Some might call it good old-fashioned Southern cooking, some might call it post-war delights from pantry staples, and some might not take so much as a bite. Whatever your persuasion, it’s hard to resist the undeniable charm and awkward enthusiasm latent in the sing-song welcome of:
“Hi, I’m Betty…and welcome to Betty’s Kitchen”
Betty’s Kitchen is a YouTube cooking channel hosted by Betty Givan and filmed by her elusive husband, Rick. Understandably, we know next to nothing about Rick, but surprisingly little is known about Betty herself. She’s a mother, a grandmother, and meticulously groomed. Her age is reputed to be anywhere between 65 and 71, but remarkably she appears to be in her early 50s (maybe from preservatives, or Rick’s effortless manipulation of the diffused fluorescent lighting in their kitchen). Betty is also a retired algebra and calculus professor, which reveals itself through her painstaking attention to measurements. Despite these few and rumored facts, her occasional falter in cadence or her curious, irregular inflection alludes to Betty’s true identity—a perfectly manicured southern Belle, with an extensive (though some might argue repetitive) recipe repertoire. If you like cooking like you like making towers out of building blocks, you’ve come to the right place.
When it comes to Betty’s building blocks, she’s a believer in simplicity. If it hasn’t come from a package or wrapper, it’s unlikely that you’ll find it in the ingredients. This methodology and unabashed enthusiasm for tasty convenience is a ghost from kitchens past. This likely explains the staggering hundreds of thousands of Betty’s Kitchen subscribing all-American Grandmamas, patiently awaiting this week’s recipes. Such delights as Summery Hot Brown Salad, Jellied Lime Salad (does not contain lime), Hot Butterscotch Punch, or Million Dollar Pudding are sure to entice; for the brainy, perhaps a scant tutorial from Rick, such as “Rick Discusses Kitchen Thermometers.” Whatever your flavor, Betty promises you’ll love it.
Betty is fairly diplomatic in her instructions; if you don’t like mustard, don’t use it. But if you do, then use it. Maybe you were hoping for something a little richer with a smooth and creamy finish. Don’t worry, Betty has already softened the 2.3 bricks of butter suggested (but you can use less butter if you like less butter) and allotted each brick its very own saucer. Betty loves saucers. On the occasion that Betty is making a more complex dish (one with more than three ingredients) she will have dozens of tiny, tiny saucers filled with teaspoons of such delicacies as dehydrated onion or iodized table salt. An army of saucers, galvanized in its ardent pursuit of a simply tasty meal. While such a number of saucers may seem superfluous to some, it is a stronger testament to Betty’s fastidious and calculating nature, as well as her wholehearted allegiance to a bountiful table spread. Which is why it came as a bit of a shock to learn that Betty herself is not a big eater: two eggs for breakfast, tuna and a banana for lunch, an occasional Ritz cracker with cream cheese as a snack. Does Betty even like food?
In my search for the truth, I stumbled upon another odd incentive for her YouTube channel: “There are a lot of people out there who are just looking for someone to smile at them,” she says. She might have a point; her dry, tired Southern drawl punctuated by the odd burst of energetic enthusiasm is soothing in its uncanny Lynchianism. Despite her somewhat dated recipes and tastes, smiling Betty herself is a delicacy in the realm of prepackaged kitchen artifice she creates. – REBECCA STORM
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