The Tumultuous Sixties: The American Plate 1960 – 1969

Sally J. Feltner, M.S.,PhD

The French Chef

In 1945, an American woman went to Paris with her husband. While there, she attended the Cordon Bleu cooking school and became very fascinated with French cooking. She was eager to share her fascination with others back in America, so when she returned she ended up writing a cookbook. In 1961, Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child was heralded by critics and housewives alike. But her TV show, The French Chef, which aired from 1963 to 1967, made her America’s first true celebrity chef. She inspired a generation to see the act of cooking as a joy and an art
In the United States. She alone is credited with restoring our culinary culture after a decade in the 50’s of processed food and a trend away from home cooking. She introduced us to the luxuries of butter, cream and cognac. The newly affluent were eager to try to attain culture and she made it very approachable. We were introduced to Cog au Vin, Boeuf Bourguignon, Mousse au Chocolate and Duck a l’Orange.  The 1960s decade was  stormy,  shaped by the clash of conforming tradition and radical change. WWII rationing was a distant memory; 50s casseroles were old & boring. The late 60’s brought social unrest with growing frustration over the Vietnam War, assassinations of a President (JFK), a civil rights leader (Martin Luther King), and a political candidate (Robert Kennedy).

The New York World’s Fair: 1964

 

“In 1964, international cuisine was scarce in the United States , and few Americans had tasted Indian, Korean or Middle Eastern food. At the 1964 New York World’s Fair they got their chance. With 140 pavilions representing 37 countries on a concourse of nearly 650 acres, taking in the entire fare was difficult with 112 restaurants to choose from, deciding where to eat was even tougher. The exhibition boasted regional foods from Japan and Lebanon, Africa and Spain, Hawaii and Belgium. The Indian pavilion served tandoori and paratha; The Korean pavilion featured kimchi and other garlicky specialties. Jordan’s restaurant offered hummus and shwarma and the Hawaiian pavilion had a luau. Spain’s stunning pavilion complete with an art gallery displaying original works by Goya, Valezquez, El Greco, Miro and Picasso, offered authentic Spanish fare at three restaurants.  the Belgium village had a 1500 seat beer Hall and a breakfast house that introduced the Belgium waffle to America. The fat,  fluffy treat piled high with strawberries and whipped cream was, without a doubt, the fair’s biggest food sensation.”  Bon Appetit, September, 1999.

‘Eggo waffles were invented in San Jose, California, by Frank Dorsa, who developed a process by which waffles could be cooked, frozen, and packaged for consumers. In 1953, Dorsa, along with younger brothers Anthony and Sam, introduced Eggo frozen waffles to supermarkets throughout the United States. Because of the egg flavor, customers called them “Eggos”. Eventually the name became synonymous with the product and, in 1955, the Dorsa brothers officially changed the name to “Eggo”. In 1968, as a means of diversification, the Kellogg Company purchased Eggo.[4] Their advertising slogan—”L’eggo my Eggo”—developed by Leo Burnett in 1972 is well known through their television commercials.” WIkipedia

White House Style: The Kennedy Years

“From the moment Jacqueline and John F Kennedy moved into the White House in 1961, the world could see that a new generation had arrived. With their keen interest in history, literature, the arts, food and entertaining, the youthful, scholarly charismatic Kennedy’s roused stodgy Washington by setting new standards in everything from clothing to table decor and cuisine. The first lady, an avid recipe collector who loved French food, hired French chef Rene Verdon from New York’s Carlyle hotel to serve as executive chef at the mansion.  The Kennedys hosted legendary dinners with dance, concerts, poetry readings, performances of Shakespeare, and other entertainment that showcased the best America had to offer.”

Bon Appetit, September, 1999.

The Revolutions

Millions of people in the world were starving. Technology’s answer was food that was genetically engineered like soy and dwarf rice that had a short growing time, a phenomenal yield and would grow anywhere in Asia. It could produce two crops a year and yielded more rice per plant. This was the beginning of the Green Revolution. People began to eat more consciously after the book by Rachel Carson, Silent Spring was published. Her book spoke of the consequences of using pesticides which led people to be more aware about where food comes,

The Blue Revolution involved aquaculture or fish farming. Both these revolutions have pros and cons, critics and proponents. Aquaculture nevertheless is probably the world’s fastest growing form of food production and some believe that by 2030, aquaculture will supply most the fish people eat.

greenrevolution

Counterculture Cuisine – Hippie Food

Some people took it a few steps further by growing their own fruits, vegetables and herbs, milked farm animals and revolted against white foods – Minute Rice, Cool Whip, instant potatoes, white sugar, white bread. Hippies dominated the culture and brought with them a return to unprocessed foods. They baked their own bread, made peanut butter tahini and hummus and ate brown rice and brown eggs. They brought to our attention cooperatives, vegetarianism, and fresh food markets and health food stores. Food quickly evolved from French cooking to “back to the earth” attitude.

In the 1960’s overabundance, fast foods and processed foods led to the beginnings of the obesity problem in America.  On the diet front, Jean Nidetch and several friends met in her apartment in 1961 to counsel each other about dieting. Her support group eventually became Weight Watchers. The sugar free soft drink Tab is introduced in 1963. In 1967, Twiggy, 5’7” and weighing just 92 pounds becomes a supermodel and influenced thousands of young women to rethink their body image to try to meet her standards. The slogan “thin is in” quite possibly led to a resurgence of eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge-eating that saw its roots in the Victorian days of the 19th century.

 

newton-stewart-health-foods

Sources:  Linda Cvitello, Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People, 2nd Edition.

SPAGHETTIOS

Tackling strands of spaghetti on a fork is a formidable challenge for a toddler which requires a bottle of “Mr. Clean” on hand. So in 1965, Franco-American came up with a solution by inventing a kid-friendly spaghetti for babies. Original shapes were discussed using stars, cowboy shapes, spacemen, but eventually it was decided to use four different sized circles while making the sauce sweeter and cheesier than adult canned pasta for adults.

The pasta was put in a can decorated with a childish drawing of a face with two pasta rings for eyes which appealed to both kids and parents. The ad campaign featured the song, “Uh, oh” Spaghettios” jingle sung by a pop singer, Jimmie Rodgers. Often today’s baby boomers can sing the whole song from memory.

To clarify the Jimmy Rodgers thing – there was a country singer named James Charles “Jimmie” Rodgers who died in 1933. However, the Spaghettios singer was born James Frederick “Jimmie” Rodgers who was born in 1933.

Carolyn Wyman, Better Than Homemade: Amazing Foods That Changed the Way We Eat

A Trivia Timeline

1960 About 35% of all women work outside the home and they average 60 cents for every dollar earned by men.

1960  The civil rights movement begins with lunch-counter sit-ins in Greensboro, N.C.

1961   Sprite hits the market.

1962   John Glenn says that his first meal in space, applesauce through a tube, is nothing to write home about.

1963    Kenner develops the Easy Bake Oven “toy”.  The working oven is introduced at the 1964 toy fair and more than 500,000 are sold the first year at a price of $15.99.

1964   The first Coke in a can appears.

1965    The immigration Act of 1965 begins the influx of millions of people from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Eastern Europe, the Philippines, India, the Middle East, Africa, Mexico and Central and South America.

1966    Doritos, the first tortilla chips, are launched nationally.

1967    Campbell Soup Co. acquires Godiva Chocolate and begins to supply the U.S. from its Reading, Pa. plant.

1967    The National Football League adopts Gatorade as its official drink.

1969   Dave Thomas opens the first Wendy’s in Columbus, Ohio. He has already made $1 million by taking over Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants.  Wendy’s is named for his daughter.

1969   Pringles potato chips are introduced.

Source: The Century in Food: America’s Fads and Favorites, Beverly Bundy

 

 

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