The Tumultuous Sixties: The American Plate 1960 – 1969

Sally J. Feltner, M.S.,PhD

The French Chef

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

The New York World’s Fair: 1964

 

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

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

White House Style: The Kennedy Years

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

Bon Appetit, September, 1999.

The Revolutions

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

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

greenrevolution

Counterculture Cuisine – Hippie Food

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

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

 

newton-stewart-health-foods

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

SPAGHETTIOS

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

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

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

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

A Trivia Timeline

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

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

1961   Sprite hits the market.

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

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

1964   The first Coke in a can appears.

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

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

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

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

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

1969   Pringles potato chips are introduced.

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

 

 

Life Was Good? The American Plate 1950 – 1959

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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.

 

The Blue Zone: A Book Review

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By Sally J. Feltner, M.S., Ph.D.

Ponce de Leon began his quest for the fountain of youth in 1531 and humans have been seeking magical solutions for keeping us younger and living our later years in relatively good health.

In 2009 with the backing of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, AARP and the National Geographic, Dan Buettner established the Blue Zone Project and authored The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the people who lived the longest, He interviewed those who were either centenarians or those in their later years and began to investigate what factors may have contributed to five regions of longevity hot spots in the world that included:

  • Sardinia in Italy with the highest concentration of centenarian men.
  • Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, where some residents live ten more healthy years than the average American.
  • The Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica that has the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality and the second highest concentration of male centenarians.
  • Ikaria, Greece that has one of the world’s lowest rates of middle age mortality and lowest rates of dementia. Only 20 percent of people over 80 showed any signs of dementia, whereas a similar study of long-lived people near Athens showed an almost 50 percent rate of dementia- a rate similar to that for older Americans.”
  • Okinawa, Japan home to the world’s longest living women.

Remarkably, all the regions had common characteristics that included family and purpose, community and spirituality, stress reduction and physical activity. Mr. Buettner later published The Blue Zones Solution and coauthored with Ed Diener, The Blue Zones of Happiness.

One major practice was that all their diets, though not vegan, were predominantly based on plants. Meat and other animal products are either the exception or used as a condiment. Okinawans, practice a philosophy called hara-hachi bu regarding food; they only eat until they are 80% full

In the Costa Rican Zone, everyone feels like they have a plan de vida or life plan. Even at ages above 60 and 70, inhabitants don’t stop living. They keep themselves busy; they love to work. It provides them a “reason to waking up in the morning” called ikigai. There is no word for “retirement” in Okinawa.

The book introduces some very interesting longevity “superstars.”

  • Marge Jones, at 100 years old from Loma Linda begins every day with a mile walk, a stationary bicycle ride, and some weight lifting. “I’m for anything that has to do with health”, she says
  • Kamada Nakazitam, 102 years old from Okinawa says “To be healthy enough to embrace my great – great grandchild is bliss.”
  • Ellsworh Wareham, age 91 from Loma Linda, assists during heart surgery procedures, something he does about two or three times a week
  • Abuela Panchita, 100 year old Costa Rican woman whose 80 year old son, Tommy bicycles to see her every day, spends every day cooking, splitting logs and using a machine to clear brush from her
  • The notion of moai in Okinawa stands for “a social support network. Says 77 year old Klazuko Mann, “each member knows that her friends count on her as much as she counts on her friends.”
  • From the author: “I once pressed a 101-year-old woman in Ikaria, Greece to tell why she thought people there lived so long. ‘We just forget to die,’ she said with a shrug. None of them went on a diet, joined a gym, or took supplements. They didn’t pursue longevity – it simply ensued”

The final chapters in the first book boil it all down into nine lessons and a cultural distillation of the worlds’ best practices in longevity. Buettner provides credible information available for “adding years to your life and life to your years.”

However, there is a downside that is currently happening. From the Author: “Sardinians today have already taken on the trappings of modern life. For example, junk foods are replacing whole-grain breads and fresh vegetables traditionally consumed here. Young people are fatter, less inclined to follow tradition, and more outwardly focused.”

The first book concludes with a chapter on Your Personal Blue Zone. Other books give us more explicit ways to establish Blue Zones in other areas such as the U.S.

From the back cover of The Blue Zones Solution – “Propagating the Blue Zones would not only prevent a rise in the prevalence of diabetes (and other misfortunes) it would allow us to eliminate more than 80 percent of the burden we have now. That’s revolutionary.”

David Katz, M.D., Director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center

 

 

Living Longer

The Blue Zones: A Book Review

By Sally J. Feltner, MS, Ph.D.

Ponce de Leon began his quest for the fountain of youth in 1531 and humans have been seeking magical solutions for keeping us younger and living our later years in relatively good health.

In 2009 with the backing of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, AARP and the National Geographic, Dan Buettner established the Blue Zone Project and authored The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the people who lived the longest, He interviewed those who were either centenarians or those in their later years and began to investigate what factors may have contributed to five regions of longevity hotspots in the world that included:

  • Sardinia in Italy with the highest concentration of centenarian men.
  • Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, where some residents live ten more healthy years than the average American.
  • The Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica that has the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality and the second highest concentration of male centenarians.
  • Ikaria, Greece that has one of the world’s lowest rates of middle age mortality and lowest rates of dementia. Only 20 percent of people over 80 showed any signs of dementia, whereas a similar study of long-lived people near Athens showed an almost 50 percent rate of dementia- a rate similar to that for older Americans.”
  • Okinawa, Japan home to the world’s longest living women.

Remarkably, all the regions had common characteristics that included family and purpose, community and spirituality, stress reduction and physical activity. Mr. Buettner later published The Blue Zones Solution and coauthored with Ed Diener, The Blue Zones of Happiness.

One major practice was that all their diets, though not vegan, were predominantly based on plants. Meat and other animal products are either the exception or used as a condiment. Additionally, Okinawans, practice a philosophy called hara-hachi bu regarding food; they only eat until they are 80% full.

In the Costa Rican Zone, everyone feels like they have a plan “de vida” or life plan. Even at ages above 60 and 70, inhabitants don’t stop living. They keep themselves busy; they love to work. It provides them a “reason to waking up in the morning” called ikigai. There is no word for “retirement” in Okinawa.

The book introduces some very interesting longevity “superstars.”

  • Marge Jones, at 100 years old from Loma Linda begins every day with a mile walk, a stationary bicycle ride, and some weight lifting. “I’m for anything that has to do with health”, she says
  • Kamada Nakazitam, 102 years old from Okinawa says “To be healthy enough to embrace my great – great grandchild is bliss.”
  • Ellsworh Wareham, age 91 from Loma Linda, assists during heart surgery procedures, something he does about two or three times a week
  • Abuela Panchita, 100 year old Costa Rican woman whose 80 year old son, Tommy bicycles to see her every day, spends every day cooking, splitting logs and using a machine to clear brush from her garden.
  • The notion of moai in Okinawa stands for “a social support network. Says 77 year old Klazuko Mann, “each member knows that her friends count on her as much as she counts on her friends.”
  • From the author: “I once pressed a 101-year-old woman in Ikaria, Greece to tell why she thought people there lived so long. ‘We just forget to die,’ she said with a shrug. None of them went on a diet, joined a gym, or took supplements. They didn’t pursue longevity – it simply ensued”

The final chapters in the first book boil it all down into nine lessons and a cultural distillation of the worlds’ best practices in longevity a and how they can be applied to the American food culture.

However, there is a downside that is currently happening. From the Author: “Sardinians today have already taken on the trappings of modern life. For example, junk foods are replacing whole-grain breads and fresh vegetables traditionally consumed here. Young people are fatter, less inclined to follow tradition, and more outwardly focused.”

I’ve enjoyed these books immensely and have often referred to them in various tweets and posts. The first book concludes with a chapter on Your Personal Blue Zone. Other books such as “the Blue]Zones Solution” give us more explicit ways to establish Blue Zones in other areas such as the U.S.

From the back cover of The Blue Zones Solution – “Propagating the Blue Zones would not only prevent a rise in the prevalence of diabetes (and other misfortunes) it would allow us to eliminate more than 80 percent of the burden we have now. That’s revolutionary.” David Katz, M.D., Director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center

The Blue Zones are lessons in how lifestyles can affect our health and longevity. Prevention of chronic disease as we age is the primary goal.  More attention needs to be paid to improve the American diet in order to “add years to your life and life to your years.”

 

 

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

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!