Shapiro, Laura 1946–

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Shapiro, Laura 1946–

PERSONAL: Born June 20, 1946, in Cambridge, MA; daughter of Harry (a musician) and Frances (a caterer; maiden name, Sidd) Shapiro; married John Stratton Hawley (a professor), September 28, 1974. Education: Radcliffe College, Harvard University, B.A., 1968.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Viking Publicity, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.

CAREER: Writer. Cambridge Phoenix/Real Paper, Cambridge, MA, columnist, reporter, arts and book reviewer, and assistant managing editor, 1969–79; Boston Herald-Traveler, Boston, MA, dance critic, 1970–71; Boston Globe, Boston, dance critic, 1975–78; Mother Jones, San Francisco, CA, book reviewer, columnist, and contributing editor, 1976–78; Weekly, Seattle, WA, dance critic and book reviewer, 1978–84; Ballet News, New York City, dance critic, 1978–84; Newsweek, New York City, dance critic, book reviewer, food writer 1984–99. Arts reporter for Ten O'Clock News, WGBH-TV, Boston, 1978. National Endowment for the Arts, member of dance panel, 1974, consultant to the dance and education panels, 1976–80, member of dance panel, 1978–81, consultant to the dance panel, 1981–.

AWARDS, HONORS: American Dance Festival Dance Critics' Conference fellow, 1970; New England Women's Press Association award, 1976; National Endowment for the Humanities research fellow, 1980; Les Dames d'Escoffier research grant, 1981; Exceptional Merit Media Award, National Women's Political Caucus, 1992; James Beard Journalism Award, 1995.


Dancing in the Schools: A Descriptive Handbook for the Artists in the Schools Program, National Endowment for the Arts (Washington, DC), 1977.

Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1986.

Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America, Viking (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor to The Women's Annual—1980: The Year in Review, edited by Barbara Haber, G.K. Hall (Boston, MA), 1980.

SIDELIGHTS: Laura Shapiro's Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century is a study of the changes that women and households underwent as a result of the Industrial Age. With the advent of textile plants and processed foods, women were no longer responsible for producing every item consumed or utilized in their households. This freed them from many responsibilities, but also somewhat lowered their status. Some women ventured outside the home into the workplace, while others became "domestic scientists," utilizing new products and modern technology to again transform domestic work into a full-time, yet more scientific, job.

As described in Perfection Salad, the domestic scientists saw their kitchens as laboratories, targeted American cuisine as their main subject of interest, and sought to transform the way Americans ate. These women felt that their rapt attention to the details of the meals they prepared and the manner in which their households were run would inevitably result in a better society. As a result of domestic science, some women became real chemists, the U.S. government established federal nutrition programs, and home economics became a standard subject of study in public schools.

Shapiro's book was well-received by critics. Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor Alex Raksin found Perfection Salad "judicious, funny and insightful," and commented that "this well-written book offers unusual insights into the relationship between science, industry and society." Barbara Ehrenreich, writing in the New York Times Book Review, noted that Shapiro "recounts the story of scientific cooking with a deft humor that some may find unbecoming to a work of such impeccable scholarship. Yet how else are we to think about a movement that upheld mayonnaise, cream sauce and the extended boiling of vegetables as cures for every social ill, from drunkenness and degeneracy to feminism and labor unrest?" The critic added: "My only disappointment with Perfection Salad is that it ends too soon." Further praise came from Library Journal reviewer Joyce S. Toomre, who called Perfection Salad an "admirable book, which should appeal to a wide audience." Newsweek contributor Cathleen Schine found Shapiro's volume "an illuminating, even a compelling book. Shapiro deconstructs the marshmallow and discovers America there."

Shapiro once again turns to writing about the American kitchen with Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America. Despite the title, this time the author focuses on nearly two decades of change in American eating habits, beginning with the prosperous years following World War II on through the mid-1960s. Following the war, food manufacturers switched their focus from supplying troops to meeting the needs and wants of a growing consumer middle class. Shapiro recounts how manufacturers overcame initial resistance to canned and processed foods through the use of marketing and advertising. The author also provides a look at many of the most prominent women of the day who influenced cooking and what Americans would come to consider as a normal diet, from the fictional Betty Crocker to Julia Child and several food columnists. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the book "entertaining and well researched." Mark Knoblauch, writing in Booklist, commented: "Shapiro's graceful, flowing prose makes this history of both cooking and women utterly compelling."



Booklist, March 1, 2004, Mark Knoblauch, review of Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America, p. 1130.

Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2004, review of Something from the Oven, p. 170.

Library Journal, April 1, 1986, Joyce S. Toomre, review of Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century, p. 151.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 9, 1987, Alex Raksin, review of Perfection Salad, p. 14.

Newsweek, April 28, 1986, Cathleen Schine, review of Perfection Salad, p. 74.

New York Times Book Review, March 23, 1986, Barbara Ehrenreich, review of Perfection Salad, p. 36.

Women's Review of Books, June, 2004, Jan Zita Grover, review of Something from the Oven, p. 1.