cake mixes, it was clear we were all being psychologically manipulated, and I found it embarrassing.
My decision about what I would, and would not buy changed me forever.
I vowed not to be swayed by advertising of any sort, and, most importantly, I would never, not ever, use a cake mix. I would bake everything, cookies, cakes, pies, bread, from scratch. So there, Mr Psychologist.
In the 57 years since I read Mr. Packard’s book I have stuck to my guns and maybe used 2 or 3 cake mixes when I absolutely had to, as when several people had to bring the same cakes to a social event. The no mixes rule also went into effect for pie crust and other items.
One of my real triumph’s was Mrs. Edgar’s Buttermilk Cake Recipe, with 14 whole eggs, 1 pound of butter, etc., per loaf and cholesterol be damned. When my husband was a Scoutmaster and took his troop out winter hiking, or, worse yet, camping in snow caves so the boys could earn their 100 Degrees Below Merit Badge (sleeping out enough nights below freezing to equal 100 degrees), he wanted something to fortify the cold and whining boys on the hike home. Mrs. Edgar’s cake never fell apart in a pack, sliced easily, and it never failed, the boys loved it. Funny, but 25 years later one of the boys who had left Alaska called to get the recipe because he was a new scoutmaster and wanted a reliable treat for his own troop members. I was proud to pass it on.
Angel Food Cake was always great because one could also use the yolks for Yellow Sponge Cake (there go those twins again, fraternal of course). Uncle Dick is visiting from San Francisco? Wow him by baking a Golden Gate Cake. Does anyone besides my kids know what a real Red Velvet Cake tastes like? Chocolate, lemon, banana, cakes and pies, anyone hungry yet? Breads, biscuits, popovers. Oh it was fun, and all because of Mr. Packard.
But the biggest gift from The Hidden Persuaders was my distrust of all things politicians had to say. The first time I heard Bill Clinton’s voice I had to leave the room because I knew he was a liar. I never listened to the State of the Union Addresses, nor anything else that man ever spoke, and Hillary’s voice is just cringe inducing. I’m afraid I would believe anything about those people, just from their voices.
If Al Gore had become President I would have boycotted his stuff, too, but more out of boredom. His lies and cardboard delivery were so hilarious at times I almost felt sorry for him. I always felt sorry for Tipper and his kids.
George W. became an enigma to me. His voice and accent were peculiar, however I found his gaffes kind of endearing. But to never defend himself, ever? Even if Carl Rove told him not to, he should have pulled up his big-boy pants and acted like a man with some pride. Now I wonder if he is a masochist, I mean he and Bill Clinton are brothers from different mothers? It’s bad enough that his father and Billy Boy have teamed up at times. And for W. to overlook Obama’s insulting behavior? Hmm, maybe that’s why he and Clinton have become so lovey-dovey, to diss Barack. Everything I hear from Bush these days leaves me shaking my head. Has he just lost his mind?
And then along came Obama. All the grandiosity and self adulation. I have a friend who thought he was so handsome and a wonderful husband and father, all the usual hype. To me he looks like a cadaver and even has purple lips to complete the picture. I cannot listen to his voice at all, and when Rush Limbaugh plays a sound byte and Obama goes off teleprompter and starts stuttering and stammering I have to run to turn the radio off. Obama’s narcissism and psychopathy were in evidence from the beginning. But that may have been because I stayed so often in Hyde Park and knew of his shady Chicago dealings and his wife’s supposed “job” at the University of Chicago Hospital. The urinary tract problems and the wonders of the creases in his slacks so beloved by BarackO’s supporters are just plain silly.
Oh, Mr. Packard what have you wrought? You made me a Conservative.
How about calling this a Book Review? I can now tell you that the 50th Anniversary Edition of The Hidden Persuaders, published in 2007, with a Forward and Critique by Mark Crispin Miller, is available at Amazon, and on Kindle.
Consider reading, or rereading, this somewhat dated but wonderful book, with or without any kind of cake. • (1989 views)