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First appearing on the air in 1947, Dione Lucas was one of the earliest television cooking-show hosts. As a business owner, single mother, influential salesperson, and highly respected professional in her field (Julia Child referred to Lucas as “the mother of French cooking in America”), Lucas was a pioneer and potentially powerful role model. Given this profile, however, she was an anachronism and out of sync with the majority of contemporary women and home cooks. She was likewise out of sync with her television peers, as most homemaking programs were hosted by home economists and were contexts wherein thrift and pleasing and feeding family members were paramount. Lucas was unconventional in her exhortations, adamantly advocating that the traditional female province of cooking be embraced as an art and an outlet for creative expression. In this way, she exhibited unusually empowering messages for homemakers. Through the persona of Dione Lucas as a historical example and, for brief comparison and relevancy, the second- and third-wave cooking shows hosts—for example, Julia Child, Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray, and Giada De Laurentiis—the article explores the social role of women cooking-show hosts, the line between performance/entertainment and instruction/information on television, and the position of host on television in relation to audience, temporality, and the notion of home and self.


This work was originally published in Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies.



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