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Old 05-21-2020, 11:42 AM
 
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Was the way Americans ate in the 1930s/1940s completely different than since the 1950's? Some sources say it was basic, more traditional with healthier portions, no GM food, less chemicals. Certainly almost no fast food, at least not in the way we know it since the 50s, and especially the 60s. Anyway, I don't really care when the change started to occur (circa 1954 space age is my bet). What I would like to know is what did the average American in NY or some midwestern farm would eat in, say 1946, and was it different than today? Would mom prep Kellogs with milk for breakfast like today?

Last edited by elnina; 05-27-2020 at 01:20 PM.. Reason: Typo in thread title
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Old 05-21-2020, 01:04 PM
Status: "Happy Juneteenth!" (set 21 hours ago)
 
Location: The New England part of Ohio
19,789 posts, read 24,949,648 times
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An interesting question to which I have a sparse answer. I am curious also.

All I know from my parents is sketchy. They ate the biggest meal of the day on Sunday, at noon after church.

At night, both grandmothers served homemade soup. Still talking about Sundays.

They ate porridge - oatmeal or cream of wheat, farina, - or some other type of hot cereal for breakfast on school days. On the weekends, my mother's family who had a cook enjoyed homemade biscuits eggs and bacon or pancakes. They both always had orange juice.
Also, soft boiled eggs in an egg cup. I remember them talking about coddled eggs, poached eggs, creamed eggs and other types of eggs that are not popular today.

I have no idea what they ate for lunch. I am going to guess ham and cheese. Liverwurst on rye.

I know they both said that regular dinners would begin with fruit cup, or a half a grapefruit.
They always ate fresh vegetables, depending on the season. Green beans were popular, also carrots and peas, creamed peas, creamed spinach.

They mentioned they always had something sweet after dinner.. Nothing fancy. Tapioca pudding, rice pudding were favorites.
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Old 05-21-2020, 02:02 PM
 
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Which Americans?


- upper middle class city dwellers
- working class city dwellers
- upper middle class farmers
- lower class farmers
- GIs at a stateside army base
- GIs on bivouac


etc


???
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Old 05-21-2020, 03:03 PM
 
1,558 posts, read 1,232,082 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sheena12 View Post
An interesting question to which I have a sparse answer. I am curious also.

All I know from my parents is sketchy. They ate the biggest meal of the day on Sunday, at noon after church.

At night, both grandmothers served homemade soup. Still talking about Sundays.

They ate porridge - oatmeal or cream of wheat, farina, - or some other type of hot cereal for breakfast on school days. On the weekends, my mother's family who had a cook enjoyed homemade biscuits eggs and bacon or pancakes. They both always had orange juice.
Also, soft boiled eggs in an egg cup. I remember them talking about coddled eggs, poached eggs, creamed eggs and other types of eggs that are not popular today.

I have no idea what they ate for lunch. I am going to guess ham and cheese. Liverwurst on rye.

I know they both said that regular dinners would begin with fruit cup, or a half a grapefruit.
They always ate fresh vegetables, depending on the season. Green beans were popular, also carrots and peas, creamed peas, creamed spinach.

They mentioned they always had something sweet after dinner.. Nothing fancy. Tapioca pudding, rice pudding were favorites.
Bologna and cheese sandwiches were the lunch of choice in my neck of the woods. And fried 'taters, of course.
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Old 05-21-2020, 03:11 PM
 
Location: Omaha, Nebraska
8,813 posts, read 5,077,644 times
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The biggest difference was that the menus were a lot more seasonal, since frozen foods were just being developed and rapid shipping of fresh produce by air wasn't affordable yet. No watermelon in January!

And food was a much higher percentage of the household budget, so people got creative about using up leftovers and things like stale bread. Leftovers get tossed into the soup pot or turned into a casserole, stale bread gets used to make bread pudding or stuffing, etc. And less-expensive foods like bread, potatoes, and rice were used to "stretch" the more expensive ingredients (think meatloaf - add breadcrumbs, and you can get by with less ground meat).
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Old 05-21-2020, 04:31 PM
 
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My parents got married in 1946, and I wish they were still around to ask. I do remember a few things they said about the differences in food between when I was growing up in California (1970s) and what they had had in their youth in Chicago.

As the previous poster said, fruits and vegetables were either seasonal or canned. Onions and cabbage were around, but broccoli was exotic. As a young man, my dad knew spinach only as a canned vegetable. They had canned beans, peas, peaches and the like. "Creamed" vegetables were fashionable (my mom especially disliked these). Jarred pickles were common, but they didn't have olives. Oranges were treats around the holiday season and would show up in a Christmas stocking. Avocados were totally unknown to them.

They had cold cereal (Wheaties!) and of course oatmeal or eggs and toast for breakfast. Children drank milk and adults had coffee.

Lunch was sandwiches of peanut butter or cheese or liverwurst, maybe some kind of meat like pastrami. My mom would put a piece of cheddar cheese between two slices of buttered bread and eat it like that, cold--we kids only ate cheese sandwiches if they were grilled!

Dinner usually followed the meat, starch, vegetable pattern. Chicken, "ground round," liver, hot dogs. Seafood was a special treat. They had canned soup, and split pea soup and stew. Lots of potatoes, mostly mashed with gravy. Ethnic foods were very limited. Italian food was spaghetti noodles with tomato sauce or macaroni and cheese. They had plain cheese pizza and a very mild form of curry. Their idea of Chinese food was chop suey.

Always something small for dessert--if nothing else, a little dish of canned fruit, or a single cookie. Applesauce, tapioca pudding. My grandfather loved lemon meringue pie and pineapple upside-down cake, and during high school, my mom baked one or the other for him almost every week.
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Old 05-21-2020, 04:51 PM
 
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Pre WWII still vast majority lived on small farms. They raised and canned good bit of their food. You could hire animals butchered, but most did it themselves. Also "better living thru chemistry" didnt really take hold until 1950s. Pre WWII people in effect ate non-hybrid and organic. Didnt call it that, but...


Remember most rural areas didnt have electricity until after WWII. So unless they had one of those old Servel kerosene refrigerators, at best they might had an ice box.



Now working class city people kinda stuck with what they could afford to buy. They ate more canned meats and like. Read Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" if you want an unpleasant tale of the meat processing industry in late 19th and early 20th century before govt got involved. PBS had a documentary on origins of FDA. Probably available free somewhere. Processors put formaldehyde in milk to preserve it. Fun stuff like that. Put it this way the food processing industry wasnt concerned about their customers health. They just didnt have the technology they have today. Greed was rampant back then too.
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Old 05-21-2020, 07:01 PM
 
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My grandparents talked about eating vegetables out of the garden in the summer. Lots of fried stuff: okra, squash, green tomatoes. My grandmother canned green beans and butter beans, tomatoes, pickles. My grandaddy would talk about having tomato sandwiches for lunch every day when tomatoes were ripe. Eggs were big on their table because they had chickens.
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Old 05-21-2020, 07:44 PM
 
Location: Springfield, Ohio
12,627 posts, read 11,162,624 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saibot View Post
My parents got married in 1946, and I wish they were still around to ask. I do remember a few things they said about the differences in food between when I was growing up in California (1970s) and what they had had in their youth in Chicago.

As the previous poster said, fruits and vegetables were either seasonal or canned. Onions and cabbage were around, but broccoli was exotic. As a young man, my dad knew spinach only as a canned vegetable. They had canned beans, peas, peaches and the like. "Creamed" vegetables were fashionable (my mom especially disliked these). Jarred pickles were common, but they didn't have olives. Oranges were treats around the holiday season and would show up in a Christmas stocking. Avocados were totally unknown to them.

They had cold cereal (Wheaties!) and of course oatmeal or eggs and toast for breakfast. Children drank milk and adults had coffee.

Lunch was sandwiches of peanut butter or cheese or liverwurst, maybe some kind of meat like pastrami. My mom would put a piece of cheddar cheese between two slices of buttered bread and eat it like that, cold--we kids only ate cheese sandwiches if they were grilled!

Dinner usually followed the meat, starch, vegetable pattern. Chicken, "ground round," liver, hot dogs. Seafood was a special treat. They had canned soup, and split pea soup and stew. Lots of potatoes, mostly mashed with gravy. Ethnic foods were very limited. Italian food was spaghetti noodles with tomato sauce or macaroni and cheese. They had plain cheese pizza and a very mild form of curry. Their idea of Chinese food was chop suey.

Always something small for dessert--if nothing else, a little dish of canned fruit, or a single cookie. Applesauce, tapioca pudding. My grandfather loved lemon meringue pie and pineapple upside-down cake, and during high school, my mom baked one or the other for him almost every week.
All sounds lower in saturated fat, certainly lower in preservatives and artificial flavors than what we have now. And the older people I know, including my deceased grandparents, all eat/ate smaller portioned meals. All of which explains why they were all much slimmer than in the present day...
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Old 05-21-2020, 07:46 PM
 
14,803 posts, read 25,253,937 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JSmithMMXVIII View Post
Was the way Americans ate in the 1930s/1940s completely different than since the 1950's? Some sources say it was basic, more traditional with healthier portions, no GM food, less chemicals. Certainly almost no fast food, at least not in the way we know it since the 50s, and especially the 60s. Anyway, I don't really care when the change started to occur (circa 1954 space age is my bet). What I would like to know is what did the average American in NY or some midwestern farm would eat in, say 1946, and was it different than today? Would mom prep Kellogs with milk for breakfast like today?
Yes, things were just polly perfect in the 1930s and 1940s. You just have to ignore the fact that about 20-25% of the families in the 1930s had significant problems feeding their families. Food was not available to many, including my MIL's family who subsided for weeks on bread and cabbage (in Ohio). Then 1942 came with severe rationing of MOST food - fats, meat, sugar, etc - as food was diverted from US consumers to the war effort and European relief.

Vegetables were canned but MOST families had access to what they could grow and can themselves. Yes, you MIGHT have some fresh vegetables for 3-4 months of the year in most areas BUT you are eating the same vegetables canned for the remainder of the years.

Meat? Most tf the meat products that many had was what they could trap or shoot. My father trapped rabbits and other critters for sale along his egg route. My grandfather raised carrier pigeons from 1915-1960 and many of them graced the table.

Back then, everything was held on ice, if you could afford it. Much of the meat and fish was salted, pickled or dried so that there would be meat throughout the year. Do you think that salt cod, or country ham or dried beef was low in sodium? Not hardly.

I would argue, based on the discussions that I had with Army nurses and dietitians who served in World War II, that the diet was significantly worse in the 1930s and 1940s than they are today. The major difference is the complete lack of exercise that most Americans get. Back then, all the farm jobs (many more pre automation) and all of the factory jobs were very strenuous exercise which required a lot of brute strength. Most of those jobs are now done by machine. The last manufacturing plant that I managed had a strict 35# lift restriction. Over that weight, you used a crane or multiple people.

One Army dietitian told me that in preparation for the war, that at least 30% of the recruits came in clinically undernourished. Most recruits had no problems with the physical requirements once they were on a proper diet. You would not be able to say that today.
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