August 21, 2008
The dedication in the front of Doña Petrona's giant book, Doña Petrona Edition 101, says "With this work I want to help with all my heart, the housewives–because I know they always want to do the best they can for their loved ones."
I just love her. (Anyone that wants to help harried housewives has my love!)
The book weighs a ton, has 823 pages, and 74 years after it was first published, remains in the top 3 bestsellers in Argentina. So you can see, it's something of a cultural phenomenon. (As is she.)
Doña Petronataught Argentina to cook: she gave classes, wrote books, published in magazines, had a radio show, and finally, her own cooking show. (If you're likening her to Ms. Child, or Ms. Stewart, you're on track) She developed a slew of her own recipes, based on giving the 'modern woman' (a.k.a. the Argentinean housewife) a way to cook using the day's modern conveniences–gas stove, stand mixer,etc.
Her masterpiece was this encyclopedia of recipes–but it also includes advice on pairing wine, organizing the modern home, basic food preparation and children's menus. The recipes are simple, written like a friend was telling you in a not-so-specific way how to make something, and each one has variations, something Doña Petrona must have developed out of experience. (Ever go into the fridge and you're missing that one key ingredient? That's when a variation comes in handy.) Her recipes have become Argentinean classics.
Her first television show aired in 1952, and she has inspired generations of Argentineans to get into the kitchen. Evidently, she's also inspired people elsewhere–there's a professor at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania who's going to write a book about the cultural effects Doña Petrona has had on Argentina. Truly inspirational!