The American Plate: 1910’s

The Supermarket

A Hungry Nation on the Move

The decade reflected high living, high prices, the introduction of income taxes, women’s suffrage, World War 1, an influenza pandemic that killed between 20 million and 50 million people and prohibition. “Secretary of State Williams Jennings Bryan, a Prohibitionist, served grape juice instead of wine at a 1913 dinner for the British ambassador. By 1919, the Temperance League had won out and the sale and distribution of alcohol was banned. In 1920, saloons were shuttered, and distilleries closed.”

Cooking For Health???

Coca Cola had entered the food market in 1910; at the same time, Nathan franks entered the culture that now included, railroads with deluxe dining, grocery stores, frozen foods and refrigerators.

By 1912 an organic substance (later named vitamin) is discovered by American chemist, Casimer Funk. 

In 1894, the USDA published its first food recommendations through a Farmers’ Bulletin, suggesting diets for males based on content of protein, carbohydrate, fat and mineral matter. In 1916, Caroline Hunt, a nutritionist, wrote the first USDA food guide, Food for Young Children. Milk and meat, cereals, vegetables and fruits, fats and fatty foods, and sugars and sugary foods made up five food groups. Then How to Select Foods addressed recommendations for the general public based on those five food groups in 1917. (Can you believe the fat and sugary foods groups ???

Crisco Sandwich? 

“Proctor and Gamble introduced Crisco, the first solid vegetable shortening. The product is hard to sell to women who had been taught to cook with lard and/or butter. To promote its produce, the manufacturer suggested glazing sweet potatoes with brown sugar and Crisco and spreading sandwiches with Crisco mixed with an egg yolk.” YUM!!!

Convenience: Self-service Grocery Stores

In 1912, change began to replace the grocery store with self-service “supermarkets”.  Previously, a shopper would hand a list to the clerk to retrieve the items from shelves behind the counter – a time-consuming process. George Hartford established the first Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co. which he called the A&P “Economy Store”. A clerk still took the orders, but the store did not offer credit or delivery and saved costs with lower prices. In Memphis, Clarence Saunders continued the trend in 1916 when he began the Piggly Wiggly chain. Customers followed a serpentine route past all 600-plus items on shelves (a huge selection for the time) but there were still long lines. Still, this process began the key factors  in the emergence of distinctive packaging, advertising, and brand recognition. Everything from pasta to tamales went into cans, the technology for electric refrigeration was developed, and the frozen-food industry got its start.

People Were Talking About….

Clarence Birdseye, who after spending a winter in Newfoundland, noticed that fish caught and left in the frigid air froze immediately and tasted good after being thawed and cooked. This inspired him to pioneer the commercial frozen food industry.

George Washington Carver and the 300-plus products he developed based on peanuts and the 118 products based on sweet potatoes. His research gave southern farmers ruined by boll weevil infestations a reason to plant crops other than cotton.

Luther Burbank and his 12-volume work, Luther Burbank: His Methods and Discoveries and Their Practical Applications. Burbank’s  extensive cross-breeding of plants led to the development of the Burbank,  or russet potato, which would make Idaho famous.

Household Appliances

This decade was the era of household appliances.  “Middle-class households were used to having at least one live-in servant. As household help began to leave for better jobs, housewives had to do for themselves – a monumental task. For example, the laundry which was a two-day affair. The arrival of mechanical help is heaven sent. An item as mundane as a porcelain range – no more blackening, no more polishing removed one two-hour chore. By 1911 electric chafing dishes, skillets, grills, toasters, percolators, waffle irons, and stand-up mixers were introduced along with the very welcomed electric ranges, and basic refrigerators, invented in 1915.”

Must have been a very Merry Christmas for these ladies!

Why do some people get Covid more severely than others?

COVID-19 strikes with alarming inconsistency. Most recover quickly while others die. The disease devastates some communities and spares others. Understanding why and how COVID-19 preys on some and not others is essential to limiting its spread and mitigating its impact.

Prevention, averting, detecting, and restricting disease, is always better than even the most effective treatment. In the first place, We need answers to verify the findings of any new promising study.

Ever wonder why some places on the globe suffer from the virus so differently than others? Can the Blue Zones populations give us some answers?

The Obesity Burden?

The Burden of Obesity Is Not Carried Equally

— Misconceptions are hurting the fight for health equity in communities of color

by David Satcher, MD, PhD August 26, 2022


“Since leaving my post in 2002 as the U.S. Surgeon General, the nation’s leading public health role, America has made great strides in battling public health crises. From reducing tobacco use and improving maternal and child health, to most recently advancing vaccine technology to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, another epidemic has gained strength, debilitating and killing millions of people on its deadly upward trajectory. The chronic disease of obesity is a misunderstood condition impacting millions of Americans from every demographic group living in every corner of the country. Unfortunately, obesity and comorbid diseases disproportionately impact communities of color in nearly incalculable ways.

In the early 2000s, the national adult obesity rate was 30.5% and we had made progress on achieving many health goals related to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and multiple other chronic health challenges. Back then, my office released “The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity,” which underscored the increasing severity of obesity’s impact on our collective health and outlined a vision for the future. Today, the adult obesity rate has climbed to 42.4% and is projected to reach nearly 50% by 2030.

Disparities in obesity rates between racial and ethnic groups are stark. The latest data show that non-Hispanic Black adults have the highest age-adjusted prevalence of obesity in the country at 49.6%, followed by Hispanic adults at 44.8%, and non-Hispanic white adults at 42.2%. Obesity is also a significant health challenge among American Indians and Alaskan Natives, with adults in those communities 50% more likely to have obesity than white adults. Furthermore, a projection of obesity rates found that “severe obesity” will become the most common BMI category among non-Hispanic Black adults (31.7%) — as well as among women (27.6%) and low-income adults (31.7%) — by 2030.

Despite researchers making significant advances in the last 2 decades, obesity is too often myopically viewed as the result of an individual’s lifestyle choices around diet and exercise. Viewing the disease through this lens omits that body weight is determined by a combination of genetic, metabolic, behavioral, environmental, cultural, and socioeconomic factors. In fact, we know that a significant proportion of obesity can be influenced by genetics.

While recent scientific discoveries have greatly improved obesity care options, our collective effort to stem the tide of the disease has fallen short. Obesity is a public health crisis deserving maximum effort from policymakers, healthcare providers, insurers, and community partners working in concert to dramatically reduce the burden of this disease.

Our politicians and policymakers must focus on the core causes and dire consequences of unchecked increases in obesity rates among the people they serve. It is imperative that updated federal, state, and local policies grant equitable access to the full continuum of obesity care. Healthcare providers must seek continuing education on advances in metabolic science and the availability of pharmacotherapies that are proven to safely reduce disease prevalence and the impact of comorbid diseases. Insurers must take a long view of obesity care, taking immediate action to close coverage gaps that block access to obesity trained physicians, consultation with nutritionists, physical therapists, and prescriptions for FDA-approved metabolic therapies. Our community leaders must advocate for healthcare equality and equitable access to obesity care to lift the physical, mental, and financial burden of the disease on all Americans, especially Black and brown people.

I believe generating coordinated, sustained solutions for a positive impact on obesity in America will come from the hard work of public health stewards, policymakers, healthcare providers, and community leaders at the intersection of health equity and policy. I am making a renewed call to action for the challenging situation we find ourselves in. Every one of us deserves the opportunity to live our healthiest life. It is time we remove the impediments to health equity through access, and promote a path that eliminates the obesity epidemic persisting in communities of color across our nation.”

David Satcher, MD, PhD, is the 16th U.S. Surgeon General and the founder of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute.

Those interested should also read the book by Sandra Aamodt, Ph.D., Why Diets Make Us Fat: The Unintended Consequences of Our Obsession with Weight Loss. More emphasis should be placed on the development of how to control or manage damaging weight regain after endless weight loss attempts. Sally Feltner, M.S, Ph.D.

A Brief Look at Diet Culture

Soure: Social and Health Research Center

Written by: Timandra Rowan

April 21, 2022

Diet culture has a long history of fads and facts. In the U.S., there have been multitudes of “diets” designed for health with more emphasis on weight loss than in other countries over the last century. Why is our national obsession on the relationship of dietary fat been the prominent discourse? A little history may help.


Happy Thanksgiving – Bon apetit.

English: “The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“ The turkey is certainly one of the most delightful presents which the New World has made to the Old.”  Brillat Savarin.

Most of the traditional Thanksgiving foods we now eat on this holiday are foods that originated or were Native to the Americas. The word for turkey in French is dinde, short for poulet d’inde since they thought that the turkey came from the West Indies of Columbus days.  The turkey was popular in England before the Pilgrims came in 1620.

Turkeys don’t migrate so they were some of the first Native Americans and were available all year.  Turkeys are easy to hunt – when one is shot, the others freeze in place.  Don’t get me wrong – I don’t encourage shooting turkeys – we have lots of wild turkeys here in Western North Carolina. Many times I’ve had to stop and wait until they cross the road.  I once encountered a few hens walking in the woods, followed by a male who wanted to impress them by making a racket and spreading his tail feathers – of course, the “girls” totally ignored him and went on without a nod – I kind of felt sorry for him

Potatoes had reached Europe early in the Columbian Exchange (thanks to Christopher Columbus).  Potatoes had an interesting history – they were native to Peru, a Spanish colony and enemy of England, and went from Peru to Europe and then returned to New Hampshire with Scottish-Irish settlers in 1723.  It is thought that the idea of mashing them with butter and milk also came form Scottish-Irish influence.

Cranberries were native to New England. Cranberries and blueberries were mashed with sour milk and used as paint as well as for food.  To this day, these colors or variations of these colors are used in New England colonial homes.

Many types of squash had reached Europe, but pumpkin was unknown at that time. Pumpkin was used in the early colonies, but did not appear in cookbooks until Amelia Simmons in 1796 wrote the first printed American cookbook.  She referred to it as “pomkin”.  You may prefer pecan pie – and these are also of American origin.  Originating in central and eastern North America and the river valleys of Mexico, pecans were widely used by pre-colonial residents.

Cornbread and sweet potatoes (both being native to the Americas) round out our traditional Thanksgiving fare. Archaeological studies indicate that corn was cultivated in the Americas at least 5600 years ago and American Indians were growing corn long before Europeans landed here. The probable center off origin is the Central American and Mexico region but since the plant is found only under cultivation, no one can be sure.

The sweet potato has a rich history and interesting origin. It is one of the oldest vegetables known to mankind. Scientists believe that the sweet potato was domesticated thousands of years ago in Central America. Christopher Columbus took sweet potatoes back home to Europe after his first 1492 voyage. Sweet potatoes spread through Asia and Africa after being introduced in China in the late 16th century.

So as you enjoy your Thanksgiving this year, give thanks to the Americas for our traditional foods that are truly “made in America”.

BTW –Many of the foods we find on our Thanksgiving table today, weren’t  available back when the colonists celebrated the First Thanksgiving in Plymouth.  The first historical descriptions of the first Thanksgiving do not mention turkey – only “wild fowl” (not identified) and five deer.  The party was in 1621 with fifty-one Pilgrim men, women, and children hosting ninety men of the Wampanoag tribe and their chief, Massasoit.  It was in the fall to celebrate the good harvest of corn (wheat and barley weren’t as successful) and lasted three days.

Have a great Thanksgiving Day from Food, Facts & Fads and STAY SAFE.  SJF

A Very Short Guide to Live the Mediterranean Way

How to Live the Mediterranean Way and How to Feed Your Microbiome: Rules to Live By:  

“Each country around the Mediterranean Sea offers a rich bounty of delicious ingredients. Many authors have written about the Mediterranean Diet in terms of the health benefits that have been shown by an exhaustive array of scientific studies on its merits. The diet is now recognized as an “intangible cultural heritage” in Italy by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It is a way of life and a way of eating, which the Italians call “Cucina genuine” or “cuisine of the poor”.  This is the diet of those who work the land and feed themselves using seasonal ingredients grown in their small plots outside the kitchen”.

The following characteristics attempt to describe the “Americanized” version of how to live and eat the Mediterranean way – it is not just a diet but a gift to a healthier lifestyle.”

DIET: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. (Michael Pollan). Whole grains, unprocessed foods, fruits, and vegetables. It is not a diet but a lifestyle.

Eat meat in moderation. Limit your saturated fat, sugar and salt intake. Snack on nuts. Reduces inflammatory foods

Practice mindfulness, smaller servings, early light dinners.

Try yogurt, beans, chickpeas (hummus (fermentable foods) like sauerkraut – gives us a diverse microenvironment

Maintain a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) 19.0 – 25.0

Drink plenty of water


Take a walk. Enjoy the sunshine.

Stay active. Get gardening.

Exercise improves cognition and stress reduction


1-2 Glasses of red wine (daily): Optional (if you don’t drink wine, don’t start) 

Have a purpose in life (a reason to get up in the morning).

Laugh with friends.

Keep your brain active (read, puzzles, learn a language) card games

Focus on family, God, camaraderie, nature

Reduce stress and avoid eating when angry or sad.

Enjoy the secret pleasures and social aspect of foods.  Become more expert at listening to your gut feelings. (mind/body).  


Diane Phillps, The Mediterranean Slow Cooker Cookbook, Chronicle Books, 2012.

Emeran Mayer, MD. The Mind-Gut Connection, Harper Collins, 2016.

Dan Buettner The Blue Zones Challenge, National Geographic, 2021.

The Salem Witch Trials: Revisited

October brings thoughts of fall, Halloween, and witches and the witch trials that occurred in 1692 in a fragile Puritan Community, Salem Village, Massachusetts. The theory most often cited was that ergot poisoning from rye bread was to blame – on further evaluation, history “experts” disqualify this theory and others are brought to mind. The following article by Nik DeCosta Klipa explains:

The theory that may explain what was tormenting the afflicted in Salem’s witch trials

What Caused the Obesity Epidemic?

What caused the obesity epidemic? What are the consequences? 

HOUSTON – When it comes to the childhood obesity epidemic, the prevailing narrative is that overweight children — and their parents — lack the collective will power to put down the potato chips, pick up a jump rope and work at losing weight.

“… doctors specializing in obesity and weight loss say certain scientific and societal factors — including genetics, the rise of processed foods that include soybean oil and national overconsumption of sugar-sweetened beverages — are more likely to blame for childhood obesity than lazy kids or indulgent parents.

“Obesity is a disorder which, like venereal disease, is blamed upon the patient,” says obesity researcher Dr. George Bray, the opening lecturer at the first annual U.S. News Combating Childhood Obesity summit, held at Texas Children’s Hospital.

It’s the blame issue that stands in the way of progress in fighting obesity as a disease, when larger factors that can’t be controlled may be at the heart of the issue, says Bray, professor emeritus of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University, who has been studying obesity among children for several decades.

“Obesity isn’t a disease of willpower — it’s a biological problem,” he says. “Genes load the gun, and environment pulls the trigger.”

In a panel analyzing why weight is difficult to lose, Kevin Hall, an obesity and diabetes researcher, says a new study he co-produced points the finger at highly processed food.

His study, published Thursday in the medical journal Cell Metabolism, showed that patients who ate minimally-processed food with easily identifiable ingredients ate less, and lost weight without trying, when compared with a group that had highly-processed, prepackaged, ready-to-eat food, even though the diets prepared for both groups had the same number of calories and macronutrients.

“What we saw, on average, was that people consumed 500 calories more” on the processed-food diet than those who ate food that didn’t go through a factory, says Hall, chief of the integrated physiology section at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. “The ones on the unprocessed diet — they spontaneously lost weight.” It has been proposed that eating a diet for health (whole, “real” foods) can cause weight loss and maintenance of the loss compared to those who primary goal was simply weight loss alone.

In opening the summit, presenters tackled a question doctors and obesity researchers have grappled with a difficult question in fighting the disease: How did we get here?

Bray says studies trace the epidemic back to the ’60s and ’70s, when U.S consumption of soybean oil, most likely through processed-food production, spiked and, around the same time, Americans, including children, started to weigh more. Fats found in soybean oil, he says, were found in breast milk samples from the era.

“The fats in our food supply may well be playing a part in our inability to regulate” food intake, Bray says. However, this is just the tip of the iceburg. Likewise food portions have been shown graphically to double the size of those served beginning inn the 1970’s.

Meanwhile, the consumption of sugary soft drinks like Coke and Pepsi increased from just a few gallons per person per year to more than triple that by the end of the century. The rise of soft drink consumption between 1950 and 2000, he says, paralleled the increase in obesity; pregnant women who drank sugary soft drinks, Bray added, ended up passing the sugar on to their unborn children.

“It’s kind of maternal abuse of the fetus” where “the child has no control, only the mother has,” he says.

The U.S. News Combating Obesity summit convened top medical experts, hospital executives, pediatricians, community health leaders, advocates to exchange ideas and share practices that are helping to combat the nationwide obesity epidemic.

The percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity “has more than tripled since the 1970s,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to data from 2015-2016, the CDC reports, “nearly 1 in 5 school age children and young people (6 to 19 years) in the United States has obesity.”

Experts say the epidemic has long-term ramifications: Obese children who carry the weight can exhibit heart disease and type 2 diabetes as well as mobility and self-esteem issues. Unfortunately in order to reverse this trend, cultural changes will be required at many levels, to say the least. Can it happen?

U.S. News and World Report

Joseph P. Williams, Senior Editor

May 16, 2109

Scientific, Societal Factors to Blame for the Obesity Epidemic

Lifestyle and Longevity

Does chronological age always match biological age? According to a recent study, 1500 elderly women aged 64 to 95 years who sit for more than 10 hours a day have cells that are biologically older by 8 years compared to women who are more active. These women had shorter telomeres which are found on the ends of DNA strands. These structures protect chromosomes from degradation and normally shorten with age but more progressively with unhealthy lifestyles such as obesity or smoking.

Aladdin Shadyab. Lead author. Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

The research was partly funded by the National Institute on Aging.

Living in a Blue Zone

Longevity appears to not just be due to diet. Lifestyle in general is so important. No one says we have to eat rice and beans every day as they traditionally did in the Blue Zone of Costa Rica. However, there were other factors like keeping active and being social with friends and family. Why not search for the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, to try a more delicious fare?

A DAY of the life of living in a Blue Zone:: Costa Rica

“Aged 94, Saturnino “Sato” Lopez rises early each day, chops wood and takes long walks in a part of Costa Rica that’s a global oddity: like him, people there tend to live a very long time.

Home for Sato is the Nicoya Peninsula, where 1,010 people aged 90 or older live in a so-called “Blue Zone” — five areas around the world where life expectancy is particularly high.

And these people did not move to the peninsula, located in the northwest of Costa Rica. Rather, they have always lived there.

“At my age, I feel well because the Lord gives me strength to walk at ease. I go out, walk maybe a kilometer (around half a mile), or four kilometers, and I return, no problem,” said Lopez.

His house is in a village called Dulce Nombre — Sweet Name — is a sort of nature refuge.

The village’s wood, concrete and stick-and-mud houses are surrounded by vegetation and cicadas drone non-stop. The Covid-19 pandemic has gone easy on this village.

“During the day if I have to sweep the patio, I sweep. If I have to chop wood, I chop, also. A bit of everything,” said Lopez.

Blue Zones –

In the late 20th century, demographer Michel Poulain and a physician named Gianni Pes used a blue marker to highlight on a map the Barbalia region of Sardinia, Italy, where they found people lived a very long time.

In 2005, an American author and National Geographic fellow named Dan Buettner discovered similar characteristics in Loma Linda, California; Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan, and Nicoya.

So what is their secret?

“The main food is rice and beans. A bit of meat, fruit, avocado. That is what you eat. They say this is good food,” said Lopez.

His neighbors Clementina Espinoza, 91, and her husband Agustin, 100, follow a similar diet.

Espinoza has outlived six of her 18 children. She walks slowly but steadily, and still tosses corn to her chickens, prepares meals and washes up afterward.

Clementina Espinoza, 91, tends to her garden in Nicoya. She exhibits robust energy in a country where the life expectancy is a mere 80. For the world in general it is 72, the World Health Organization says.

“Out in the countryside, life is quieter,” said Espinoza, insisting that diet is key. “You are more relaxed and there is not so much danger.”

– Having purpose is key –

Having goals is critical to aging well, said Aleyda Obando, who works in the social security administration in Nicoya.

“They thank God for being alive and they make plans, to plant something or go see friends,” said Obando. “It is a combination of factors that makes these people last longer.”

It also helps to have a social support network, exercise, eat healthy food and minimize stress.

“We grew corn, rice, beans, everything. “We grew what we ate,” said Clementina. Now, her daughter Maria looks after her.

Agustin, one of 53 people in the area who are 100 or older, is blind now and suffered a stroke.

– Back in the saddle –

Jose Villegas is another centenarian, who lives in the neighboring village of San Juan de Quebrada Honda, with one of his eight daughters.

He is hoping that when he turns 105 on May 4 he can once again ride a horse — he used to make his living on horseback, herding livestock. But sometimes he has trouble with his legs.

Being 104, he says, “is a big deal because God has given me a lot of life. It was not fantastic but it was not bad, either,” said Villegas, sitting in the house he was born in.

“Now, lifestyles have changed. It is not the same as before. Things used to be healthier, and people loved each other a little bit more,” said Villegas, who became a widower seven years ago and spends his evenings listening to folk music.

Gilbert Brenes, a demographer at the University of Costa Rica, said the Blue Zone’s elderly population may peak in the next 20 or 30 years and then decline.

Younger generations have different diets and suffer more from diseases like obesity and diabetes. And fewer and fewer people grow what they eat.

But Saturnino Lopez, a father of nine, remains active.

“My children say to me, ‘you no longer work. We have to work to support you.’ But I don’t like that, because I know what keeps me going,” he said, referring to physical activity like cutting wood.

“Even if it is just a couple of blows with the machete, that’s enough.”