Tradition and Modernity


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  • Title: Tradition and Modernity: Industrial Food, Women, and Visual Culture in 1950s and 1960s Italy
  • Author(s): Silvia Bottinelli
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Food Studies
  • Journal Title: Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal
  • Keywords: Modern Italy, Industrial Foods, Recipe Books, Gender Identity, Resistance, Visual Culture
  • Volume: 5
  • Issue: 1
  • Year: 2014
  • ISSN: 2160-1933 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2160-1941 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Bottinelli, Silvia. 2014. "Tradition and Modernity: Industrial Food, Women, and Visual Culture in 1950s and 1960s Italy." Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 5 (1): 1-17. doi:10.18848/2160-1933/CGP/v05i01/40590.
  • Extent: 17 pages


In the years of the Economic Miracle in Italy (1958–63), popular magazines, advertisements, and cookbooks mostly portrayed adult women as housewives and mothers, whose primary responsibility was feeding the family. Images of women in the kitchen were ubiquitous in the visual culture of the late 1950s and early 1960s, which often represented them as caught between tradition and modernity. Trendy magazine columns, images printed on the packages displayed in supermarkets or neighborhood stores, as well as traditional social habits asked women to allow an external model to shape their behavior in the domestic realm. Creativity was hardly presented as a quality of the ideal woman before a seminal marketing campaign promoted by Barilla in 1964. However, female consumers were not always passive followers of the guidelines delineated by others. Looking at the use of the historic cookbooks owned by the Biblioteca Gastronomica Academia Barilla in Parma, Italy, gives us a hint of the independence with which at least some female consumers related to standardized messages, partially resisting them even before gender equality become an open battle in the mid-1960s.