A Square Meal

A Square Meal

A Culinary History of the Great Depression

Book - 2016
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Before 1929, America's relationship with food was defined by abundance. But the collapse of the economy left a quarter of all Americans out of work and undernourished. In 1933, for the first time in American history, the federal government assumed some of the responsibility for feeding its citizens. 'Home economists' brought science into the kitchen and imposed their vision of a sturdy, utilitarian cuisine on the American dinner table. Ziegelman and Coe provide an in-depth exploration of the greatest food crisis the nation has ever faced and how it transformed America's culinary culture.
"From the author of the acclaimed 97 Orchard and her husband, a culinary historian, an in-depth exploration of the greatest food crisis the nation has ever faced--the Great Depression--and how it transformed America's culinary culture. The decade-long Great Depression, a period of shifts in the country's political and social landscape, forever changed the way America eats. Before 1929, America's relationship with food was defined by abundance. But the collapse of the economy, in both urban and rural America, left a quarter of all Americans out of work and undernourished--shattering long-held assumptions about the limitlessness of the national larder. In 1933, as women struggled to feed their families, President Roosevelt reversed long-standing biases toward government-sponsored 'food charity.' For the first time in American history, the federal government assumed, for a while, responsibility for feeding its citizens. The effects were widespread. Championed by Eleanor Roosevelt, 'home economists' who had long fought to bring science into the kitchen rose to national stature. Tapping into America's long-standing ambivalence toward culinary enjoyment, they imposed their vision of a sturdy, utilitarian cuisine on the American dinner table. Through the Bureau of Home Economics, these women led a sweeping campaign to instill dietary recommendations, the forerunners of today's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. At the same time, rising food conglomerates introduced packaged and processed foods that gave rise to a new American cuisine based on speed and convenience. This movement toward a homogenized national cuisine sparked a revival of American regional cooking. In the ensuing decades, the tension between local traditions and culinary science has defined our national cuisine--a battle that continues today. A Square Meal examines the impact of economic contraction and environmental disaster on how Americans ate then--and the lessons and insights those experiences may hold for us today. A Square Meal features 25 black-and-white photographs"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York, NY : Harper, [2016]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780062216427
0062216422
9780062216410
0062216414
Characteristics: x, 314 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Additional Contributors: Coe, Andrew (Andy),

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rpavlacic
Sep 13, 2017

Husband and wife food writers, Coe and Ziegelman, take a broad sweep of dietary habits of Americans, from the supply lines of WWI to the outbreak of WWII. The book demonstrates that not all people benefited from the "Roaring Twenties" and "starvation diets" were devised to deal with the nutrition needs of the most poor. It then moves on to the Thirties and how people survived on meagre food supplies - egged on by "home economists" who were charged with coming up with scientific means to ensure people stayed fed properly. At the same time came the revolution of processed and frozen foods, the simplification of the refrigerator with much smaller compressors, and the dishwasher. Too, the Roosevelt Administration came up with make work programs - but more importantly three things that remain with us today - food stamps, free school lunches and the "recommended" daily foods guide, the last of which is a concept adopted by many other countries in different forms. Then the authors make the stunning revelation that when Selective Service was launched in 1940, millions of men flunked the medical, due to malnutrition during the Depression. Finally, the book discusses how the pushback against processed foods led to a Renaissance of regional cooking. A well researched book written in layperson's terms. Highly - uh - recommended.

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