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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do Microbiologists Eat? Or Not Eat?

During my teaching days, I taught a course in infectious disease for several years. As part of our lab sessions, we  did some sampling to test  some common areas in the cafeteria as well as some local food samples from a few local restaurants (salads) and other produce from the supermarket.

As a result in our lab, we found E.coli growing in the ice tea spouts in the cafeteria and growing in the alfalfa sprouts at the local supermarket. The presence of these types of bacteria suggest  fecal contamination – need I say more?  Raw sprout contamination is not new. Raw sprouts are not recommended for pregnant women, those with compromised immune systems, or the  elderly. Keep in mind that the species of E. coli can range from “friendly bacteria” to dangerous pathogens (E. coli 157:H7.)

CLICK HERE.

The Standard American Diet: SAD Realities

The American Plate

When the truth is addressed, we really do not know much about nutrition science,  especially its physiological influences on our health. This dilemma results in the ongoing debates about just what is a healthy diet. In reality, nutrition is an infant science that has been ignored by some who feel  it is relatively an unimportant  factor on our health issues.

Doctors do not help the situation – most will admit that they never received much education about how the diet can affect heath parameters. My own doctor never mentioned the fact that even though I had lost 20 pounds intentionally since my last visit, he never asked me any particulars about the diet that got me there. One would think that he might have inquired if  the weight loss was not intentional, therefore indicating a health problem. He also never mentioned the resulting  lab value changes, primarily total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglyceride, blood glucose, blood pressure values that had improved with the dietary changes I had made on my own.

But most people are not aware of how diet can affect our heath (the emphasis has been only on weight loss).  When doctors don’t  mention it, patients do not receive the        proper information on diet interventions. For example, if their total cholesterol is too high, they are told to eat a low cholesterol, low fat diet (outdated advice) and/or placed on a statin drug.  Nutrition science has come a long way since those days from a couple of decades ago. The prudent way would be to give diet a chance. Diet advice is abundant on the internet. However, you should be careful about some of it – look for help from certified nutritionists (Registered dietitians or others with certification from a health coach program, for example.)

The following article written by Reinoud Schuijers explains quite well the problems with the Standard American Diet (SAD)  as the three “assassins” – refined vegetable oils, sugar and grains. He seems to follow a keto-type diet; however, research has not yet fully investigated the long-term effects of this highly restrictive plan.

Take charge of your own heath and encourage your doctor to help you take the path to healthy lifestyles. The internet is teeming with diet advice, but use it wisely. In my opinion (contrary to the following article) it may help to consult with a certified dietitian or certified health coach). But you don’t need to follow complicated meal plans – the best diet is one you form based on your lifestyle and food preferences. Say away from highly restrictive plans, fads and detoxification schemes as well as diet pills.

CLICK HERE.

The Simple Way to Eat?

Was a new diet part of your 2020 resolutions?  Great, but forget the new fads, diet pills, and starvation deprivation. There are many of the old diets still around- keto, paleo, Whole 30, NutriSystem, Jenny Craig to mention a few.  Just look at the magazine covers at the supermarket checkout – keto seems to have taken over all the others. The keto diet is quite restrictive, difficult to maintain and the long-term effects are not known. There is little evidence that  this type of restriction, although shown to be effective for weight loss, may not be a lifestyle choice for most people. Is there a better way? In my opinion, yes. The best diet is one you can live with and with a few adjustments compatible with the foods you choose. The best diet is one that with a little guidance and knowledge, is decided by you.

The following article is worth looking at if you want a simple approach.  All you need is a plate, a bottle of water, real food and of course, your commitment. And even better, this plan lets you be in control in following a reasonable and evidence-based plan that can fit easily into your lifestyle.

The article speaks for itself and provides a few links to add to the basics, i.e. some things you need to know like a guide to non-starchy vegetables. Oh, you may have to give up fast food and processed foods for a while. But, you may be glad when you realize that you will feel a lot better (and healthier) and the effort will be well worth it.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to say that weight loss itself is easy – it ‘s hard work but worth it when your goals are either weight loss or just changing to a healthier lifestyle.    That is why this plan is appealing. it is straightforward and makes sense.

So join the new “non-diet” approach that will help you lose some pounds but even better, eating for health. That is what eating should be about, not body image, eating disorders and food restriction. Learning how to eat rather than  just what to eat  is the answer (my opinion). ENJOY!!

One more thing – Always consult a registered dietitian, certified nutritionist, and your primary physician to discuss any dietary change to make sure it is nutrient dense. Also make sure you have no underlying medical problems like high cholesterol, hypertension, pre-diabetes, diabetes or digestive issues, for example.

CLICK HERE.

Eating for Longevity and Good Health

THE BLUE ZONES

Source: The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People, Dan Buettner

What factors have led us to the Standard American Diet (SAD)?  What changed in the American food culture that led us to the current obesity/diabetes epidemics?

As we evolved, we as a species needed calories for survival purposes and our bodies developed many life-saving mechanisms to keep us from starvation. That worked very well for eons until our food environment changed dramatically. “Relatively recently in human history, refined starchy foods took the place of tubers and herbaceous plants in our diets. Sugar crept in. The quality and quantity of foods available changed drastically in the last few decades, with results at once triumphant and disastrous.” Page 153.

Primarily since the mid-20th century, “food science and government policy conspired to favor wheat, soybeans, sugar, and corn over other crops. The food processing industry devised ways to use them to create cheaper food products that could be replicated in factories around the world. According to the USDA, from 1970 to 2000, the number of calories the average American consumed jumped by about 530 calories a day, a 24.5 percent increase.” At the same time, we have managed to have engineered physical activity out of our daily lives. “Page 154.

Our lifestyles need to change to counteract these facts. A study of five “hot spots” on the globe of good health and longevity has shown us the way to become the most long-lived cultures and examples of good health in the later years. These include: Ikaria, Greece, Okinawa, Japan, Ogliastra region in Sardinia, Loma Linda, California, and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rico, collectively called the Blue Zones. How do they live and more specifically what and how do they eat?

These are the “six powerful food practices” of the Blue Zone populations that are associated with longer, fuller lives.

Make breakfast or lunch the biggest meal of the day with a light, early dinner and most food is consumed before noon.   Most do not regularly make a habit of snacking and when they do, a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts is sufficient. An Israeli study found that dieting women who ate half of their daily calories at breakfast,  third at lunch and a seventh at dinner lost an average of 19 pounds in 12 weeks along with a drop in triglycerides, glucose, insulin and hormones that trigger hunger.

Cook at home. Always try to eat breakfast at home. Pack a lunch the night before. Prep ingredients for dinner in the morning and using a slow cooker can make dinner easy. Use Sundays to cook meals for the week and freeze for later use in the week.

Hari Hachi Bu. This saying is a 2500-year-old Confucian adage that reminds Okinawans to stop eating when they feel their stomach is 80% full.  Many people in Blue Zone American cities use the method of wearing a blue bracelet to remind them to use this tool. Wear the bracelet (does not have to be blue)  for six weeks as a reminder to be mindful of this practice that listens to inner signals innately found to detect hunger. After six weeks, it should be part of your eating patterns.

Fast Fasts. You can experience intermittent fasting every 24 hours by scheduling the time you eat to only 8 hours of the day. As best you can, try eating only two meals a day; a big late-morning brunch and second meal around 5 p.m. It is important to consult your doctor before any kind of fasting.  Avoid starvation diets as they may lead to binge-eating. When fasting, eat foods that are nutrient dense and provide plant or animal protein at each meal.

Eat with family and friends. A 2011 study found that children and adolescents who share family meals three or more times a week are more likely to be at a normal weight range than those who share fewer family meals together. Don’t eat alone, standing up, when driving. If you eat alone, avoid reading, watching TV or using your phone – all leads to mindless eating.

Celebrate and enjoy food.  From Buettner: “pick one day of the week and make it your day to splurge on a meal with your favorite foods. The Blue Zone centenarians primarily eat a plant-based diet, but they don’t give up that slice of birthday cake.”  Some are vegetarians; others are not.  Deprivation and restriction can lead to binge-eating.

A new cookbook is now available that is beautifully illustrated with the people and food of the Blue Zones.  Find it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble – The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100, Dan Buettner, 2019.

 

How to Like Vegetables?

 

Americans need all the help they can get in eating more vegetables (nutrient dense, low in calories, loaded with fiber).  If you have children, It’s even more important  My personal advice?

Roast them – they caramelize and take on a whole new flavor and texture. Add a little honey and/or butter for more appeal. And it’s so easy on a foil-lined baking pan. Easy clean-up, too. – yes it can be done.

Enjoy the advice and bon appetit.

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