Doña Petrona

Petrona Carrizo de Gandulfo was born in La Banda, Santiago del Estero, on June 29, 1898. She was the penultimate of seven children. Her childhood was spent in the capital of Santiago with her parents and siblings. Her mother, Clementina, was the one who taught her how to cook, starting with a puff pastry dessert, as a simple method “to attract men.” On several occasions, Doña Petrona said that she learned to cook not because she liked it, but to get out of poverty.

She arrived in Buenos Aires when she was 16 years old, to try her luck. She started working as a kitchen manager at a ranch and fell in love with Atilio Gandulfo, the administrator. When he got a job at the Argentine Post Office, they settled in the Capital. But then an illness made her husband unable to be the breadwinner and Petrona then assumed the role of provider. She managed to be hired as a promoter of the new gas stoves manufactured by Compañía Primitiva de Gas, located at 1169 Alsina Street in the Monserrat neighborhood. Her goal was to promote this new way of cooking into everyday life, since until then the domestic stove was used, which ran on charcoal or firewood.

With the entrepreneurial zeal that characterized her long life, Petrona took cooking classes with chef Angel Baldi (father of another cook, María Angélica Baldi) at “Le Cordon Blue”, an Argentine branch of the famous French gastronomy school. In this way, she could prepare attractive recipes as part of the promotion of gas appliances.

A timeline could be drawn between Petrona's career and the evolution of the ways of cooking: already in “Good afternoon, lots of pleasure” - the emblematic program of the housewives of the time, hosted by Ana María Muchnik - she was a one of the first to try the electric mixer. Those were times when cooking was done live on television: Petrona would say, for example, “I'm going to continue beating while we go to the cut.” She later also adapted to the electric refrigerator, the pressure cooker, and incorporated dishes with cubed broth and powdered white sauce, many of which she sponsored.

Doña Petrona's book, of 800 pages and more than 3,000 recipes” was published in 1932 and for years it was the obligatory wedding gift for every woman who aspired to be a good housewife. The book was a cooking encyclopedia with more than 500 pages. It included culinary secrets, tips for the modern woman such as home organization and maintenance tasks, and even a section for the woman who worked and took care of her home. That book was translated into several languages, including Russian; It was published more than a hundred times, and continues to be available in Argentine bookstores.

Before television, Petrona had already cooked live for the Compañía Primitiva de Gas in the windows of the Bazar Dos Mundos, and those same recipes were published in the magazine “El Hogar”. Immediately, she debuted with a daily radio program, first on Radio Argentina, then on Excelsior and finally on El Mundo, where she spent 25 years.

She arrived on TV on Channel 7 in 1952. She hosted the “Variedades Hogareñas” micros in the studios set up at the Palais de Glace, located at 525 Viamonte Street, in the Recoleta neighborhood.

The 60s brought massiveness to the television program “Buenas afternoons, mucho gusto”, which was on the air for 22 years. She was always accompanied by her inseparable Juanita Bordoy, a thin girl who practically did not speak and gently obeyed the orders of the star of the program. “Juanita, please open the oven for me,” “Keep stirring,” “Raise my sleeve,” Petrona told her with a firm voice and her Santiago accent with which she cut each word.

He addressed her audience in a similar tone. Knowing that the correct quantities are key to the success of a recipe, with her index finger raised she clarified that “125 grams is half of a quarter liter.” She beat, she kneaded and - with a natural talent for the camera - she tilted the preparations to show: "come, it has to be like this." She also recommended taking notes of the ingredients, and then checking the notes when Ana María dictated them, while they were superimposed on the screen.

The new “healthy” times began to reproach her for the amounts of butter and eggs that she included in her preparations. In the 70s she published “Eat well and lose weight” with Dr. Alberto Cormillot, another character on television afternoons.

When she left TV, she continued teaching classes in her kitchen-workshop in Barrio Norte, located at 1200 Billinghurst Street. She lived her last years in the care of Juanita who, according to those around her, was the one who really called the shots and managed the Olivos house.

Petrona was also a pioneer of interactivity with her followers. Without Twitter, without Instagram, website or email, she repeated at the end of each recipe: “Write me later, I like to know how it turned out.” Always speaking “to the ladies,” she declared herself “at her most gracious orders,” with provincial cordiality. And she assured that “for quick consultations” she could call her by phone!, although for a complete prescription, she had to be contacted by letter.

Doña Petrona died on February 6, 1992, at the age of 95. By then, she had already become a myth.

In 2010, chef Narda Lepes updated her recipes on a program on the El Gourmet channel. And in 2015 she set up a museum with her legacy, where aprons, documents and utensils were exhibited, which was located on Av. Jujuy 1582, and currently remains closed.

The image and legacy of Doña Petrona remained intact in the Argentine families that have passed her recipes from generation to generation, since Doña Petrona is to Argentine cuisine what Quinquela Martín, Canaro or Gardel are to their respective genres.