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!


Content used:Modern Kitchen Digital Kit by Storybook Legacy

Cooked Kit by DesignerDigitals

Font: KG Be Still and Know





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5 Responses to Food Glorious Food

  1. Cheryl Millar says:

    Every year at Christmas mom made a 3 layer Congealed salad called Christmas Ribbon Ring. It was out of the Better Homes and Garden Cook book. One layer had strawberry Jello and cranberries, one lemon cream cheese and pineapple and one lime Jello and fruit cocktail. It was very festive looking with the 3 colours. I loved it and still do even though I don’t make it. I have made my favorite layer on occasion but that was years ago. All 3 of us sisters were given the Better Homes an Garden cookbook and I still use mine today despite the internet and its wealth of recipes.

  2. Veronica Wilson says:

    What a super article, who knew Reese’s peanut butter cups had been around so long! And I think the automatic coffee brewer was first introduced in the 1980’s. My brother gave my parents a Mr. Coffee Maker for Christmas and I still remember how we all stood around in the kitchen and watched the coffee fill up the carafe. We were mesmerized! Look at how coffee has changed so much (she said as she drank her Starbucks Frappuccino). I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, and every gathering had at least two jello salads. Never cared for them myself, but everyone else certainly loved them. And I remember watching a program about the restaurant industry and how a big problem in the 1950’s was convincing stay-at-home moms/wives that eating out was not “lazy,” and they deserved the break from cooking every day at home. How quaint!

  3. sagroscup@ca.rr.com says:

    What a fun and interesting history. Something we should all consider documenting in our books about ourselves. Thank you for sharing and taking me back through the decades.

  4. Jan says:

    I don’t think I ever had a meal at either of my grandmother’s houses without a congealed salad, unfortunately many with cottage cheese, which I still don’t like! Nor do congealed salads of most any variety float my boat… But I did love reading about food trends. Reminded me of our Spamples at the SPAM Museum!

    • Anne says:

      Cottage cheese isn’t my favorite either so never add that to congealed salads. Arch’s mom used to make one with lime jello, cream cheese and pineapple which was really good on a hot day. You’ll just have to try one of mine on your next visit!

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