I was thinking about food the other day while driving home from visiting my sister. Ha! I realize how funny that sounds – like I don’t think about food any other time. But I was thinking about how much has changed through the years, not just how we prepare food, but what we’re eating.
I’m not going to take us way back to cave man or even the frontier when everything was cooked out over open fires, but I admit that I’m grateful every time I smell a steak cooking over real charcoal!
So starting back around the turn of the century in 1900-1920, electricity was pretty much standard but much of the food was still cooked over wood stoves. Everything was made from scratch, so no prepared foods to help you. If you grew it, you cooked it and ate it. If you lived near the coast, you ate seafood. If you lived in the middle of the country, you ate beef, or pork or chicken. (Canned goods had been in use since the 1800s – the first American canning factory was established in 1812.) The big meals were usually eaten in the middle of the day and most always included dessert. Hellman’s Mayonnaise and Oreo Cookies were introduced in the 1900s.
Things started swinging in the 1920s! Electric refrigerators had been introduced and more and more people were buying them. Food no longer had to be purchased everyday so leftovers were a new thing! Did you know that the Charleston Chew candy was named after a popular dance of the decade? But here came Prohibition and suddenly alcohol was banned. What did people substitute for their five o’clock cocktail? How does a small bowl of fruit and marshmallows sound compared to a martini? And that’s why those little bowls of chopped fruit are called fruit cocktail! Here are some other foods introduced in the 1920s: Kool-Aid, Velveeta cheese and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
In the 1930’s – candy cigarettes were the rage! They looked so real because they were modeled after real cigarette companies. Even the packages looked similar to the real thing. Congealed salads became popular in the 1930s. It was the time of the depression and it changed the way women had to cook. Many women had gone to work and so there wasn’t as much time to prepare food. And of course, not many men were cooking! I read that in the 1930s, as much as 1/3 of all cookbook recipes were gelatin based. It was just another way of stretching the thinning dollar. Foods introduced in the 1930s: Ritz crackers, Snickers candy bar and SPAM!
In the 1940s: With the coming of World War II, food was rationed in many parts of the world. I remember my Mother telling stories of using their rationing cards to purchase sugar. Women really went into the workplace since so many men were called into duty. Food had to be made quickly and was determined by what food stuffs could be found and bought. Families and communities were encouraged to grow victory gardens. My parents had one in Florida and so did my husband’s family in North Carolina. Women were learning the advantages of making casseroles which contained meat and vegetables. Candy bars were hard to find. In the US, rationing was over in 1946, but continued in Britain until 1954. Sugar was the last commodity to be lifted from rationing in the states. Foods introduced in the 1940s: M&Ms and Nutella.
A period of prosperity followed in the 1950s and fast food places, such as Burger King and McDonalds, began to pop up across the country. Although home cooked meals were still the norm, more processed foods were showing up on grocery shelves. Cooking outside really became popular during this decade and side dishes such as potato salad, baked beans and salads hit their heyday. Congealed salads were still popular! New foods introduced in the 1950s: TV dinners, frozen pizza, Peeps, and instant ramen noodles.
In the decade of love, the 1960s, fondue pots were on everyone’s wedding gift list. Julia Child started teaching women about cooking the French way. Lipton introduced Onion Soup Dip and Lean Cuisine filled the freezer shelves.Congealed salads were still a favorite for salads and desserts. Crescent rolls stuffed with wienies created the famous “Pigs in a Blanket” which showed up at many a cocktail party. Foods introduced in the 1960s: Pop Tarts, Gatorade.
In the 1970s, salad bars were introduced in restaurants with Ranch dressing being the hottest new thing. Suddenly quiche was the trendy supper. Anything with cheese on it or pineapple added to it was cool. Lots of sugary cereal was hawked at children in TV commercials. Microwaves let us heat food and leftovers in a flash. Those baby bottles that allowed mushed food to be shoved down little throats were a big thing. Poprocks were loved by kids everywhere. New foods in the 1970s: BlowPops, Peppermint Patties, the Quarter Pounder at McDonalds, Starbucks opened in Seattle, and the first Cuisinart was sold.
In the 1980s: Tab coke was the thing! Rice A Roni, the San Francisco treat, sloppy joes, and the slow cooker shaped meals in this decade. Salads were still a big thing but people wanted fast meals and pizza fit the bill. I remember the 7 layer dip and still love it! Here comes blackened fish and cajun food, pasta salad and pizza rolls. Don’t forget the spinach dip and something very interesting called sushi (well, at least in California!). “Where’s the beef” made us all laugh! Michael Jackson loved Pepsi and Bill Cosby promoted Pudding Pops. Everyone was drinking Crystal Light and stuffing Fruit Rollups in lunch boxes.
The 1990s brought more prepackaged meals and food that could be popped in the microwave. Lunchables were just the thing for kid’s lunchboxes. Suddenly cranberries were showing up in salads and muffins. Bagels masquerading as pizza were a hot item, and everyone craved a chocolate cake that had hot gooey insides. Pepsi tried to go “clear” but wasn’t popular enough to stay around. And Poprocks made a comeback! Dippin’ Dots ice cream became a fun trend and Capri Sun was on everyone’s list of drinks.
So here we are in a new century and what are we eating now? Anything and everything. The world is getting so small that you can find ethnic food places in most every town. Mexican or Tex Mex food has been a hot trend in the USA for awhile now, followed by sushi or Asian restaurants a plenty. I checked out food trends for 2018 and looks like we’ll be using syringes to “infuse” everything from donuts to cupcakes. How does a donut filled with corn and blueberries sound to you? Local breweries are on every corner and Middle Eastern restaurants are predicted to be the next new thing. I still don’t understand the lure of chicken and waffles but lots of folks love that pairing. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us in the 2020’s!
And stating this here and now – congealed salads are not all yucky. A little qualification – if you’ve seen one that looks like that sliced meat in the deli that has all sorts of shapes and colors in it – you are allowed to call it yucky. But here’s a recipe for a peach congealed salad that will have you smiling!
You can find lots of information on foods of each decade on Google. It was fun reading!
Happy memory making and go ahead and eat dessert first sometimes!
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