September 29, 1995

The Daily Utah Chronicle

It's hard to imagine a whiter woman than Betty Crocker. Through the decades, she has been perhaps one of the most recognizable symbols of bourgeois American homemaking - her face serenely gazing out from millions of identical and convenient packages of cake mix, pancake flour, and muffin mix.

Who else could derive such a sense of accomplishment from cooking entire meals out of a box but an American? Who else could serve as a role model for thousands of American homemakers than Betty?

If only she weren't so ... well, white!

The face of our country has changed drastically in the past 60 years. Perhaps an Anglo woman could have sometimes passed as the ideal American housewife in the 1930s, but this is the '90s. Get with it, Betty!

Hard work and hard faith in the American dream have paid off for millions of families, and now the middle class is comprised of black, Hispanic and Asian Americans as well as whites and a myriad of people from various other cultures and ethnicities.

In short, the face of America is now a varied as the flavors of Creamy Deluxe cake frosting. If we were to bake a cake to represent the ethnic diversity of our nation, it would probably be a multi-layered spice cake with rainbow sprinkles. And on top of the cake, we could put 60 big candles to symbolize the years Betty has been enriching our lives. That's how old she'll be next year when General Mills unveils the new Betty Crocker.

Every decade or so, General Mills updates Betty Crocker's "look". Recently, The Salt Lake Tribune ran a full-color graphic depicting Betty through all her incarnations.

Naturally, some Bettys are better than other Bettys. There way a particularly good phase in the '60s, during which the flip in her hair was stylishly developed, but later on it was dropped in favor of a more sensible wash-and-wear look.

A string or two of matched pearls appeared briefly around her slender neck, but disappeared after the Kennedy assassination. Betty is much to busy to fuss around with pearls.

The one which frightens me is the very stern and pale Betty of the '30s. If you ask me, that original Betty, with the shock of white running through her pin-curls, looks sinister, if not vampiric. Is that the glint of fangs one detects between those blood-red lips?

It's been nearly 10 years since she's gotten a face lift, but this Betty is going to get more than just a new hairstyle and a more modern-cut neckline.

General Mills wants the new Betty to reflect the growing diversity of America - a diversity which, until now, has been the sole province of another goddess: the one who stands in Hudson Bay.

Unfortunately, Lady Liberty is not primarily known for her culinary genius. America needs a woman who stands for freedom, diversity, and good food.

"Give me your gastronomes, your epicures, your huddled gourmets yearning to bake muffins," she might say.

But how can just one woman represent the millions of people who cook and eat American food? Betty Crocker is probably one of the most capable women in the nation, but is General Mills asking her to do too much?

Fortunately, it is the '90s. By harnessing the power of modern technology, it is possible for Ms. Crocker to take even this most daunting task in her stride.

General Mills will generate the new image by taking pictures of 75 American women and then digitally morphing them into one Ultra-Betty. Some people predict the new Betty will have a more dramatic tilt to her eyes, skin tones which are a bit stronger, and a nose which is slightly wider that that of past Bettys. Other people fear that she'll just end up looking like Colin Powell in a wig.

However she ends up looking, she will doubtless be a bit more representative of the segment of society which uses her products. There's only one problem: America isn't only a multi-cultured nation, it is also a multi-gendered nation. We would be foolish to believe that in these more liberated times women are the only people who do the shopping and cooking for their households.

I'm not too bad at the culinary arts myself. I know how to bake honey-wheat-oatmeal bread without so much as glancing at a recipe. I clip coupons. I can whip through the supermarket, buying groceries to last for a week of carefully-planned meals, in less than 40 minutes.

Why then, should I, and others like me, be excluded? Doesn't Betty love all her devotees?

Therefore, I am volunteering to be one of the General Mills 75. I would like my photo to be used in the morphing process. I'm even willing to shave.

Only if the brass at General Mills agree to do this will I be able to fully identify with the new Betty Crocker, and feel completely included in the pre-mixed cake-baking process.

After all, there's a little bit of Betty in all of us. I think it would be nice if I could be a little bit of Betty.