Dining Through the Decades: 1930’s

Stock Market Woes: The Depression

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

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

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

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

 

 “Saint” Al Capone? and Soup Kitchen

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

The Ice Age

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

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

Stuckey’s and Route 66

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

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

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

The Dust Bowl: Agriculture Gone Wrong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post Prohibition

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

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

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

TIDBITS and TRIVIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

The shopping cart makes its debut. 1937

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

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

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

Bon Appetit!

 

The Roaring Twenties: 1920’s

The Roaring Twenties

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

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

The Woes of Prohibition

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

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

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

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

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

Speakeasies, Finger Foods, and Cocktails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The New Kitchen

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

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

Calling Dr. Hay – Quack,  Quack?

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

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

Diners

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

The Greatest Thing – White Bread?

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

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

Betty Crocker – The Ideal Woman?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: http://www.bettycrocker.com

Home cooking & family entertaining

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

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

TIDBITS and TRIVIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bon Appetit!

 

The Essence of Mindfulness

“Mindful eating is very pleasant” – Thich Nhat Hanh

The following excellent article first caught my eye due to its title – “Of Onions and Olive Oil”? After reading it, I fully appreciate what mindfulness is all about.  How apart the thoughts  presented are from our typical American way of eating –  standing, sitting in the car, in front of the TV, or consuming a whole bag of potato chips in one sitting.

Maybe we should take this time of quarantines, lockdowns, politics and distancing to practice the art of mindfulness even in isolation or with family.  It supports the crazy notion that it is not what we eat, but how we eat. SF

CLICK HERE.

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.

CLICK HERE.