The American Plate: 1900’s

Oysters and Champagne For A New World Power

“When the decade started, America was recognized for the first time as a world power. “The Wright Brothers took flight, Henry Ford took to the road, travelers took the rails aboard luxury trains, and those who had one listened to the radio. The first feature film (The Great Train Robbery) provided entertainment, and Einstein provided a relative theory. “

There was not much progress in the home kitchen. Housewives still slaved over a hot stove fueled by wood, coal or petroleum. Restaurants (both low and high end) often segregated their rooms by sex and/or race, and boasted they were fireproof. Restaurants ranged from oyster houses to exclusive dining rooms that offered both French and English cooking that often only included high society gentlemen.

Fine Dining

In 1902, Horn & Hardart, the first automat was introduced as the first “automatic restaurant” concept in the U.S. along with cafeterias and soda fountains that launched the fast-food industry, “a whole new style of “eating out”. Train dining was an elegant affair in its early years. Airline food would only appear three decades later.

Meet Me in St. Louis: The World’s Fair

Peanut butter, ice cream cone, the hamburger, and iced tea had not been on the American Plate in 1904 until introduced at the St. Louis World’s Fair that ushered in a new era in American dining.

Novelist, Upton Sinclair, whose 1905 best seller, The Jungle covered, among other topics, the unsavory practices of American meat-packers. The book was so shocking that Congress passed the Meat Inspection Act of 1906.

Diamond Jim and Lillian Russell

Financier, Jim Brady, aka Diamond Jim lived a life with food abundance along with his companion, actress Lillian Russell. It was considered at the time that being overweight was a sign of affluence and success. Dinner, his main event featured three dozen oysters, a dozen crabs, six or seven lobsters, terrapin soup, a steak, coffee, a tray of pastries and two pounds of candy. He died at 56, his stomach was said to be six times larger than the average.  Lillian was known to match Brady “ forkful for forkful.” The fair Lillian was hefty (considered the ideal for the times.)  She was reported to have smoked 500 cigars a month. Grove’s Tasteless Chili Tonic made in St. Louis not only claimed to cure everything, but also adds much-admired heft to the figure.

In 1912 “Immigrants pour into the country ” – between 1910 and 1924, 12 million come through Ellis Island. All are screened for communicable diseases and overall health status. This event began the beginning of a myriad of ethnic restaurants.

The American Plate: 1950 – 1959

Sally Feltner MS, PhD Food and Culture, Food History, General, The American Plate September 15, 2020

5 Minutes by foodworksblog

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Author: Sally J. Feltner, M.S.,PhD

An Attack on Gastronomy

The 1950’s brought a renewed hope for the country after two decades of Depression and War. However, food historians deplore the state of the cuisine during this period – it mainly consisted of processed foods which many blame for this anti-gastronomic desert. In addition, the rise of the fast food industry, i.e. hamburger chains that sprouted up along side the newly build national highway system did not offer any better fare. Freeing Mom from the kitchen seemed to be the dominant theme as appliances and prepared foods became the ‘norm”.

TV Dinners

After WWII, America’s economy boomed, women entered the workforce as never before and food got a little strange. Housewives spent less time in the kitchen, so food companies came to the rescue with a buffet of processed foods. Foods were purchased in a can, package or pouch. Soups were available as liquids or in dry form. Tang landed on supermarket shelves and frozen dinners laid on trays in front of TV sets. TV dinners were introduced in 1953 by Swanson and with a flick of a wrist you could turn back the foil to display turkey in gravy, dressing, sweet potatoes and peas ready in about 30 minutes – all with no dishes to wash.

tv_dinner01

Better Living Through Chemistry

“Better Living through Chemistry” was the slogan of the times along with “I like Ike” referring to the popular Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 5-star general from WWII winning the U.S presidency from 1953 to 1961.
This change in processing came from the demand of the Army during WWII to provide needed ready-to-eat meals. The food industry responded by ramping up new technologies in canning and freeze-drying to feed the troops. The marketing of these foods presented a challenge, however. At first, many of them were less than palatable, so food companies hired home economists to develop fancy recipes and flooded magazines, newspapers and TV with ads to broadcast their virtues. Actually the first cake mix was available in 1931, but was met with disdain due to the use of dehydrated eggs, e.g. Women later would respond more favorably if they could crack their own eggs into the batter so they would feel like they were doing something positive in the kitchen.

June Cleaver

People rushed to buy appliances, houses, cars, dishwashers, washing machines, dryers and backyard barbecue grills and new home freezers.  They also bought television sets in record numbers and watched shows that represented their new idealized lives like Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It to Beaver. Beaver’s mother, June Cleaver was depicted as a housewife freed from household chores and often was serene and perfectly dressed with pearls and high heels pushing a vacuum cleaner and putting meals on the family table, all before solving the family problems.

Fast Food Nation

The birth rate soared and created what is known as the Baby Boomer Generation. Fifty million babies were born from 1945 to 1960. Food marketing shifted to kids with Tony the Tiger and fish sticks leading the campaign. Fast food had its beginnings strengthened in 1955 when Ray Kroc bought a hamburger stand from the McDonald’s brothers in San Bernadino, California. Disneyland opened in 1955 and was so popular they ran out of food on the first day.

mcdonalds-burger1

The Seven Countries Study

In 1958, the American scientist, Ancel Keys started a study called the Seven Countries Study, which attempted to establish the association between diet and cardiovascular disease in different countries. The study results indicated that in the countries where fat consumption was the highest also had the most heart disease. This suggested the idea that dietary fat caused heart disease. He initially studied 22 countries, but reported on only seven: Finland, Greece, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, United States, and Yugoslavia.

The problem was that he left out:

  • Countries where people eat a lot of fat but have little heart disease, such as Holland and Norway and France.
  • Countries where fat consumption is low but the rate of heart disease is high, such as Chile.

Basically, he only used data from the countries that supported his theory.
This flawed observational study gained massive media attention and had a major influence on the dietary guidelines of the next few decades, i.e. cut the fat out of our diets.

sevencountries

The First Artificial Sweetener

In the diet world, Saccharin was manufactured in granules and became a popular sugar substitute for dieters. It was first produced in 1878 by a chemist at Johns Hopkins University, but became popular after sugar shortages in WWI and WWII. In the United States, saccharin is often found in restaurants in pink packets as “Sweet’n Low”. It was banned later but it remains on the market today. The basis for the proposed ban was a study that documented an increase in cancer in rats being fed saccharin. The “Delaney clause” of the Food Additive Amendments to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act states that no substance can be deemed safe if it causes cancer in humans or animals. In suspending the proposed saccharin ban, Congress ordered that products containing the popular sweetener must carry a warning about its potential to cause cancer. The FDA formally lifted its proposal to ban the sweetener in 1991 based on new studies, and the requirement for a label warning was eliminated by the Saccharin Notice Repeal Act in 1996.

TIMELINE: 

1951 I Love Lucy debuts on CBS.

1952 The Lipton food company rolls out its dehydrated onion soup that will earn it fame as a base for onion soup mix: 2 envelopes of mix plus 1 cup of sour cream. Lipton eventually prints the recipe, “California Dip” on the package.

1953 Eggo Frozen Waffles are introduced.

1954 Employee Gerry Thomas from the C.A. Swanson Co,  has an idea (although fellow workers nearly laughed him out of the Omaha  plant): package the left-over turkey, along with some dressing, gravy, cornbread, peas and sweet potatoes into a partitioned metal tray, sell it frozen, and consumers could heat it up for dinner. His name for the leftover meal: TV Dinner.

1954 The first Burger King  opens in Miami. A burger is 18 cents, as is a milkshake. The Whopper is introduced in 1957 and sells for 37 cents.

1955 Milkshake-machine salesman, Roy Kroc tries to persuade Dick and Mac McDonald (owner of the original McDonalds in California) to franchise their concept.  They aren’t interested but  tell Kroc to go ahead and try his hand. Kroc opens his first restaurant in Des Plains, ILL., and eventually buys out the McDonalds.

1956 Jif Peanut Butter is introduced.

1956 More than 80 percent of U.S. households have refrigerators. By contrast, only 8 percent of British households have refrigerators.

1957 Better Homes and Gardens prints its first microwave-cooking article.

1957 Margarine sales take the lead over butter.

1958 Eighteen- year-old Frank Carney sees a story in the Saturday Evening Post about the pizza fad among teenagers and college students. With $600 borrowed from his mother, he and his fellow Wichita State classmate, opens the first Pizza Hut in Wichita, KS.

“Hurrah for the Pumpkin Pie”

It’s Pumpkin time!! By the 1800’s, pumpkin pie was a necessity at most Thanksgiving celebrations. If you have ever heard the famous poem about Thanksgiving by Lydia Maria Child in 1842:

“Over the river and through the wood, to grandfather’s house we go” ends with “Hurrah for the pumpkin pie”.

Northeastern Indians used squash more than other Indians in early America and did favor pumpkin the most. They baked them by putting them in the embers of a fire, then moistened them with maple syrup or honey or some type of fat and then turned it into a soup. In 1705, the town of Colchester, Connecticut postponed the holiday for a week due to a molasses shortage to make the pies.

The first known American cookbook was American Cookery by Amelia Simmons in 1796 that included a recipe for “pompkin” pie. Later in 1805, a recipe for pumpkin pie appeared in the Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple by Mrs. Hannah Glasse.

“Take the pumpkin and peel the rind off, then stew it till is quite soft and put thereto one pint of pumpkin, one pint of milk, one glass of malaga wine one glass of rose-water, if you like, seven eggs, half a pound of fresh butter, one small nutmeg, and sugar and salt to your taste:”

In 1929, Libby’s meat-canning industry made pumpkin preparation easier by offering its famous canned pumpkin with its traditional recipe on the label. My mother would have appreciated the Libby’s version. I remember her talking about making her first pumpkin pie and neglecting to strain the stringy pulp from the pumpkin itself. Next time you open a can, please think kindly of her and in her day, there may not have been canned pumpkin. Her first pie was probably around 1924.

The only problem is the sugar content found in pies – as for my pumpkin disaster, I forgot the sugar one year and it was awful. But who is counting sugar grams on Thanksgiving?  For the few that are – 1 serving has 253 cals, 3 grams of fiber, 32 grams of carbohydrate and about 19.7 grams of sugar (5 tsp). Pumpkin is also loaded with vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene (a powerful antioxidant). Happy Holiday!!!

Sally Feltner, www.foodfactsandfads.com

FOOD CHOICES: A HISTORY

Origins of food choices

Bone marrow soup and sautéed snails, delicacies in France, passions to many are absolutely disgusting to others. Horsemeat is popular in a large area of North Central Asia, but rigidly avoided by many people in Islamic countries. Sautéed snails eyes are delicacies in France; kidney pie is traditional in England. Dog is a popular food in Borneo, New Guinea, and the Philippines where snake is a delicacy in China. In some countries, People enjoying insects are fit only for animal feed in other cultures. And then there steamed clams and raw oysters, food passions for some, but absolutely disgusting to others. When did you first say Yuck! to the above list?

 A 12th century scholar, Maimonides included pigs on his taboo and declared them “unlean” list due to rapid spoilage of pork in in hot climates and in their despicable habit of rooting garbage. However other animals such as goats have the same habit. Pork attained its unique status  in 165 B.C as a taboo and enraged the Jews leading to war. As a result, they retook Jerusalem celebrating Hanukkah in the Roman world.  

The fledging Christians pointed instead of Roman rules, to the book of Matthew in the New Testament.;” It’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but that what comes out”, the good book says.

“Burger chomping” Americans express incomprehension over the sacred status cattle in India, where the 1947 Constitution spells out the right of cows. Yet those same Americans would never think of eating whale, monkey, dog, cat or parrot  that Americans consider companion animals. Many Americans would consider that the deepest food taboo of all.”

“However, hunger still overrides food aversions from any origin. When German armies laid siege to Paris in 1870, cutting off the cities from country farms and gardens, many bourgeois restaurants offered delicacies such as rat ragu and saddle of cat.  “Many simply say – “tastes just like chicken”

Sources: Judith E. Brown, Nutrition Now, 7th Edition

Harris, David Lyon, Sue McLaughlin. The Meaning of Food: The Companion to the PBS Television Series Hosted by Marcus, Samuelsson, 2005.

Alert: Meat, coffee and chocolate?

Nearly 50% of food influencers are actively seeking more plant-based options. Major retailers are asking their suppliers for more plant-based products for their shelves and restaurants that have added vegan options to menus have seen an increase in business while the competition has struggled. These are all signs that point to plant-based being more than just a trend. It is a blossoming cultural movement and we are still in the earliest stages!”

Reference: Plant-based World Newsletter, 2021

CLICK HERE.

Has anyone noticed the emphasis on plant-based food in the food magazines lately? Interesting!! Just saying – stay tuned. SJF (my opinion).

A Lesson from the “Limeys”

A Brief History of Vitamin C

The vitamin C deficiency disease, scurvy,  was the scourge of armies, navies, and explorers throughout history. It particularly affected those sailors on long voyages who had little access to fresh fruits and vegetables (high in Vitamin C). Despite some recommendations of transporting these foods on their voyages, 10,000 British sailors died of scurvy in 1594. A Scottish physician, James Lind serving in the British Navy had an idea and developed a “crude”experiment on an upcoming long voyage.

To set the stage for this experiment, a historic account is given us from a 16th century surgeon who describes the scourges of scurvy:

It rotted all my gums, which gave out a black and putrid blood. My thighs and lower legs were black and gangrenous, and I was forced to use my knife each day to cut into the flesh in order to release this black and foul blood. I also used my knife on my gums, which were livid and growing over my teeth…

William Faloon. Misconeptions about Vitamin C, Life Extension: The Science of a Healthier Life, November 2021

James Lind did his clinical trial aboard HMS Salisbury in 1847.  He took 6 groups of two sailors with scurvy and gave the following treatments:

Group 1: A quart of hard cider a day

Group 2: 25 drops of vitriol (sulphuric acid)

Group 3: Six spoonful’s of vinegar

Group 4: Half a pint of seawater

Group 5: Two oranges and a lemon (ran out of fruit in a week) but recovered from scurvy in six days. There were no signs of scurvy prevention in any of the other groups (to my knowledge).

Group 6: Spice blend

(The cure of scurvy should have been obvious but Lind wanted to fit his observation into the prevailing ideas of the model of humors as the basic model of disease (described above).   This idea of humors had been around since the Ancient Greeks and taught that the body contains four fluids (the humors – phlegm, blood, yellow bile, black bile) associated with certain personalities (phlegmatics, sanguine, choleric and melancholy). Lind thought that scurvy was associated with the build up of black bile due to blocked sweat ducts and downplayed the power of his discovery to a paragraph buried in the middle of a long book. Despite this the British Navy progressively eliminated  scurvy over the remainder of the century using lime juice and were called “limeys”. The rest  of the world did not heed the lesson of  the limeys. In the mid—19th century, during the U.S. Civil War, scurvy was rampant.  Science moves very slowly. (SJF)

“In the original timeline (OTL, our world), germ theory wasn’t even on the radar until 1847, when Ignaz Semmelweis made the connection between puerperal fever and doctor hygiene (or lack thereof). This was the first strong proof for germs being the cause of disease, but his theory was ridiculed by the scientific community. It took over ( at least) 30 years before the germ theory was accepted as fact.” Wikipedia.

Staying Healthy the French Way

To safeguard one’s health at the cost of too strict a diet is a tiresome illness indeed.

Francois Duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613 – 1680’s) French writer and moralist

“In a study of four countries, food psychologist Paul Rozin at the University of Pennsylvania found the following:

The French are the most food-pleasure oriented and the least health-oriented. In contrast, Americans had the worst of both worlds: They had the greatest worry over their health and had greater dissatisfaction with what they ate. Americans scored the highest on worrying about the fattening effects of food.

Interestingly, Rozin concluded that the negative impact of worry and stress over healthy eating may have a more profound effect on health than the actual food consumed. Indeed, it is widely accepted that stress triggers a biological chemical assault in our bodies, which is harmful to our health.”

“More information about the French reveals that the US currently has twice the incidence of overweight people compared to France for both adults and children. The French have a longer life expectancy, take less medication, and have a markedly lower rate of heart disease. Yet the French eat a diet that appears to be less healthy this is popularly known as the French paradox. Notably, France has the highest per capita dairy fat consumption up of any industrial nation (think cream, butter and cheese.)

Just as important, the French have fewer eating disorders and don’t engage in dieting as much as Americans. It has been speculated that wine consumption and eating smaller portions of food may explain the French paradox, we believe it could be the relationship that the French have with food the French have a more positive attitude toward eating dash it is viewed as one of life’s pleasures not his poison. Food is something to be revered.

 Even when the French eat fast food, they take more time to eat compared to the eating pace of Americans.

“According to the calorie control council, 43% of dieters in the United states say that they that snacking too much is the reason they haven’t sustained their desired weight. Unlike north Americans who typically consume as many as three snacks a day, the French don’t usually partake in this between meal ritual this non habit may contribute to the comparatively higher proportion of slimmer figures found in France.

“French children may have an after-school snack which can be a croissant with a hidden dollop of dark chocolate to tide them over until dinner, but regular snacking just isn’t part of the adult French culture. Their substantial lunch often usurps the need for an afternoon snack. Snacks are a novelty in France where in America snacks appear to be a necessity.”

Sources: Steven Jonas, M.D., Sandra Gordon. 30 Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Cuisines, 2000.

Evelyn Tribole, M.S.,R.D.and ElseResch, M.S.,R.D.,F.A.D.A., C.E.D. R.D.

Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works, 2012.

NOTE: Although this data may seem a bit dated, the numbers reflect how the French ate a few decades ago. Unfortunately, many of the younger French population has been influenced by a more current French Diet that has incorporated many characteristics of the Standard American Diet leading to a loss of some of original health benefits. For example:

  • Obesity rates in France are among the lowest in the OECD , but have been increasing steadily. About 1 in 10 people is obese in France, and almost 40% are overweight (including obese). OECD projections indicate that overweight rates will increase by a further 10% within ten years.

Reference:

Obesity and the Economics of Prevention: Fit not Fat – France

Health Indicators in France Versus the United States. Tribole and ElseResch

 IndicatorUnited StatesFrance
Obesity and Overweight (adults)62%32%
Life Expectancy78  years81 years
Medication costs per capita$897$607
Heart Disease death rates per 100,000 -Women7921
Heart Disease death rates – Men14554
Incidence of Dieting26%16%
Use of snacks and beverages76%48%
Use of low-fat products68%39%
Duration of minutes eating at McDonald’s14 minutes22 minutes

Source: OECD Health Data, 2009-2010; Calorie Control Council National Surveys 1992. Rozin, 2003.

Low Carb Diets: A Brief History

“Conventional scientific opinion says that eating too many calories without doing enough exercise to burn them off again causes weight gain. But this prevailing energy balance model faces a fresh challenge from the carbohydrate-insulin model (CIM) following the publication of a new article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The CIM argues that it is the quality of the food a person eats — rather than the quantity — that determines whether a person will gain weight and eventually develop obesity. Consuming large quantities of processed and starchy carbohydrates in particular sustains a cascade of hormonal and metabolic changes that result in the storage of excess energy as fat.

Crucially, the CIM says that the urge to eat too many calories is a result of accumulating excess fat in the body, not its cause. This directly opposes the energy balance model.

So which model is correct? The answer has huge implications for the diets of billions of people, as well as the prospects of overcoming the obesity pandemic.

This week, Medical News Today spoke with several experts from both camps about the merits and shortcomings of each model. There is one thing that both models agree on: the sugars and refined grains that make up 42% of the calories in the U.S. diet should be drastically reduced.

To learn more about both models and the debate that rages around them, jump to “Obesity and weight loss: Why overall calorie intake may not be so important.”


Tim Snaith
Newsletter Editor, Medical News Today

What Does “Fattening” Mean?

Sally Feltner MS, PhDDiet and Health, The American Plate November 15, 2019 1 Minute

Spaghetti, Noodles, Tomatoes, Pasta

A term used for decades to describe foods that would make one gain weight was the expression of  “fattening”.

Moderate avoidance (though not totally responsible) of these foods became the conventional wisdom to help avoid weight gain and became a dieter’s mantra.  In fact, food history indicates that body-weight was relatively stable until about the late 1990’s in the United States. At that time, dietary advice had shifted to low-fat diets with the added disadvantage of food companies at the time replacing fat in their food products with more carbohydrate-containing foods.

Keep in mind- basic biochemistry tells us that all carbohydrates (except for dietary fiber) are eventually converted to glucose in the body to be used for energy.  We are further reminded that some carbs are referred to as “starchy” (bad) and others as “non starchy” (good ).

The following article further elucidates the term of what are now commonly referred to as “white foods” and refers to their state of processing – refined or unrefined and how they may participate in our current obesity epidemic.

CLICK HERE.

Three Decades of Food Milestones: 1990- 2021

Three decades of Food Milestones 1990 – 2020

Food timelines are invaluable for taking a brief look at what has happened and how it has influenced our eating behaviors.

1990 Food labels mean something: the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act passes, requiring standardized nutrition labels on most food packages. The food industry is not happy; they particularly protest adding “Added Sugars” and win their case this time.

1992 King Arthur introduces white whole wheat flour, enabling bakers to make their whole grain baking healthier.  The United States Department of Agriculture releases the Food Guide  Pyramid, visually confirming nationwide carbohydrate domination with 6-11 servings of carbohydrates a day.  Carbs are not separated into refined vs. complex.

Snackwells low fat cookies are introduced and fly off shelves. Later, the “Snackwells affect becomes shorthand for all that is wrong with the low fat, high carb diet fad. People mistakenly assume you can eat all the refined carbs you want. 

1993 Chipotle Mexican Grill is founded in Denver, marking the beginning of the “fast casual restaurant” category. The TV Food Network (now the Food Network) premieres, elevating chefs like Bobby Flay to celeb status.

1994 the Food and Drug administration approves the first genetically modified food, the long shelf -lived Flavr Savr tomato, followed a year later by GMO canola, corn, soy beans and squash, marking the anti GMO movement. It was met with considerable safety concerns., especially in European countries.  

1996 The FDA approves Olestra, a fat – free fat substitute with the unfortunate side effect of inducing “anal leakage”. Lays Wow potato chips made with olestra even sport a warning label. After its demise in food processing, olestra found new life as an industrial lubricant.

1998 Sucralose, made from sugar but is noncaloric, is introduced but the obesity rate is not impressed by its contribution to sugar-free foods.

2002 low carb guru Robert Atkins, MD, releases Doctor Atkins New Diet Revolution,” establishing further the popularity of the low carb diet he promoted 30 years with his first book. This “diet” began to slowly replace the ill-advised low fat diet for “hardcore” dieters.

In other news, organic labels finally have more attention. The USDA national organic programs, Certified Organic Labeling, rules, some 12 years in the making, go into effect.

2004 Facebook arrives and enabling you to share what you had for breakfast with 1000 of your closest friends. Photos of foods (homeccoked, however, appear in many posts.

2006 in April, Michael Pollan releases the Omnivore’s Dilemma, making terms like food system, high fructose corn syrup and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) household words.

2007 The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) was a United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) research initiative to improve understanding of the microbial flora involved in human health and disease. Prebiotic and probiotics became familiar terms and the yogurt industry blossomed. Source: Wikipedia

2008 Chobani launches and the cult of Greek yogurt begins. Now we no longer have to strain regular yogurt through a coffee filter to make it.

2009 The White House kitchen garden is planted in March and an interest in vegetables and sustainable eating skyrockets. Gluten free foods become a thing with $1.56 billion dollars in US sales, and projections of continuing breakneck growth.

2010 Welcome, instant pot! Now we can cook slow, fast or steam vegetables, make rice, etc, etc.  

2011 in June, the USDA replaces the Pyramid guide with My Plate, where vegetables and fruits fill half the dish and nudge grains to a smaller portion. First lady Michelle Obama announces it. Instagram arrives.

2013 Blue apron and other meal kit delivery services kickoff, making home cooking as easy as opening a box.

Jay-Z announces he’s doing a 22 day vegan challenge. Veganism officially becomes cool.

2016 Restaurant delivery services go mainstream: 50% of Americans report using apps like Grubhub and DoorDash to purchase meals from casual dining outlets, with 26% ordering at least once weekly.

2017 The Regenerative Organic Alliance releases its Regenerative Organ Certification Program, which incorporates soil health, animal welfare, and social justice in its eligibility criteria.

2018 Plant based milk sales have exploded, growing 61% in the last five years. The dairy industry is disturbed.

2019 the eat Lancet Commission releases its food in the Anthropocene report in January, linking our red meat and sugar heavy diets to climate change, and recommending we slash our consumption and eat more plant- based foods.

And now ,  Googling “nutrition” today gets over 1 billion hits but alas, 72% of Americans are overweight or obese based on Body Mass Indexes. Obesity becomes a risk factor for infectious disease, primarily COVID-19.

2020 Covid – 19 sweeps the world. Many Americans line up for miles at food distribution sites. Restaurants offer take out and deliveries, and small businesses teeter. Yet perseverance is everywhere, chefs, nonprofits, entire communities find ways to offer hope, and nourishing food. Restaurants rebound and talk dominates with who should wear masks; should schools open; are vaccines effective, should vaccinated people only have privileges?

This takes us to the present – 2021. The food culture will probably be changed forever.

Bugs for Breakfast?

 Bugs for Breakfast ?

Bone marrow soup and sautéed snails are favorite food choices of some people in France; however, what pleases the palate of some people can be absolutely disgusting in others.

Horsemeat is a favorite food in a large area of North Central Asia. but Is rigidly avoided by many people in Islamic countries. Dog is a popular food in Borneo, New Guinea, the Philippines whereas snake is a delicacy in China. In some countries, people enjoy insects while others consider it fit only for animal feed. And then there are steamed clams and raw oysters, food passions for some, but absolutely disgusting to others.

A highly influential Jewish philosopher in the Middle Ages, Maimonides, included pigs on his taboo list due to rapid spoilage of pork in in hot climates and in their despicable habit of rooting garbage, declaring them “unclean”. However other animals have the same habit, for example, goats.

Pork attained its unique status  in 165 B.C when the Syrian monarch, Antiochus, slaughtered pigs in the Temple of Solomon. The Jews who were so enraged organized an army and reestablished the Temple and ended with a triumphant revolt that is celebrated at Hanukkah.

The fledging Christians pointed instead of Roman rules to the book of Matthew in the New Testament.;” “It’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but that what comes out”, Jesus said.

“Burger chomping Americans express incomprehension over the sacred status of cattle in India, where their 1947 Constitution spells out the right of cows. Yet those same Americans would never think of eating whale, monkey, dog, cat or parrot  that Americans consider companion animals.

All cultures have their comfort  foods, “super foods”. In Russia and Ireland its potatoes; in Central America, it’s corn and yucca and in Somalia, it’s rice.

In the U.S food choices can be regional. Southern cooking is considered “soul food” and provides comfort in the form of grits. A tasty bowl of chili is in the “soul” of Texans while in New England, there’s nothing better than a bowl of clam chowder or a lobster roll in Maine.

“However, hunger still overrides food aversions from any type or origin. When German armies laid siege to Paris in 1870 cutting off this city from traditional country farms and gardens, many bourgeois restaurants offered such delicacies such as rat ragu and saddle of cat. 

Many simply said  “tastes just like chicken”

Sources: 

Judith E. Brown, Nutrition Now. 7th Edition

Patrician Harris, David Lyon, and Sue McLaughlin, The Meaning of Food, 2005.