Dining Through the Decades: 1930’s

Stock Market Woes: The Depression

The Great Depression affected the U.S. more than other industrialized countries. Unemployment affected many including the middle class. Many people lost their homes, ate garbage and food scraps and lived in empty lots or in shacks made of cardboard.

The Great Depression lasted for most of the 1930 decade forcing people to conserve food and come up with innovative ways to limit food waste and making do with less. Popular dishes of the period were inexpensive, one-pot meals such as macaroni and cheese, chili, casseroles of all sorts. To maintain the illusion of an abundance of beef, meat loaf was stretched to its limit with filler. Accompaniments were usually inexpensive vegetables such as carrots, peas and potatoes. Others on the other hand, city dwellers were surviving on cheap meals of hot dogs and hamburgers at automats that had survived since their inception in the 1920s.

More Americans are hungry or ill fed than ever before in the nation’s history. The usual weekly relief check for a family of five in NYC is $6.00 in May, and the average weekly grant in Philadelphia that month is reduced  to $4.39. Philadelphia’s relief funds will soon five will soon give out completely, leaving 57,000 families with no means of support.

The average U.S. weekly wage falls to $17, down from $28 in 1929, and 28 percent of households have no employed worker. U.S. employment reaches between 15 and 17 million by year’s end, 34 million Americans have no income of any kind and Americans who do work average little more than $16 per week.

 

 “Saint” Al Capone? and Soup Kitchen

Private soup kitchens and bread lines were available for those in need. Ironically, the gangster Al Capone set up the first soup kitchen to paint himself as the “savior of Chicago”. However, they still sent him to jail for tax evasion. Accepting charity in those days was seen as shameful, so people did not relish standing in line for food and often hid their faces from public view. In 1930, New York has 83 breadlines, Philadelphia 80. Small towns in Arkansas and Oklahoma have food riots with hungry crowds shouting “We want food!” ” We will not let our children starve.”

The Ice Age

The most influential appliance during this decade was most likely the refrigerator. Until its appearance, people kept food from spoiling in streams, cellars, snow and ice. Food poisoning in the warmer months was rampant. The ice box was commonly used since the 1800’s. Harvested and cut ice was hauled home to home on a horse-drawn cart and put in the family’s icehouse where it lasted for months. City dwellers would place a card in the window to order their ice for delivery from the iceman.

By 1920, there were some 200 different refrigerator models on the market, but they were not for everybody, if anyone. The motors were so large that they were kept in a different room and cost about $700. The coolants were a problem that often leaked and killed people. In 1930, Frigidaire began cooling with chlorofluorocarbons and people began to use the small machines with more frequency. Before the refrigerator, “frozen desserts and frozen salads were nonexistent or just for wealthy people” wrote Sylvia Lovegren, author of Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads. By 1937, more than 2 million Americans owned refrigerators.

Stuckey’s and Route 66

Williamson George ? Stuckey was born in Georgia in 1909. In 1929 he dropped out of college for lack of funds and in 1930 his grandmother loaned him $35. and with this money, he began buying and selling Georgia pecans. In 1936 he built a roadside stand on a two-lane highway in Eastman, Georgia. There he sold his pecans and later added pralines made by his wife, Ethyl. The first Stuckey’s Pecan Shoppe opened in Eastman, Georgia in 1937, selling pecan and praline products. Later he sold souvenirs, food and beverage service and much later gas pumps. By 1964, there were 160 stores and by 2002 Stuckey’s had two hundred franchises in nineteen states from Pennsylvania to Florida along interstate highways and travel plazas.

“When U.S. Highway 66 was completed in 1938, it became a vital 2,450 mile artery between Chicago and Los Angeles through eight states. It traveled along routes that did not bypass many rural communities in an effort to link them more with larger metropolitan areas. Thus, farmers had a pipeline to ship their food to the big cities. Along the route, it provided gas stations, motels, and quick-stop stores like Stuckeys to take care of the traveler’s needs.

Chain restaurants like Steak and Shake first served its steakburgers, milk shakes and shoestring french fries in 1934 in Normal, Illinois. As more Steak n’ Shake restaurants opened along the route, customers were happy to see a familiar name in an unfamiliar location, much like present day McDonalds along many interstate highways. You could see those Golden Arches somewhere in the distant along many of the unpopulated areas they served.” Bon Appetit, September, 1999.

The Dust Bowl: Agriculture Gone Wrong

The dust storms that terrorized America’s High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were nothing like ever seen before. Timothy Egan has written a compelling  book, The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. The book graphically depicts a gritty piece of forgotten history.

In 1935, Western dust storms in May blow some 300 million tons of Kansas, Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma topsoil into the Atlantic. At least 30 million acres lose all their topsoil, another 50 million are almost ruined, and 200 million are seriously damaged. The Western dust storms are an aftermath of imprudent plowing during the Great War, when farmers planted virgin lands in wheat to cash in on high grain prices. The dust storms were so severe that they stopped highway traffic, closed schools, and turned day into night. “Oakies” and “Arkies” from the dust bowl begin a trek to California that will take 350,000 farmers west within the next 5 years. The description of one of the worst days named Black Sunday (April 14, 1935) was heartbreaking. “it took an hour for the Black Sunday duster to travel from the border towns to Amarillo. At 7:20 P.M, the biggest city in the Texas Panhandle went  dark, and its 42,000 residents choked on the same thick mass that had begun to roll in the Dakotas, clawing the barren plains, charring the sky in five states, producing static electricity to power New York, a fury that has never been duplicated” Source: The Worst Hard Tiime, Timothy Egan.

“The high plains never fully recovered from the Dust Bowl. The land came through the 1930’s deeply scarred and forever changed. After more that sixty-five years, some of the land is still sterile and drifting. The Indians never returned, despite New Deal attempts to buy range land for natives. The Comanche live on a small reservation near Lawton, Oklahoma”

America’s Greatest Treasure U.S. News and World Report e

The hamburger’s origin is fraught with controversy as where exactly it evolved; some historians even  trace it back to Genghis Kahn’s Mongolian warriors  in the 13th century. Most offer more reasonable explanations that relates it to a seasoned ground beef dish popular in Hamburg, Germany in the early 1800’s. Americans like to attribute it to at least four credible creation ideas that involve Connecticut, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Texas. It’s prominence was associated early on to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. But after that, its history fades. In 1921, it makes its presence again with the advent the first burger chain, White Castle in Wichita, Kansas that drew many imitators in the fast food business.

Americans have always had a taste for a sandwich and for meat – this satisfied both of those. Since it came wrapped in a bun with lettuce, meat and tomatoes, it fit the definition of a “meal” and a convenient portable one at that. There are other advantages – it comes with many creative with culinary construction. These are often under the supervision of a chef or a short-order cook. In a book by food writer, John Edge.  Hamburgers & Fries he writes: 

“Finding the right diner, and a burger isn’t just a meal – it’s dinner and a show. Dressed up or down, or tarted up with foie gras or truffles, ‘what we are left with is an abiding respect for the basic burger’.

Post Prohibition

America’s drinking habits did change during the prohibition age of the 20’s but not deterred. Home drinking became more prevalent and more women participated in the habit than ever before. Bar tenders found a niche at the patron’s favorite speakeasies and were put on the same level as master chefs. While Rural America and the temperance movement applauded its inception cleaning up the nation’s crime and brothel-infested cities, in the cities even the cops had grown accustomed to ducking into some saloons after work and enforcement was spotty. By 1928, the NYPD had counted nearly 32,000 speak-easies. Liquor quality was stretched as owners stretched Canadian whiskey with water and food coloring and home brewers produced crude – and sometimes toxic – bathtub gin.

It is likely that Prohibition’s most lasting damage was damage to the cocktail culture was the closure of America’s premier hotel bars. Some bartenders had become famous by inventing new drinks with fresh ingredients and embarking on international tours to London or Capri. Those so inclined complain that bartenders still haven’t recovered their pre-20’s artistry.

All in all, the results of prohibition had not produced the desired cultural results as expected by society – actually it was a big mistake.

TIDBITS and TRIVIA

Vitamin D is isolated as calciferol and will soon be used to fortify butter, margarine, and other foods. There are few natural food sources for this fat-soluble vitamin. This saves a lot of children from the dreaded cod liver oil, a common source of vitamin D given by parents. 1930

Hostess Twinkies are introduced by Continental Baking. A St. Louis sign advertising “Twinkle Toes Shoes” inspired the bakery manager, James A. Dewar at Chicago to call the cakes Twinkies. 1930

New York’s first White Castle hamburger stand opens with virtually no competition since its inception in 1921. Some restaurants serve them and hamburger sandwiches are sold also at carnivals, fairs, and amusement parks. Housewives who want to serve them to their families order top round or some other cuts of beef and ask the butcher to grind it for them. 1930

Physical culturist Bernarr MacFadden serves 1 cent meals called Penny Restaurants at his New York and Boston restaurants. 1931

Kraft rolls out Kraft Dinner – a boxed meal that sells for 19 cents with an advertising slogan of “A Meal for Four in Nine Minutes.” At the end of the century, 1 million boxes a day of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese are sold in the U.S. 1937

The diet movement picked up a little in the 1930’s. In 1930, the Hollywood Diet (aka the Grapefruit Diet) is introduced. The diet involves eating 585 calories a day for 18 days, only dining on grapefruit, hard boiled eggs, green vegetables and melba toast. Diet guru Victor Lindlahr inspires thousands of radio listeners to tune in to his regular broadcast, “reducing party”. 1936

The shopping cart makes its debut. 1937

Some 150 of the city’s dogs, augmented by a pet racoon and a Brazilian marmoset, took their mistresses and a few masters to a cocktail party at Jack Dempsey’s restaurant yesterday. It was all for a good cause, this first canine cocktail party in New York, for the Bide-A-Wee Home for destitute dogs received and estimated $300 from the proceeds. Predominant among the guests were Scotties and wire-haired terriors. The guests were exceptionally well-behaved, tirelessly posing and refraining from biting even one of the numerous photographers who keptThey confind flash bulbs popping. They confined their refreshments to cocktails of warm beef broth and canapes of minced meat and cottage cheese, tastefully stuffed in egg whites.”150 Dogs are Hosts at Cocktail Party”. New York Times, November 18, 1937.

Vitamin Frenzy:  Nicotinic acid (niacin is found to prevent pellagra. Enriched bread contains thiamine, Vitamin E is synthesized and found to be an effective antioxidant, vitamin A was found to prevent night blindness. 1938 

People began drinking again after 1933 and by the end of Franklin Roosevelt’s first year in office, all alcohol was legal again. The wine industry had suffered, and many had gone out of business or had been closed for thirteen years. In 1933, there were about 130 wineries left in California and 150 in the country down from 1,000 pre-Prohibition. Equipment rusted and casks rotted. The wine produced in 1934 so was terrible that it was often still fermenting when first shipped; some blew up on store shelves. All this affected the reputation of the quality of wine and it took decades to recover from it. 1939

Bon Appetit!

 

The Roaring Twenties: 1920’s

The Roaring Twenties

“If alcohol was banned, what made the roaring twenties so “roaring?”

“The young flapper with bobbed hair, short skirts, a slim silhouette, and a cocktail in her hand (and maybe a cigarette) presents the image of the Roaring Twenties, familiar in movies and novels such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. But it’s not the boozy cocktails that made the 1920’s such a rip-roaring time.

The Woes of Prohibition

“The Twenties came in “roaring” after several decades of subdued “Victorian mores.  The music, dancing and the stock market appeared as if it was just waiting for its proper time. People had money and wanted to spend it on new electrical gadgets appearing in the marketplace such as toasters, refrigerators, and stoves that were in demand. Restaurants were eager to get their share by offering expensive rich cuisine. However, this party was short-lived.

Long term temperance movements fueled by religious fervor had been at play since the 1830’s to solve the real or perceived social problems that were occurring and keeping with its character, the Progressives wanted to solved these problems.  Out of control Immigrant drinkers from Ireland and Germany who habitually visited pubs, taverns, and beer halls had offended some “native” Americans who also supported the temperance movements.

In 1920, a federal law and constitutional amendment was enacted to stop the manufacture, importation, and sale of alcohol. This act simply drove alcohol consumption underground. Commercial distilleries ceased operations; but new categories erupted,  namely bootleggers and moonshiners.  These new distillers often produced products far more dangerous than the commercial alcoholic distilleries had produced.

When Prohibition went into effect in America on January 16, 1920, it did more than stop the legal sale of alcoholic beverages in our country. Soft drink production increased and the wine industry, unable to sell its wines legally, tried to turn its vineyards over to juice grapes which became unprofitable. Restaurants and hotels went out of business and with them went the remnants of fine dining. They were replaced by the growth of tearooms, cafeterias and illegal speakeasies. The wine industry took long to recover.

Source:  —Fashionable Foods: Seven Decades of Food Fads, Sylvia Lovgren [MacMillan:New York] 1995 (p. 29-30)

Speakeasies, Finger Foods, and Cocktails

One phenomenon that arose out of the Prohibition woes were called Speakeasies that sprang up everywhere in the cities. Many were drab saloons in basements or tenements and patrons slunk into these underground establishments by the millions to drink and to listen to the new music called jazz. “One exception was the 21 Club in New York City that featured two bars, a dance floor, dining rooms on two levels and underground passages leading to a secret wine cellar.”

The term speakeasy is thought to have come from the patrons having to whisper (or, speak “easy”) when attempting to enter the obscure and illegal bar.”

“To help drive up sales, some speakeasy bars began offering more than the popular cocktails of the day, e.g., the elegant martini.  Rather than heavy meals, their inebriated customers were given small bites to snack on while mingling in the illicit dens’ loud, crowded rooms.”

The origin of the cocktail began in the 1910’s but the custom has continued to this day. “The rise of these events led to an increasingly wide array of finger foods. Hosts paraded out such culinary delights as lobster canapes, caviar rolls, crabmeat and shrimp cocktails, oyster toast, jellied anchovy molds, deviled eggs and cheese balls.”

“By some accounts, the cocktail had even earlier beginnings. At an Elmsford, N.Y. tavern in 1777, barmaid Betsy Flanagan decorates the bar she tends at Halls Corner with discarded tail feathers from poultry that has been roasted and served to patrons. An inebriated patron demands that she brings him “a glass of those cocktails” and Flanagan serves him a mixed drink garnished with a feather.” Source: Chronology, p. 175.

French diplomat Paul Morande, visiting New York for the first time in 1925, reported his experience at a speakeasy: “…the food is almost always poor, the service deplorable.”—The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 307)

Source: Prohibition, Speakeasies and Finger Foods. Suzanne Evans, History, http://www.history.com/news/prohibition-speakeasies-and-finger-foods. A&E Television Networks, July 13, 2012

The New Kitchen

Look at your kitchen and pretend the refrigerator, the pop-up toaster or toaster oven, and the gas or electric range were not there – that was the kitchen of the cook’s life before the 1920’s. Thankfully, during this decade a plethora of appliances became widely more available and affordable to the average cook. Refrigerators with small freezer sections gradually replaced iceboxes. In 1920, only 10,000 refrigerators were sold; by 1929, annual sales had risen to 800,000. Companies furnished recipes to tell cooks how to use these appliances like frozen desserts as frozen foods were not yet commercially widely available.

At the same time, gas ranges began to replace wood-burning stove in most homes. Pop up toasters provided some entertainment value. These appliances helped women who had recently joined the workplace or remained after World War 1 a great deal of convenience in the kitchen. Clarence Birdseye soon followed with frozen vegetables. Bon Appetit, September, 1999. 

Calling Dr. Hay – Quack,  Quack?

Many people  (often doctors) believe in what legitimate nutritionists refer to what is called pseudoscience. An American physician, Dr. William Howard Hay wrote a book called Health via Food that claimed that the fermentation of undigested starch causes poisoning from within. (often referred to as autointoxication).  Dr. Hay who recommends taking an enema or strong catharic every day, agrees with Dr.John Harvey Kellogg  (refer to Dining Through the Decades, the 1900’s),that meat is not a desirable food and says,  “Ideal heath cannot be attained with any other line of foods than those outlined by God to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.”

Digestion of starch requires alkaline conditions all along the digestive tract” he writes, extrapolating from the fact that human saliva which contains a starch-digesting enzyme, amylase, is alkalilne. “Acid at any stage of starch digestion  will permanently arrest this” “Arresting digestion means the onset of fermentation with disease not far behind. ” Don’t eat starchy foods with anything else and you’ll have no need for medicine of any kind,” says Dr. Hay, and his injunction against mixing starch and protein at the same meal  and he warns at alkalines (meaning fruits and vegetables), should be consumed separately willl be proposed and promoted by other pseud-scientist for a number of years. Note: There is no research that supports this thinking that has  persisted for decades under the name of “food combining,”

Diners

In 1872, a street vendor named Walter Scott from Rhode Island converted a horse-drawn freight wagon into a self-contained food service venue. He parked his wagon outside business offices and offered simple hot meals, sandwiches, pie, and coffee.  By 1880, the street wagon had been banned so they were converted to larger wagons that offered sit-down service.  From the 1920’s to World War II, the industry grew at a tremendous pace. For some reason, one new trend in the 1920’s was to to design them in the form of animals as shown in the picture below.

The Greatest Thing – White Bread?

You’ve heard the expression, “it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread” which may be said, “the greatest thing, period”. Previously, an Iowa salesman named Otto Rohwedder had invented a machine that sliced loaves of bread, but bakers thought the bread would go stale and did not accept his idea. But in 1928, Frank Bench, a baker decided to give it a try and it suddenly became popular and women loved it. Sales at his bakery increased by 2000 percent in only a short time. Another invention by a St. Louis baker, Gustav Papendick created a machine that also wrapped the loaf to prevent it from drying out and the toaster became a perfect partner. Source: Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink

“Americans weren’t the first to buy into the idea that white bread was better. In Western civilization since the days of ancient Rome, people from all backgrounds associated soft white bread with upper-class eating habits. The whiter the bread, the better.” Source: The American Plate: a Culinary history in 100 bites, Libby H, O’Connell,  p. 153

Betty Crocker – The Ideal Woman?

In 1921, The Washburn Crosby Company that was to become the largest predecessor of General Mills Inc. ran a promotion for Gold Medal Flour for any consumers who could correctly complete a jigsaw puzzle of a milling scene. The name Betty Crocker was created to personalize customer responses. Crocker came from the recently retired director of the company, William G. Crocker and Betty was chosen because it seemed like a friendly sounding name. “Female employees were invited to submit sample Betty Crocker signatures; the one judged most popular is still used today.”

The company began to sponsor cooking schools in the country and hired a staff of 21 home economists to devise ways to demonstrate their flour. Later they established the Home Service Department and ultimately, the Betty Crocker Kitchens.

Betty Crocker found a voice when the Washburn Company presented a daytime cooking show called “Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air” on a local radio station. Due to its success and was later expanded to 13 stations and in 1927, the school became a program on the NBC network that continued for 24 years with more than one million listeners enrolled.

According to Fortune magazine in 1945, Betty was the second best-known woman in America, after First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Betty was also known as the First Lady of Food.

Betty became a TV personality in the early 1950’s and on one show viewers saw her teach George Burns and Gracie Allen how to bake a cake. Life was simple then. The name was coined in 1921, but the first portrait appeared in 1936. She was first depicted as a serious, unsmiling image, more of a housewife approach. She looked like someone’s grandmother or aunt until 1950 when she began to smile. It wasn’t until 1996 that she had the biggest smile. Over time she evolved from the housewife look and evolved to the look of a professional business woman who worked outside the home.

The Betty Crocker Red Spoon began appearing on packaging in 1954. It is the most recognizable symbol of Betty Crocker today. The logo appears on 200 Crocker products and appear on her famous 250 cookbooks, including the popular 11th Edition of Betty Crocker Cookbook.

Source: http://www.bettycrocker.com

Home cooking & family entertaining

In 1929, life was looking good. We had electricity, refrigerators, sliced bread.  Convenience had arrived with canned foods and frozen foods were beginning to hit the market.

All these could now be purchased in new one-stop supermarkets. The Alpha Beta had everything in alphabetical order making everything easy to find.  The A&P (the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company) was doing about $1 billion a year in business. The USDA was finally inspecting meat and there was one car for every five people. Anyone who really wanted a drink could get one. Prohibition did not completely end until 1933, but it was realized that the “great experiment was not so great and was a big mistake. America was in a party mood, but it didn’t last long. In October 1929, the stock market crashed leading to another decade of another kind of misery – The Great Depression. The decade’s giddiness from unprecedented wealth — and a surfeit of Martinis, no doubt — came to a gut-crushing halt on October 29, 1929, when the Dow Jones plummeted a then staggering 30.57 points.

TIDBITS and TRIVIA

As a result of the immigration movement in the early years, San Francisco followed the ethnic movement by opening a restaurant called Far East Cafe, serving wonton soup (dumplings in chicken broth with shrimp, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots) and other Cantonese American dishes.  1920

“Americans heard their first radio broadcast. In 1926, the first advertising jingle was broadcast for a now familiar breakfast cereal, called Wheaties. All this in the midst of the passing of two important Constitutional Amendments – alcohol prohibition and granting the right to vote for women.” Source: Linda Civitello, Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People, 2nd Edition, p. 302 1920

Heart disease becomes the leading cause of death in American after 10 years of jockeying with the lead with tuberculosis. Coronary disease accounts for 14% of U.S. deaths, and the figure will increase to 39% in the next 50 years. 1921

Several states legislate sanitary dairy practices like pasteurization in order to deal with U.S.  milk that often reaches consumers with a high bacterium count. Contaminated raw milk transmits undulant fever, infectious hepatitis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis and other diseases. 1921

The Popsicle has its beginnings in New Jersey, lemonade-mix salesman Frank Epperson is demonstrating his product. He accidently leaves a glass of lemonade on a windowsill overnight, wakes in the morning to find it frozen around a spoon in the glass, and applies for patent on his “Epsicle.” He then sells the patent to Joe Lowe, who will then market it under the name Popsicle. 1924

U.S. refrigerator sales reach 75,000, up from 10,000 in 1920, as prices come down and consumer incomes rise. 1925

“Mrs. [Esther Ford] Wait is a prohibitionist–that is, she believes in prohibition if it can be enforced. ‘But as it can’t,’ she said, ‘I have nothing against a drink or two at bridge parties or serving cocktails to my friends when they come to dine. Justice Ford…cited his daughter as an example of a nice, young modern girl who goes to cocktail parties…’Cocktail drinking and cigarette smoking by women are questions of manners, not morality.'”1925
—“Boys Need Chaperones Most, Says Mrs. Wait,” Washington Post, June 16, 1925 (p. 9)

California entrepreneur Julius Freed opens a fresh orange juice stand in downtown Los Angeles with sales of about $20 a day.  His real estate broker, Bill Hamlin who found Fred his location, used his chemistry background to formulate an orange drink with a smooth, frothy texture. Patrons liked it and always said: “Give me an orange, Julius” and Freed’s sales leap to $100 a day. Hamlin quits the real estate business to develop the Orange Julius business and by 1929 had 100 Orange Julius stands nationwide, selling nothing bu the 10 cent drink and grossing nearly 3 million dollars. 1926

“I say it’s spinach and I say the hell with it,” reads E.B. White’s caption to Carl Rose’s New Yorker magazine cartoon December 8 showing a child refusing to eat broccoli. The vegetable has only recently been introduced into the United States from Italy by D’Arrigo Brothers, an enterprising grower in northern California’s Santa Clara Valley. 1928

Seventy-one percent of U.S. families have incomes below $2800, which is generally considered the minimum necessary for a decent standard of living. The average weekly wage is $28, and the nation’s economy worsens after Wall Street’s Dow Jones Industrial Average plummets in October. 1929

Bon Appetit!

 

FAD DIETS: A TIMELINE

Fad diets have in the distant past have embraced some of the most bizarre activitir with most built on gimmicks. Included in an entertaining book titled Calories & Corsets, our ancestors relied on recommendations that included “suspending themselves in weighing chairs or lukewarm baths, drinking vinegar and eating carbolic soup in the hopes of shedding unwanted pounds.”

A rice diet was designed in the 1940s to lower blood pressure; now it has resurfaced as a Weight Loss Diet. The first phase consists of eating only rice and fruit until you can’t stand them any longer. Another novelty diet is the egg diet, on which you eat all the eggs you want. On the Beverly Hills diet, you eat mostly fruit.

The most bizarre of the novelty diets proposes that food gets stuck in your body. A common supposition from the 1800’s is that food gets stuck in the intestine, putrefies, and creates toxins, which invade the blood and cause disease. This leads to the headlines proclaiming the latest detox formula of strange concoctions of foods that if consumed promise to “cleanse” the blood.  This is utter nonsense.

How to recognize a fad diet.

  • They promote quick weight loss. This primarily results from glycogen, sodium, and lean muscle mass depletion. All lead to a loss of body water.
  • They limit food selection and dictate specific rituals, such as eating only fruit for breakfast or cabbage soup every day.
  • They use testimonials from famous people and bill themselves as cure-alls. They often recommend expensive supplements.
  • Probably the cruelest characteristic of fad diets is that they essentially guarantee failure for the dieter since these diets are not designed for permanent weight loss. Habits are not changed, and the food selection is so limited that the person cannot follow the diet in the long run.
  • The dieter appears to have failed, when actually the diet has failed. This whole scenario can add more blame and guilt, challenging the self-worth of the dieter.  If someone needs help losing weight, professional help is advised.
  • It should be noted that some “fad” diets can work for weight loss due to their highly restrictive nature but should not be considered a healthy diet since their long term effects are not usually known.  A good example is the current ketogenic (keto) diet.

FAD DIET TIMELINE

Slimming down through the ages through fad diets has been around for centuries from President Taft to Victoria Beckham. Here’s a look at some of the most famous and infamous moments in diet fad history.

1820 Lord Byron brings people the once popular vinegar and water diet which entails drinking water mixed with apple cider vinegar.

1903 President William Howard Taft pledges to slim down after getting allegedly getting stuck in the White House bathtub.

1925 Lucky Strike cigarette brand launches the “reach for a Lucky” instead of a sweet” campaign capitalizing on its nicotine content.

1930s The Grapefruit Diet also known as the Hollywood diet is born. The popular plan calls for eating grapefruit with every meal. Grapefruit is claimed to have fat burning capabilities.

1950s the Cabbage Soup Diet promises you can lose 10 to 15 pounds a week by eating a limited diet including cabbage soup every day.

Mid-1950 Urban legend has it that opera singer Maria Callas dropped 65 pounds on the Tapeworm Diet by swallowing a the tapeworm parasite in a pill.

1963 Weight Watchers is founded by Jean Nidetch “a self-described overweight housewife obsessed with cookies.”

1969 Jazzercise founded by professional dancer Judi Sheppard Missett, is a combination of aerobics exercise and dance.

1970 Sleeping Beauty Diet which involves drug sedation is rumored to have been tried by Elvis Presley.

1975 A Florida doctor. creates the Cookie Diet, a plan where you eat cookies made with a blend of amino acids Hollywood eats it up.

1977 A Slim Fast shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, then a sensible dinner becomes a diet staple.

1978 Dr. Herman Tarnower, a cardiologist publishes the Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet. Two years later he is shot by his girlfriend, a headmistress of a girl’s school, Jean Harris. (not related to a diet).

1979 Dexatrim, a pill  containing phenylpropanolamine (PPA), appears on drugstore shelves. It’s formula changes after PPA is linked to an increased risk of stroke in 2000.

1980s A popular appetite suppressant candy called Ayds is taken off the market after the AIDS crisis hits.

1982 The aerobics craze sweeps into high gear when Jane Fonda launches her first exercise video work- out starring herself.  Her catchphrase “no pain no gain.”

1985 Harvey and Marilyn Diamond publish Fit for Life, which prohibits complex carbs and proteins from being eaten during the same meal.

1987 in her memoir/self-help book Elizabeth Takes Off, actress Elizabeth Taylor advises dieters to eat veggies and dip each day at 3 PM.

1988 Wearing a pair of size 10 Calvin Klein jeans, Oprah walks onto the stage pulling a wagon full of fat to represent the 67 pounds she lost on a liquid diet.

1991 Americans are still obsessed with  low fat food like McDonald’s Mclean Deluxe burger. The recipe called for seaweed extract called carrageenan. Beef made up only 90 percent of the patty, and water and carrageenan made up the remaining 10 percent.  Despite the addition of “natural” beef flavor additives, the result was a dry failure of a burger that was later called “the McFlopper”. Johnnie Carson made many jokes about it.

1994 The guide to nutrition labeling and education act requires food companies to include nutritional info on nearly all packing packaging.

1995 The Zone Diet called for a specific ratio of carbs, fat and protein in each meal and begins to attract celeb fans.

1996  Could your blood type determine how much weight you could lose? That’s the idea behind the Blood Type Diet, created by naturopath Peter J. D’Adamo.  He claims that the foods you eat react chemically with your blood type. If you follow a properly designed diet for your type,  your body will digest food more efficiently and you will lose weight and be healthier.

1997 Robert C. Atkins, MD publishes Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution, A high protein low carb plan. A previous book was published as Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution in 1972. It took the diet world by storm, since its primary goal was to eat fat, not avoid it. Fat-starved people loved it.

2000 Gwyneth Paltrow lends her support for the macrobiotic diet, a very restrictive Japanese plan based on whole grains and veggies.

2001 Renee Zellweger packs on nearly 30 pounds to play Bridget Jones.

2003 Miami Dr. Arthur Agatston adds fuel to the low carb craze by publishing the South Beach diet, seen as a more moderate version of Atkins.

Early 2000 The FDA bans the sale of diet drugs containing ephedrine after it’s linked to heart attacks.

Late 2000 The Biggest Loser makes its debut on TV, turning weight loss into a reality show. All but one contestant regained all their weight loss back after the show ended.

2006 Beyoncé admits to using the Master Cleanse, a concoction of hot water lemon juice maple syrup and Cayenne pepper to shed 20 pounds for “Dream Girls.”

2007 Alli hits the market. The non-prescription drug is taken with meals to keep your body from absorbing some of the fat a you eat. The drug was not popular due to unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects.

2010 Jennifer Hudson loses a jaw-dropping 80 pounds on Weight Watchers.

2011 The hCG diet combines a fertility drug with a strict 500 to 800 calorie a day regimen that invites interest and criticism. The FDA has called this diet dangerous, illegal and fraudulent.

2012 Jessica Simpson loses 60 pounds of baby weight on Weight Watchers.

NOTE: In our current virus centered world, hope these fad diets bring a few smiles to your face.

Nutrition Timeline: How the U.S. Diet Evolved

Nutrition Timeline:

Obviously, a lot has happened in nutrition since the first Thanksgiving in America. Many scientific discoveries have given us a better idea how foods can contribute to health and disease. At first, little was known about nutrition science and there is still a lot to know. Knowing our progression helps us to know how we got from there to here.  The bottom Line: After all the science, we often still ponder on “what’s for dinner?”and “how do we lose weight”?

Note: Those events in Bold type tell the story of how our current food patterns evolved and have affected our present health status.

1621 First Thanksgiving Feast at Plymouth Colony

1702 First coffeehouse in America opens in Philadelphia

1734 Scurvy recognized

1744 First record of ice cream in America

Lind publishes “Treatise on Scurvy”and citrus is identified as cure.

Sandwich invented by the Earl of Sandwich

Potato heralded as famine food

Americans drink more coffee in protest over Britain’s tea tax

1775 Lavoisier (“the father of nutrition science) discovers the energy property of food (calories)

1816 Protein and amino acids identified followed by carbohydrates and fats

1833 Beaumont’s experiment on a wounded man’s stomach greatly expand knowledge about digestion

1862 U.S. Department of Agriculture founded by authorization of President Lincoln

1871 Proteins, carbohydrates, and fats determined to be insufficient alone to support life, there are other “essential” compounds in foods

First milk station providing children with un-contaminated milk opens in New York City

Pure Food and Drug Act passed by President Theodore Roosevelt to protect consumers against contaminated foods

Pasteurized milk introduced

Funk suggests scurvy, beriberi, and pellagra caused by deficiency of “vitamines” in the diet

1913 First vitamin discovered (vitamin A)

1914 Goldberger identifies the cause of pellagra (niacin deficiency) in poor children to be a missing component of the diet rather than a germ as others believed

1916 First dietary guidance material produced for the public released: Title is Food for Young Children

1917 First food groups published for the Five Food Groups: Milk and Meat, Vegetables and Fruits, Cereals, Fats and Fat Foods, Sugars and Sugary Foods. (Imagine: Sugar is a food group).

1921 First fortified food produced: iodized salt needed to prevent widespread iodine deficiency goiter in many parts of the U.S.

1929 Essential fatty acids identified

1930’s Vitamin C identified in 1932, followed by pantothenic acid and riboflavin in 1933 and vitamin K in 1934

1937 Pellagra found to be due to the deficiency of niacin.

1938 Health Canada issues nutrient intake standards

1941 First refined grain enrichment standards developed (Niacin, riboflavin,  and iron added)

First Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) announced by President Franklin Roosevelt on the radio

1946 National School Lunch Act passed

1947 Vitamin B12 identified

1953 Double helix structure of DNA discovered

1956 Basic Four Food Groups released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture

1958 The Seven Countries Study was conceived by Ancel Keys, a Minnesota physiologist, who brought together researchers from all over the world. It became a collective effort to study questions about heart and vascular diseases among countries having varied traditional eating patterns and lifestyles. This alone changed the U.S. food supply dramatically to emphasize low fat diets high carbohydrate foods that continued to dominate until around 1983.

1965 Food Stamp Act passed. Food Stamp program established

1966 Child Nutrition Act adds school breakfast to the National School Lunch Program

1968 First National nutrition survey in U.S. launched. (The Ten State Nutrition Survey)

1970 First Canadian national nutrition survey launched (Nutrition Canada National Survey)

1972 The “Atkins Diet” by Dr. Robert Atkins started as a fad, but quickly became a counter-conventional movement that reset people’s thinking of nutrition and weight loss, and its link to health. It promoted a low carbohydrate, high fat diet to replace and challenge  the current conventional thinking that a low fat, high carbohydrate diet promoted by Keys was heart healthy.

1977 Dietary Goals for the U.S. issued  

1978 First Health Objectives for the Nation released

1989 First national scientific consensus report on diet and chronic disease published

1992 The Food Guide Pyramid is released by the USDA that contained a food group recommending 6-11 servings a day from the Bread, Cereal, Rice, Pasta Group (High carbohydrate foods).

1994 The nutritional food label was put into effect by the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act.

1997 RDAs expanded to Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI’s)

1998 Folic acid fortification of refined grain products begins

2003 Sequencing of DNA in the human genome completed; marks beginning of new era of research in nutrient-gene interactions

2015 – 2020 The current  U.S.Dietary Guidelines include the following:

  • Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. Eating patterns are the combination of foods and drinks that a person eats over time.
  • Focus on variety, nutrient-dense foods, and amount.
  • Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats, and reduce sodium intake.
  • Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.
  • Support healthy eating patterns for all.

2020  Obesity and diabetes have become global epidemics/pandemics with the highest rates in the U.S. The custom is for them to be revised every five years.  The latest U.S. Dietary Guidelines are due to be published sometime in 2020 or early 2021.

 

 

 

 

Dining Through the Decades: 1910’s

This is the second post of the ongoing Food History Dining Through the Decades series.  I hope to make them as factual as possible; sources are given when available.  Food is a fascinating topic when we can appreciate what came before us in many ways that sometimes reflects the origins of our food supply that exist currently. Enjoy!!

During  this decade, the world saw the beginnings of scientific discoveries that  evolved primarily due to dietary deficiencies that could be  cured by the consumption of unknown vitamins and minerals.

The 1910s also saw the beginning of the proliferation of processed foods. In just 10 years, Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Oreo cookies, Crisco, Quaker Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice, Marshmallow Fluff Nathan’s hot dogs and Kellogg’s and C.W. Post made an entry into the food culture.

A death knell sounded in January 1919, when the Eighteenth Amendment — otherwise known as Prohibition — was ratified and scheduled to go into effect on January 16, 1920.

Pellagra: A Story from Medical History

In the early 1900’s, mental hospitals in the Southeastern U.S. treated many patients with dementia caused by a disease named pellagra. At that time, it was thought that an infectious agent or toxin caused the disease. Symptoms of a deficiency included skin rash, weakness, and mouth sores. When not treated, pellagra can lead to what is called the 4 D’s: depression, dementia, dermatitis, and death.

The disease was first noticed in Europe around 1720 and coincidentally during that time, corn or maize was beginning to be imported from the Americas to Europe where it was grown in many areas. Some physicians from Spain noticed that the disease may be associated with corn-based diets; others stuck to to the toxin theory and spent many years searching for its origin with no success.

A major epidemic occurred in the early decades of the 1900’s in the Southeast U.S. that prompted the government to begin a series of pellagra studies. By 1928, the epidemic peaked with the number of cases reaching 7,000 deaths. One of the investigators was Dr. Joseph Goldberger who believed that diet played a role.

To show that the disease was not caused by a toxin, Goldberger and 15 others including his wife, voluntarily drank or injected themselves with blood, urine, feces and skin cells from pellagra patients and no illness occurred. They later put these materials in capsules.

It was observed that the disease struck people who ate diets were mainly of corn meal, salt pork, lard and molasses. When given meat, eggs and milk, the disease rates became less prevalent.  Goldberger did just that in an experiment with volunteer prisoners. When most of the prisoners suffered from pellagra on the deficient diet, Goldberger concluded that the diet was the culprit and could be cured by what he called a “P-P factor.” More than 30 years later, an American biochemist, Conrad Elvehjem finally proved that the P-P factor was nicotinic acid, commonly known as the B vitamin,  niacin.

The B vitamins consist of eight distinct vitamins that help cells function optimally. Many Americans, especially the elderly, don’t meet the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for three of them: B6, B12, and folic acid. Years ago, these deficiencies were a common cause of death.

Have you ever wondered why they add B vitamins (niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine) to flour, refined bread and pastas? Not until 1936, did the Council on Foods and Nutrition of the American Medical Association recommended the fortification of food. This led to the voluntary enrichment of flour with the B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin) and iron. This resulted in a decrease in deaths from pellagra of over 3,000 in 1938 to only about 1500 in 1943. Then mandatory enrichment in most states further decreased the death rate to nearly zero by1954.

How quickly we forget how severe a nutritional deficiency disease can become. Other deficiency diseases from B vitamins alone in the early days of refining flour included beriberi from a thiamine deficit and ariboflavinosis from a lack of riboflavin. Thanks to early nutrition research, we now are free at least in developed countries of these highly preventable deficiency diseases.

Source: Smolin and Grosvenor, Nutrition: Science and Applications, Third Edition. Pellagra: Infectious Disease or Dietary Deficiency? p 339.

Park, Y.K., Sampos, C. T., Barton, C.N. et al. Effectiveness of food fortification in the United States. The case of pellagra. Am. J. Public Health 90:727-738, 2000.

Food on The Titanic – The Last Dinner

The ship boasted elegant cafes and opulent dining saloons equal to the finest restaurants in the civilized world. “Its main galley prepared more than 6,000 meals a day.  Its other galleys included a butcher shop; a bakery; vegetable kitchens; specialized rooms for silver and china; rooms for wines, beer and oysters; and huge storage bins for the tons of coal needed to fuel the 19 ovens, cooking tops, ranges and roasters.

First class and second-class passengers were served delicious delicacies in up to 13 courses with different wines that could last four or five hours. The third-class meals featured items such as hearty stews, vegetable soup, roast pork with sage and onions, boiled potatoes, currant buns, biscuits and freshly baked bread with plum pudding and oranges which may also have been appealing, especially for those who worked as employees and staff.”

On April 10, 1912, RMS Titanic set sail from Southampton, England, on its maiden voyage, headed for New York City. Four days into the journey, at about 11:40 p.m. on April 14, Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic. The force of the impact ruptured the hull, filling the ship’s interior with some 39,000 tons of icy seawater before it plunged under the surface. The ship sank in less than three hours at 2:20 a.m., April 15th. The Carpathia picked up the last of the 711 survivors by 8:00 p.m.; 1490 people died. “All the kitchen staff died except for a 17-year-old cook. He was helping a woman carry a child and was swept overboard when the ship went under. Later, he was picked up by a lifeboat.” (

So what did Titanic’s passengers eat hours before their “unsinkable” ship met its tragic end? From a recovered evening menu for the first-class passenger dated April 14, 1912:

Raw Oysters and assorted hors d’oeuvres

Consommé Olga (veal stock soup flavored with sturgeon marrow) or Cream of Barley soup

Poached Atlantic Salmon with Mousseline Sauce

A choice of:

Filet Mignon Lili or Saute of Chicken Lyonnaise

A choice of:

Lamb with Mint Sauce or Roast Duckling with Applesauce or Sirloin of Beef with Chateau Potatoes

A choice of:

Roast Duckling with Applesauce or Sirloin of Beef with Chateau Potatoes.

Side dishes included creamed carrots, boiled rice and green peas, and boiled new potatoes.

Midway through this epic meal, a palate cleanser known as “punch romaine” was served, made with wine, rum and champagne.

The sumptuous array then resumed with roast squab with cress, cold asparagus vinaigrette and pâté de foie gras.

Dessert choices included peaches in chartreuse jelly, chocolate and vanilla éclairs, Waldorf pudding and French ice cream. Next, an assortment of fruits, nuts and cheeses was presented, followed by coffee, port, cigars and cordials.

The first-class passengers, then congregated in the smoking room or in the elegant, horseshoe-shaped reception room, where the ship’s orchestra played a selection of light classical and popular music until 11 p.m. According to accounts – on the night of the tragedy, the band played on until the survivors had embarked on life boats.

Source:    Suzanne Evans – History Channel

Source:  Linda Civetllo Cuisine and Culture, 2nd Edition, p 291

World War 1, Rationing and Liberty Dogs

World War I had an interesting effect on American food. The United States joined World War 1 in 1917. The war wasn’t popular (what war is) and was a problem for immigrants. The war was complicated. According to food historian, Linda Civitello, “The Irish hated the British and the Jews objected to Russia, both allies of America. America had a large population of German-speaking citizens and those of German descent and Germany was the enemy, so Americans turned against hot dogs and sauerkraut but they would eat “Liberty hotdogs,” and Liberty cabbage. They bought Liberty bonds, and Liberty gardens. Italian immigrants were not favored either until Italy switched sides midway during the war. Then, Italian food became a popular food of an ally.”

Source: Linda Civitello, Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People, Second Edition, p. 293.

President Herbert Hoover encouraged voluntary cuts on beef and wheat needed by the U.S. and allied troops in Europe. Initially, there was no organized rationing at first, except for wholesale purchases of sugar. Rationing started in January 1918 and affected sugar, meat and butter.

Vegetable gardens encouraged home canning and drying, home baking; cooks used molasses instead of sugar. A new product called Crisco became a substitute for lard and peanut butter was used as a protein substitute for meat.

American began to learn about calories, proteins, carbohydrates and the importance of using fruits and vegetables. They were persuaded to eat less if it did not harm their health. Perhaps that is a lesson we should learn today.

Americans got their first taste of meatless meals and got used to bean loaf instead of meat loaf. Meatless days became the norm but as expected, this sometimes led to inflation, panic, hoarding and black-market sales.

“On November 11, 1918, World War I ended in an armistice. “Hunger does not breed reform; it breeds madness,” said President Wilson in his Armistice Day address to Congress. All food regulations were suspended in the United States but remained in effect in Britain and Europe for several months thereafter.”

Source: The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. Oxford University Press, Edited by Andrew F. Smith. 2007.

The Supermarket

Self-serve supermarkets were introduced in 1912 in California. Instead of having to give a list to a grocery clerk who then proceeded to gather the items from the back of the store, customers could shop the aisles themselves. Stores such as A&P had a thousand items (now we have at least 30,000). The Alpha Beta Food Market and Ward’s Groceteria were soon followed by Mercantile’s Humpty Dumpty Stores. The A&P had at its base 500 stores and will open a new store every 3 days for the next 3 years as it stops providing charge accounts and free delivery and bases its growth on one-man “economy” stores that operate on a cash-and -carry basis.

Produce ads in the 1910s highlighted point of origin (California figs, Florida oranges, Jersey tomatoes, Baltimore beans, Maine Sugar Corn, Ceylon Tea). Today we hardly know where they come from. The processed food industry continued to greatly expand with Hellman’s mayonnaise, Oreo cookies, Crisco, Quaker Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice, Marshmallow Fluff and Nathan’s hot dogs.

Source: The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, Oxford University Press. Edited by Andrew Smith, 2007.

Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America, Michael Ruhlman, Abrams Press, 2017

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

 

Expanding Waistlines/The First Diet Book

In spite of food rationing later in the decade, a new trend was beginning – expanded waistlines. Over-indulgence that began in the first part of the decade continued with the upper-class menus still abundant in meats, shellfish, pȃte and mousses. It was readily accepted that plumpness was chic before World War I. Even the president of that time, William H. Taft was a hefty 300 pounds. There was no doubt that his favorite meal, Lobster Newburg contributed to his waistline.

Needless to say, the first diet book was published in 1918, written by Dr. Lulu Hunt Peters entitled Diet and Health with a Key to the Calorie. Dr. Peters recommended that we all should count calories our entire life. Coincidentally, the Continental Scale Company produces the first bathroom scale name the “Health-O-Meter” in 1919. 

 

Mr. Peanut

George Washington Carver, born a slave right before the start of the Civil War was an American agricultural scientist and inventor. He actively promoted alternative crops to cotton and methods to prevent soil depletion. He was the most prominent black scientist of the early 20th century.

While a professor at Tuskegee Institute in 1915, Carver developed techniques to improve soils depleted by repeated plantings of cotton. He wanted poor farmers to grow alternative crops such as as a source of their own food and to improve their quality of life. The most popular of his 44 practical bulletins for farmers contained 105 food recipes using peanuts. Although he spent years developing and promoting numerous products made from peanuts, none became commercially successful. He received numerous honors for his work, including the Spingarn Medal of the NAACP. In an era of high racial polarization, his fame reached beyond the black community. He was widely recognized and praised in the white community for his many achievements and talents. In 1941, Time magazine dubbed Carver a “Black Leonardo”. Wikipedia.

Tidbits and Trivia Timeline

Mazola salad and cooking oil – the first corn oil available for home consumption-is introduced by the Corn Products Refining Co. This will open the door for the many vegetable oils we have today that dominate the market with promises of health benefits, i.e. reduced heart disease rates. 1911

Crisco introduced by Proctor and Gamble is the first solid hydrogenated shortening. The marketing described their product as a “Scientific Discovery Which Will Affect Every Kitchen in America.” What was not known was that this process could have far-reaching  anti-health effects that could affect every American’s health. 1911

Large-scale pasta production begins in the United States by an Italian-American pasta maker, Vincent La Rosa in Brooklyn, NY. Until then most pasta had been imported from Naples but ceased with the onset of World War I. 1914

70% of Americans are using lard for cooking and baking. Butter consumption is still high; and the mortality rate from heart disease is below 10%. 1914

The first electric refrigeration is introduced for commercial use, but it wasn’t until after World War I that they became more available for home use. Lettuce, asparagus, watermelons, cantaloupes, and tomatoes grown in California’s irrigated fields are transported 3,000 miles away in refrigerated rail cars bringing a lot more variety to the consumer. 1914 

Large-scale pasta production begins in the United States by an Italian-American pasta maker, Vincent La Rosa in Brooklyn, NY. Until then most pasta had been imported from Naples but ceased with the onset of World War I. 1914

U.S. per capita consumption of white granulated sugar reaches a level twice what it was in 1880 as Americans give up molasses and brown sugar in favor of white sugar. 1915

A mechanical home refrigerator is marketed for the first time in the U.S., but its $900 price tag discourages buyers, who can buy a good motorcar for the same money. 1916

Yale biochemists Lafayette Benedict Mendel and B. Cohen show that guinea pigs cannot develop vitamin C and fall prey to scurvy even more easily than do humans. 1918

U.S. ice cream sales reach 150 million gallons, up from 30 million in 1909.  1919

E.V. McCollum discovers a substance in cod-liver oil at Johns Hopkins that can cure rickets and xerophthalmia. Xerophthalmia is an abnormal dryness  of the eye membranes and cornea that can lead to blindness. The substance will later be called vitamin D. 1920

Bon Appetit!

 

Dining Through the Decades: 1900’s

Dining Through the Decades: 1900’s

No matter who we are or where we live, our lives revolve around food – a major part of our culture and traditions. This post is the first of a series that attempts to  briefly describe some of the major food-related events that occurred during each decade of 20th century America.

Just a sampling of some of the questions raised in future posts:

  • What was the first fast food restaurant?
  • What was  the first supermarket like?
  • Why is it  called a Caesar  Salad?
  • What was a victory garden?
  • Where was the first pizzaria?
  • How did the 1950’s change our food culture?

Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

How Cereal Changed the American Breakfast

John Harvey Kellogg was born in 1852 in Tyrone, Michigan and died at the age of 91 in Battle Creek, Michigan He graduated from New York University Medical College at Bellevue Hospital in 1875. He had one brother, Will Keith Kellogg.

He eventually became the director of the  Battle Creek Sanitarium, aka “the San” and its health principles were based on the Seventh Adventist Church including vegetarianism. Through the years, the San had many notable patients/guests that included former President, William Howard Taft, arctic explorers Stefansson and Amundsen, writer and broadcaster, Lowell Thomas, aviator Amelia Earhart, playwright George Bernard Shaw, athlete Johnny Weissmuller, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and actress Sarah Bernhardt.

Where Did Corn Flakes Come From?

While a medical student, Kellogg began to be aware of the need for ready-to-eat cereals. As part of the “Sans” menu, Kellogg and brother Will made several grain products by forcing wheat grain through rollers to make sheets of dough. One time, the dough seemed overcooked and the dough when flattened emerged as a flake.

Patients at the “San” loved the new cereal flakes, which Dr. Kellogg called Granose (a combination of “grain” and the scientific suffix “ose,”or metabolism). Will Kellogg, meanwhile, saw the opportunity to market the flakes to ordinary people looking for a light, healthy breakfast.

After years of growing conflicts with his brother—Will bought the rights to the flake cereal recipe and struck out on his own, founding the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company in 1906. Adding malt, sugar and salt to the dough, he began manufacturing Kellogg’s Corn Flakes in mass quantities. The rooster mascot on Kellogg’s cereal boxes is used because Will liked that the Welsh word for “rooster” (ceiliog) that sounded like his last name, Kellogg.

By 1909 Will’s company was churning out 120,000 cases of Corn Flakes a day. John Kellogg, who resented his brother’s success, later fought him for the right to use the family name. The resulting legal battle ended in 1920, when the Michigan State Supreme Court ruled in Will’s favor, due to his success at popularizing his now-ubiquitous product.

How cereal changed breakfast forever

By the time Will Kellogg entered the market, others had already begun to capitalize on the general public’s appetite for cereal. Among the most successful was C. W. Post, a one-time patient at the Battle Creek Sanitarium who adapted Kellogg’s cereal recipe into his own mass-produced version, Grape-Nuts, to tremendous success. A cut-throat competitor to Kellogg, Post even bought exclusive rights to manufacture the cereal-rolling machine needed in the cereal production process—equipment that Will Kellogg originally helped design.

The completion of the transcontinental railroad in the late 19th century created a mass market for Kellogg, Post and other newly recognizable packaged-food brands to ply their wares. Despite the sometimes outrageous claims made in their advertising (Post, for instance, claimed that Grape-Nuts cured everything from rickets to malaria), the growing variety of brand-name companies promised a certain level of quality and uniformity, especially as Americans began to consume processed foods in mass quantities for the first time.

With their irresistible combination of health claims and convenience, combined with the unique circumstances of the historical moment in which they emerged, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and other cereals would have a revolutionary impact on the American breakfast. “It was so easy compared to any other kind of breakfast,” you open a box, dump it in a bowl, pour some milk on it. You really can’t get much easier than that in the morning.” manufacturers said. Just look at the cereal aisle in the supermarket.

Diamond Jim Brady and Lillian Russell

Before our more recent obesity epidemic occurred, weight gain did not seem to be on the minds of most people in 1900. Actually, increased body weight was associated with success, i.e., the plumper, the richer and more successful you were. In the 1900’s prosperity and wealth was envied, and America had an appetite for everything including food.

The phrase “Gilded Age” appears in the later 19th century and is often accompanied by pictures of obese men with bulging stomach over evening clothes draped with gold chains. Of them all, none was more flamboyant than the grand gourmand of his era, Diamond Jim Brady.  Diamond’s feeding bouts are the topic of legend, especially when he dined with his platonic friend, the incomparable American beauty and popular stage actress, Lillian Russell.

“Diamond Jim Brady”s  breakfast was eggs, breads, muffins, grits, pancakes, steaks, chops, fried potatoes, and a pitcher of orange juice.  For a snack midmorning, he ate two or three dozen oysters. His lunch (usually at New York’s Delmonicos was more oysters, clams, lobsters, a joint of meat, pie and more orange juice. Dinner was the main event with more oysters (three dozen), six or seven lobsters, terrapin soup, a steak, coffee, a tray of pastries, and two pounds of candy. Russell could and sometimes match him dish for dish, after shedding her corset . (The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink)

“The couple was not alone in their conspicuous display of caloric consumption. The New York Riding Club hosted a “horse dinner” in the fourth-floor ballroom of Louis Sherry’s restaurant. Horses were brought to the room in freight elevators, hitched to a large dining table, and fed oats while their riders ate fourteen-course dinners and sipped champagne out of bottles stashed in the saddle bags.”  The Century in Food: America’s Fads and Favorites, 2002, Beverly Bundy, pg 6.

Mr. Diamond died at age fifty-six, his stomach was said to be six times larger than the average man’s. Fittingly, he left the bulk of his estate to Johns Hopkins University.” Ms. Russell weighed 200 lbs. and died at age 61. By the way, it is said that she also smoked 500 cigars a month.

The Jungle

Upton Sinclair noticed all was not well with the meatpacking industry. He spent seven weeks in the largest meat center in Chicago listening to stories of the workers, touring several plants and seeing for himself what went on to describe what horrors went on behind closed doors.  He published his accounts in his famous book, The Jungle in 1906. Although his intent was to give a fictionalized account of a Lithuanian immigrant’s struggles for years to survive in this industry, it was his descriptions of meat that concerned most Americans. They were shocked to learn the details of how cattle and hogs were being sliced into beef and pork and by how much condemned meat was entering our food supply by describing meat filled storage rooms teeming with rats.

Condemned meat was doused with Borax and glycerin, recolored with other chemicals and sold. As for the workers., beef – boners suffered knife wounds, pluckers had to handle acid treated wool and had their fingers slowly burned off. Men would sometimes fall into vats of lard and “they will be overlooked for days until all but the bones of them had gone out as the product called Durham’s Pure Leaf Lard.” wrote Sinclair.

Four months after the jungle was published, Congress passed the Meat Inspection Act, establishing sanitary standards and the Pure Food and Drug Act, which required labeling of food and empowered federal inspectors to prosecute plant owners.  There the laws were not often enforced but were the beginning of a safer meat industry. However, there is still much work to be done to guarantee the safety of our food supply.

The Candy Man

Of course, we all love chocolate but the man behind it was Milton Hershey.  He observed the mass production of solid chocolate at the 1893 Worlds’ Colombian Exposition, and by 1902, the Hershey Chocolate Company was born. This brought to the general public a once-luxurious product only available to the wealthy classes.

Milton Hershey bought property in Pennsylvania and by 1904, chocolate production was in full force. His signature nickel chocolatle bar in spite of its gradually increased size, remained a nickel in price from its inception to 1969.  In 1907, chocolate kisses appeared wrapped in foil and tissue papers that emblazoned the company name and are still popular today. His original property was purchased for $1000 dollars in cash that included chocolate making equipment and he quickly went to work to build his own factory where his first sales netted $622,000 in profit.  In 1906, The property then expanded to become the town of Hershey, PA. Hershey helped to lay out the town to include streets named Chocolate Avenue and Cocoa Ave. By 1906, he had several hundred workers on staff. Presently, the company has expanded to include Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Twizzlers, Good & Plenty, and Milk Duds.

Bon Appetit, September 1999; The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink

The Automat

Horn and Hardart can be credited with starting the first fast food establishment in America.

At the turn of the century, a company called Horn and Hardart purchased a new Swiss invention called the “waiterless restaurant.” A newer more efficient model was designed that had glass doors opened by a knob. The customer would walk down a wall of these doors, select a hot or cold food item, insert a nickel, and turn the knob. Then a door would spring open for the customer to receive his/her selection.  In the back, a team of women kept the slots filled with food.

Horn and Hardart opened its first Automat in NYC in 1912. The atmosphere was elegant with two-story stained-glass windows and elaborate carvings on the ceilings. By 1932, 46 had opened in Philadelphia besides 42 operating in NYC.  In the 1980’s most of the automats were converted to Burger Kings and the last Automat closed in Philadelphia in 1990. One year later, the last one closed in NYC.

Before the automat disappeared completely, a 35-foot section of an ornate Automat wall with mirrors and marble was installed in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

NEXT SERIES: DINING THROUGH THE DECADES: 1910’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Did We Get From There to Here?

 

 

 

 

A DIET HISTORY TIMELINE

1825 A French lawyer named Brillant-Savarin said in a publication entitled The Physiology of Taste: “More or less rigid abstinence from everything that is starchy or floury” is a cure for obesity.

1830 Sugar consumption, mainly as molasses) had increased in the U.S. to 15 pounds per capita.

1863 William Banting lost 65 pounds on a high fat, carbohydrate restricted diet and subsequently published, Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public. He based his success on the advice of his physician, Dr. William Harvey.

1900 Lillian Russell, a stage actress and singer born in 1861. was repeatedly mentioned known as one of the most beautiful women on the American stage.” At the peak of her fame, Russel weighed approximately 200 pounds and was celebrated for her curvaceous figure. She was described ” a particularly robust and healthy creature, who takes good care to remain so.” By today’s standards, her weight would be classified as “obese”.

1911 Proctor and Gamble introduced Crisco – a highly hydrogenated vegetable fat and cheap alternative to lard – the primary cooking fat at the time. The advantage to the manufacturer and the cook was a longer shelf life but provided a multitude of hundreds of pounds of unhealthy trans fatty acids. Now trans fats are banned.

1913 The twenty-seventh President of the United States, William Howard Taft reportedly was stuck in the White House bathtub due to his massive girth.

1918 Lulu Hunt Peters, an American doctor wrote the first known diet book, Diet and Health with a Key to the Calories. It was a best seller with over 2 million copies sold. She was the first to mention that cutting calories was an effective weight-watching tool. Her success was more than likely prompted by the new body image of women as being slender, or “thin was in”.

1920 Sugar consumption reaches 100 pounds per capita in the U.S.1930 Margarine consumption reaches 2.6 pounds per capita.

1934 A blood test for cholesterol was developed.

1937 – The Debate Begins (aka What’s going on here?) Columbia University biochemists David Rittenberg & Rudolph Schoenheimer demonstrated that dietary cholesterol had little or no influence on blood cholesterol. This scientific fact has never been refuted.

“Cholesterol in food has no affect on cholesterol in blood and we’ve known that all along.”  These are the words of Professor Ancel Keys, American Heart Association board member and author of The Seven Countries Study who, in retirement, recanted the idea that dietary cholesterol raises blood levels. His recant has been greeted with silence. Keys studied 22 countries, but chose data from only seven.  He also excluded France with high fat and low rates of heart disease. Due to this, his observational study was considered to be flawed.

1950 – 1955 Dietary emphasis on fats and cholesterol in the diet became a hot topic based on  Ancel Key’s flawed study.

1955 – President  Dwight Eisenhower had a heart attack.  His twice-daily press conferences focused on his cholesterol levels and he was put on a low fat diet by his physician, Dr. Paul Dudley White.  Dietary fat also became the villain for weight gain.

1957 Margarine outsold butter for the first time – more trans fat and an increase in omega-6 fats shown to be inflammatory to the body tissues.

1961 Let the Diet Books Begin. Calories Don’t Count was published by Dr. Herman Taller.  The low-calorie diet is a humbug, he declared. He was also a dieter whose weight ballooned up to 265 lb. on a 5-ft. 10-in. frame. Taller recommended a high-fat diet supplemented by polyunsaturated safflower oil capsules high in omega-6 linoleic acid.  Back in the 1960’s vegetable fats were new and everyone wanted them to be a new health food.  This has not been supported in the last 50 years of research. The American Heart Association adopted the well-known low-fat diet that began an era of fat maligning and the glorification of low fat foods.  Dieters began to count fat grams daily.  However, during our national experiment with a low-fat diet, people continued to pile on the pounds every decade.

1978 High fructose corn syrup enters the sweetener market. By 1985, 50 percent of the this sweetener was consumed in America.

1980 -1990 Obesity levels had remained between 12-14 percent from 1960 to 1980. After 1980 and then again in 1990, obesity grew dramatically until today when every state has obesity rates over 25 percent.  Type 2 diabetes is now reported to have a 1 in 3 lifetime risk.

1992 The Food Guide Pyramid was introduced, recommending 6-11 servings of breads, cereals, rice, or pasta a day without mentioning whole grain options.

2000 Soybean oil has 70 percent of the edible fat market in the U.S.  Lard consumption is less than 1 pound.  Sugar cons0umption in the U.S. 150 pounds per capita. Butter consumption is less than 4 pounds per capita

2004 After 50 years of Egg-beaters, low fat cheese, margarine, skinless chicken breasts, and highly processed soy and canola oils, two Food Guide Pyramids and 11 releases of the USDA Dietary Guidelines,  one third of Americans are obese; 25 percent are diabetic or pre-diabetic.

2008 Sugar consumption is now 160 pounds per capita. Compare that to the 15 pounds per capita in 1830.

2011 No More Pyramids A simplified MyPlate is introduced as the latest attempt at Food Guides. My Plate recommended 30% of the plate as grains, 30% vegetables, 20% fruit and 20% protein. A small circle represents dairy.

2015-16   The 2015 Dietary Guidelines were presented with little changes based on the latest research. Here is what they said and what they should have said.This is a big change  For the first time, our national health authorities are urging Americans to limit sugar to no more than 10% of daily calories. In a 2,000-calorie diet, 10% is 200 calories—the equivalent of about 12½ teaspoons of sugar. Yet we average 20 teaspoons a day. Based on scientific evidence that’s been accumulating for decades, dietary cholesterol (as opposed to blood cholesterol) just isn’t any concern anymore. For the first time, there is no limit on total fat. However, the advice to limit saturated fat is still in there—even though the evidence that saturated fat leads to heart disease has turned out to be pretty weak. An original report associated with the new guidelines called for cutting back on red meat, especially processed meat, but the final official guidelines due to the lobbying of the meat industry wanted its message weakened.

2010-2020 The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a landmark report that has turned current fat recommendations upside down. The verdict from the study is that “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk for heart disease. ’Over the same period, the use of drugs to treat high blood pressure and high cholesterol increased quite a bit. Meat consumption has been declining for the past few decades..

In the last decade the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes has increased by almost a percentage point. Over the same period, obesity has increased by three percentage points. If that trend continues, heart disease rates may again rise. Unless we have been infected by a yet to be discovered obesity virus, we have a national eating disorder that needs to be fixed.

MY OPINION

Big food has made quite a mess of our food supply. Is saturated fat the culprit it was made out to be?  Can excess refined vegetable oils, sugar or fructose be  blamed?

Will our food culture ever be able to return to a diet of whole, real foods to replace the refined, processed, chemical-laden foods forced upon us by the food industry? The debate continues and we will see what trends are coming with the advent of the new Dietary Guidelines due in 2020. We should also hope that these guidelines are not encumbered by the influences of the food industry – but don’t count on it.

 

 

Calling Dr. Kellogg

When in the supermarket, have you noticed lately the extent of the cereal aisle?  How many choices do we need? A lot of people start the day with their favorite. For example, an all-time favorite of Frosted Flakes states on the box – “Sweetened Flakes of Corn Cereal.” but also contains wheat starch. But what else do we find?

First we see that primarily, 1/1/4 cup serving provides us with:

  • No fat or cholesterol (that’s fine)
  • Total Carbohydrate: 37 g. (eh)
  • Of that there are 0 grams of fiber and 15 grams of added  Sugars (not so good)
  • They also throw in a few milligrams of iron,  70% percent thiamine, and 10% each of niacin, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid  and zinc – that’s about it.

They do provide some entertainment on the box with a fun game of FIND A PENGUIN FRIEND (sort of a take off of Where’s Waldo.) if you get bored eating the cereal.

How did all this begin? In other words, how did we get here?

CALLING DR. KELLOGG

By Sally J. Feltner, M.S, PhD.

John Harvey Kellogg was born in 1852 in Tyrone, Michigan and died at the age of 91 in Battle Creek, Michigan He was a medical doctor and graduated from New York University Medical College at Bellevue Hospital in 1875. He married Ella Ervilla Eaton in 1879 and had no biological children except for 42 foster children, legally adopting eight of them before Ella died in 1920. He had one brother, Will Keith Kellogg.

After medical school, he became the chief physician in 1866 at the Western Heath Reform Institute of Battle Creek, founded by the Seventh Day Adventist leader, Ellen G. White. This soon became the Battle Creek Sanitarium, aka “the San” and its health principles were based on the Church including vegetarianism. Through the years, the San had many notable patients/guests that included former President, William Howard Taft, arctic explorers Stefansson and Amundsen, writer and broadcaster, Lowell Thomas, aviator Amelia Earhart, playwright George Bernard Shaw, athlete Johnny Weissmuller, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and actress Sarah Bernhardt.

Dr. Kellogg believed that almost all disease began in the stomach and bowels and promoted daily yogurt enemas to clean the intestines. He also encouraged his guests to practice breathing exercises and mealtime marches to promote proper digestion during the day. He strongly believed in nuts which he thought would save mankind in the face of decreasing food supplies and developed a patent for making peanut butter. He also thought that coffee was unhealthy for the liver and that indigestion was the leading cause of death. Most spices were unhealthy and vinegar was a “poison, not a food.”

While a medical student in New York in 1874-75, Kellogg began to be aware of the need for ready-cooked foods, at least ready-to-eat cereals. As part of the “Sans” menu, Kellogg and brother Will made several grain products by forcing wheat grain through rollers to make sheets of dough. One time, the dough seemed overcooked and the dough when flattened emerged as a flake. After this, the sanitarium became famous for its wheat and corn flakes. Many guests had complained that the hard biscuits they served had played havoc with their teeth, so the invention of the flake alleviated this issue.

Kellogg believed that most disease is alleviated by a change in intestinal flora; that bacteria in the intestines can either help or hinder the body; that pathogenic bacteria produce toxins during the digestion of protein that poison the blood; that a poor diet favors harmful bacteria that can infect other tissues of the body; that the intestinal flora is changed by diet and is generally changed for the better by a well-balanced vegetarian diet favoring low-protein and high fiber foods. Ironically, the theory that intestinal bacteria influence some disease states is gaining favor recently – maybe Kellogg was correct to a point.

By 1905, the Kellogg brothers were selling their corn flakes under the name of the Sanitas Company and had competition from a number of other companies in Battle Creek. One of his former patients, C. W. Post had started his own cereal company and Kellogg accused Post of stealing his corn flake formula. Will Kellogg wanted to add sugar to their cereals, but Dr. Kellogg disagreed with him. C.W. Post added sugar to his cereal however. Will left the Sanitarium and started the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company in 1906. The brothers had a strained relationship over business dealings in which Will sued his older brother. The case lasted for most of the rest of their lives with Will eventually winning the suit.

John Harvey continued to run the San but due to the Depression, it was sold. He did establish another health institute in Florida.

So this is a brief history of the vast ready-to-eat cereal industry we presently enjoy. Lately there has been a recommendation to lower our sugar intake and cereals are often named as “culprits.” Even though Dr. Kellogg was often thought of as eccentric in his beliefs, his thoughts on adding sugar to his corn flakes may have been prudent and Tony the Tiger would not be in so much trouble today with its added sugar content.

I wonder what John Harvey would think now.

In the Beginning: Origins

The Standard American Diet has its beginnings in our early history.  Many food historians refer to the traditional diets of many cultures; however the  traditional American food culture remains elusive and difficult to define.  One thinks of hot dogs,  hamburgers, meat, potatoes that have more recently evolved into fast foods, packaged, processed foods loaded with sugar, salt, and fat along with a list of ingredients that often take up most of the food label.

The following article gives us insights on how it all began especially with gender issues about foods. It’s a fascinating look at the early origins of “feminine” or “masculine” foods and their effects on how we still operate to a degree from these stereotypes.

One important contribution to our food culture has also been the food of the diverse immigration movement early in the 20th century. Thus, the traditional American diet has its  roots primarily from other cultures as well as our own beginnings  – thus, Mexican, Chinese, Italian food primarily.

CLICK HERE.