House Safire

Bill Safire returned to the New York Times op-ed page today with a piece headlined “The Cold War’s Hot Kitchen.”

EXACTLY one-half century ago, one of the great confrontational moments of the cold war seized the world’s attention: Nikita Khrushchev, bombastic anti-capitalist leader of the Soviet Union, and Richard Nixon, vice president of the United States with the reputation of a hard-line anti-communist, came to rhetorical grips in the model kitchen of the “typical American house” at the 1959 American exhibition at Sokolniki Park in Moscow.

But the Nixon-Khrushchev faceoff wasn’t the only confrontation in that model kitchen. The exhibition also featured a old-fashioned bakeoff between General Foods and General Mills, both of which had been invited to demonstrate “sped-up meal preparation, American style,” writes Susan Marks in her book, Finding Betty Crocker.

From eleven in the morning until nine at night, both companies staged continuous presentations in their joint exhibition space in Sokolniki Park. The Model Kitchen fascinated and entertained a steady stream of Russian visitors, many of whom watched a cake-baking demonstration from start to finish, which could be as long as two hours, including cool-down time.

Funny, but cool-down time was exactly what Nixon and Khrushchev could have used.

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