Creating a Common Table in Twentieth-Century Argentina

Doña Petrona, Women, and Food

Cover of Creating a Common Table in Twentieth-Century Argentina

Doña Petrona C. de Gandulfo (c. 1896-1992) reigned as Argentina’s preeminent domestic and culinary expert from the 1930s through the 1980s. An enduring culinary icon thanks to her magazine columns, radio programs, and television shows, she was likely second only to Eva Perón in terms of the fame she enjoyed and the adulation she received. Her cookbook became one of the three best-selling books in Argentina. Doña Petrona capitalized on and contributed to the growing appreciation for women’s domestic roles as the Argentine economy expanded and fell into periodic crises. Drawing on a wide range of materials, including her own interviews with Doña Petrona’s inner circle and with everyday women and men, Rebekah E. Pite provides a lively social history of twentieth-century Argentina, as exemplified through the fascinating story of Doña Petrona and the homemakers to whom she dedicated her career.

Pite’s narrative illuminates the important role of food–its consumption, preparation, and production—in daily life, class formation, and national identity. By connecting issues of gender, domestic work, and economic development, Pite brings into focus the critical importance of women’s roles as consumers, cooks, and community builders.

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Select praise

“Pite has conducted spectacular research among primary, secondary, and oral sources to uncover the exceptional life of Doña Petrona over eight decades of Argentine history.”

The Americas

“Pite’s study of Doña Petrona’s successful career from the first edition of her cookbook in 1934 until the 1970s offers many new social insights for twentieth-century Argentina.”

American Historical Review

“Exemplif[ies] the contributions of food history to the wider discipline. . . . [A] splendid book.”

Global Food History

“Pite offers lessons in historical method as well as enduring conclusions about the importance of food, consumption, and cooking in Argentine society.”

Elizabeth Hutchison, University of New Mexico

“In this highly readable social history, Pite tells the story of twentieth century Argentina from the standpoint of food, gender, and consumption.”

Christine Ehrick, University of Louisville

“In this lively biography, Pite (Lafayette College) narrates the rise of Doña Petrona C. de Gandulfo (1896-1992) from humble provincial origins to become the icon of 20th-century Argentine cookery and domesticity…. Beyond its primary focus chronicling the evolution of middle-class domesticity through Petrona and the lens of food, however, this valuable history presents a quotidian account of 20th-century Argentine society that contrasts starkly with the conventional image held by many Americans of a country characterized by safe havens for Nazis, military juntas, dirty wars, global assassination plots, and desaparecidos.”

D. M. Gilbert, formerly, Maine Maritime Academy, Choice

“By following Doña Petrona’s model, if one subscribes to Rebekah Pite’s analysis, my mother was sitting our family at the Argentine ‘common table,’ just as millions of other women were doing with their own.”

Oscar Chamosa, University of Georgia

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