Taking a trip through time in land of food
Priscilla Mangnall’s fascinating history updates celebrating The Daily Sentinel’s 120 years was my motivation for this column. (If you’re not sure what I’m referring to, please check out this feature on page 3A.)
I hope you enjoy these food history bits that go up to and include the ‘60s, where that series in now.
Let’s first look at 1893 to the early 1900s. By 1893, Oscar Mayer and his brother’s meat market in Chicago was 10 years old. Calumet Baking Powder and Maxwell Coffee were on board. Post developed Grape-Nuts in 1897, and JELL-O was already around. Campbell’s Soup arrived around the second half of the 1800s and has been instrumental in recipes ever since. Ball Jars were already a few years old. Cooking and daily shopping still took lots of time. Many new products, especially canned products, were a big deal as they moved into the 1920s.
The 1920s marked the arrival of Betty Crocker along with more dried and canned products. Pudding mixes. Baker’s Chocolate and brands such as Carnation Milk, Knox Gelatin, Kellogg’s, and the lists goes on, showed up. Even Kool-ade, eventually changed to Kool-aid, arrived on the grocery scene.
Depression dishes appeared. There were lard sandwiches sprinkled with sugar. My Dad told me his mom made “homemade soda” for her four boys, It was a mixture of water, vinegar and sugar, and it was a treat!
A 1927 cookbook talked about homemakers tired of making the same old thing, wanting new and time-saving ideas. There’s food for thought.
In the 1930s, Clarence Birdseye got 27 frozen food items and the freezers in which to keep them, in a few markets. Just compare this with how many frozen foods there are today.
Miracle Whip arrived along with many canned and bottled items and so many of the brands we know and love.
This is a must mention from the 1940s: creamed beef on toast (although sometimes called something else by the military). World War II rationing made cooking challenging. Cooks became creative with little butter, sugar, meat or other items. Nothing in the garden was wasted. Let us not forget Spam.
The 1940s moved into the ‘50s with scalloped potatoes and ham and lots of casseroles, hamburger and tuna dishes.
In the 1950s, the first Betty Crocker Picture Cookbooks came out and they are still popular today.
I know someone whose mother was a home economist and worked for a national food company, testing and developing instant food mixes. They kept her and her young husband alive while on a very tight budget. Needless to say, they welcomed invites to dinner not out of the box.
The 1950s brought parties and entertaining back in a big way. Pizza makings in a box: the yeast, flour, sauce, a little grated dried cheese, and you added the meat. Pizza was really becoming popular.
And now I’m caught up with Priscilla, who is writing about the 1960s. Entertaining in the home was still big, and eating out was gaining. More instant mixes and frozen dinners (Hungry Man) and microwave ovens came on the scene.
Popular Tupperware parties and other home parties had hostesses whipping up new desserts to amaze guests.
Low fat and fat free foods came on the scene. Rice cakes, fad diets, “blue” looking skim milk, Tab diet soda, diet “meal drinks,” diet candy and diet cookbooks. Let the fads begin!
I have a Schaller, Iowa, Woman’s Club’s “What’s Cookin’ in the Popcorn Capital of the World Cookbook” from 1961–1962 from my husband’s mom. Here’s what I found on its pages:
■ Fruit punch — More than 20 recipes.
■ TV Mix using cereals, salted nuts and pretzels sticks. A holiday must.
■ Cheese balls and more cheese balls!
■ Never Fail Fudge.
■ Caramel corn and popcorn ball recipes, which were big for the holidays.
■ Dates (the kind you eat) were popular with date cakes, candy, breads, cookies and salads.
■ Tuna — Tuna and Mac Bake, Tuna Broccoli Bake, Tuna Fish Loaf? Plus Chicken and Tuna Dish, Tuna and Chips, Tuna Pie and Tuna Salad and more.
■ Salad in a Can — I’d never heard of such a thing. You’ve got to Google this. It involves a large can of pineapple slices, JELL-O, cream cheese and maraschino cherries.
2013 Tomato War: I lost this annual war to my neighbor Gordon, but I beat my husband, Fred. I’m currently baking my humble pie. Gordon’s bragging is over the top.