Betty White: A Recipe for Life

Introduction: In this article – in honor of the beloved actress Betty White, who died Friday just 17 days shy of her 100th birthday – Gena Philibert-Ortega searches old newspapers to learn more about Betty. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.”

It’s inevitable that when you reach an advanced age, everyone wants to know your secret. In an interview for her anticipated 100th birthday, Betty White said that she avoided eating anything green. (1)

Photo: Betty White at the premiere for “The Proposal,” 1 June 2009
Photo: Betty White at the premiere for “The Proposal,” 1 June 2009. Credit: Angela George; Wikimedia Commons.

A previous 2010 interview discussed her daily menus consisting of meat and potatoes (French fries every day) along with a vegetable and salad. Whatever her food secret was, her longevity showed it worked.

An article about Betty White, Sarasota Herald-Tribune newspaper article 31 October 2010
Sarasota Herald-Tribune (Sarasota, Florida), 31 October 2010, page 286

This paragraph in particular was revealing – and humorous:

An anecdote about Betty White, Sarasota Herald-Tribune newspaper article 31 October 2010
Sarasota Herald-Tribune (Sarasota, Florida), 31 October 2010, page 286

Betty White is remembered for her numerous television roles, including her Mary Tyler Moore show role hosting a homemaker show on the fictional WJM-TV. Besides her fictional food show, I wondered if Betty had any other connections to food in the media. Looking into GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives gave me some answers.

Coffee, Potato Chips, and More

Betty White appeared as a spokesperson for numerous products during her career. One such product was Luzianne Coffee.

A coffee ad featuring Betty White, Atlanta Journal newspaper article 30 September 1964
Atlanta Journal (Atlanta, Georgia), 30 September 1964, page 77

The beverage company began in 1902 and grew to sell coffee and tea. In 1960s newspaper advertisements, White not only bragged about the flavor of the coffee but provided her own “recipe” which was simply to use half as much of the coffee because that was all that was needed.

A coffee ad featuring Betty White, Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper article 15 October 1964
Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 15 October 1964, page 47

Luzianne Coffee wasn’t the only food product she pitched. This Chipnics potato chip advertisement from 1966 includes her holding not only the package of chips but a few in her hand (presumably so consumers could see what they looked like, since they were first introduced just two years before, in 1964). Interestingly enough, the advertisement admits that consumers did not like their chips at first – so they made changes to the flavor. These homogenized chips were similar to Pringles, a later competitor, and were sold in a box.

A potato chip ad featuring Betty White, Daily Gazette newspaper article 21 April 1966
Daily Gazette (Schenectady, New York), 21 April 1966, page 33

Food companies used Betty and her likeness for recipe cards and recipe booklets, including this one for Danola ham that encourages readers to write to Betty so that she can mail one to you immediately.

A ham ad featuring Betty White, San Diego Union newspaper article 12 February 1976
San Diego Union (San Diego, California), 12 February 1976, page 60

Betty White, Homemaker?

Although she played a homemaker on TV, a 1974 interview about her role on the Mary Tyler Moore show called her an “indifferent cook,” and provided an example of making a meat loaf for dogs that was less than appealing to actress and cookbook author Dinah Shores’ dogs.

A photo of Betty White, Corpus Christi Caller newspaper article 3 March 1974

An article about Betty White, Corpus Christi Caller newspaper article 3 March 1974
Corpus Christi Caller (Corpus Christi, Texas), 3 March 1974, page 78

Betty: A Life That Was More than a Recipe

Although Betty White was the host of a fictional “Happy Homemaker” show and her name and image were used in food marketing campaigns, she became an American icon because she was so much more. In a 1954 interview about her new television talk show, she said American women were interested in far more than soap operas and cooking programs:

“Those shows are fine, too, but women are interested in everything. And it’s unfair to think that daytime television has to be limited to dull homebody shows and giveaways.”

An article about Betty White, Tulsa World newspaper article 16 April 1954
Tulsa World (Tulsa, Oklahoma), 16 April 1954, page 37

Betty exemplified that. She had a wicked sense of humor, she was passionate about various causes including animal rights, and had served her country during World War II in the American Woman’s Voluntary Services. (2) And she enjoyed French fries.

I’ll leave you with this anecdote about Betty.

A joke about Betty White, Sarasota Herald-Tribune newspaper article 31 October 2010
Sarasota Herald-Tribune (Sarasota, Florida), 31 October 2010, page 286

_________________

(1) “Betty White Says the Key to Her Diet Is ‘to Avoid Anything Green’,” Food + Wine (https://www.foodandwine.com/news/betty-white-says-key-to-diet-is-avoid-anything-green: accessed 2 January 2022).
(2) “US Army Pays Tribute to Betty White’s World War II Volunteer Service,” Military.com (https://www.military.com/daily-news/2022/01/01/us-army-pays-tribute-betty-whites-world-war-ii-volunteer-service.htmlL: accessed 2 January 2022).

One thought on “Betty White: A Recipe for Life

  1. Loved the article. Betty White was/is a national treasure. I know she wouldn’t have, but I bet she could have run for president and would have won by a landslide. There is a lot of common sense missing in politics today that she possessed.
    Anyway, it was nice to read the old articles that you brought forward about Betty.
    Keep up the good work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.