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Do You Get All Fussy?

Most of us have access and have become accustomed to beer, food and wine that our parents and grandparents couldn’t imagine and yet at the same time I’ve noticed that fortunately we don’t get all fussy over it. Why?

I’m a Gen X’er. I recall being maybe fifteen and having to attend a birthday party thrown for my grandaunt by some of her girlfriends. They served things like Swedish meatballs, quiche, cucumber and watercress sandwiches and other dishes that I think of as “their” era (circa 1950-60s). And you could tell by the way they ate and served themselves and others that it wasn’t just about enjoying a meal (i.e. nobody talked about the food except me [I remember the meatballs being good]); the food that they served I think for them helped define their class.

With our generation though, although we can at times make an impression upon others with our “foodiness”, making an impression is never the goal; as I think it was at times with some of the older generation when it came to their choices of food. Do you agree? And if so, what changed?

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  1. I'm probably closer to that 'older generation' than I'd like to think but have no personal experience upon which to agree with you. It's probably true that older people may not have had as much exposure to 'foodie' menu items or possibly are just at a point in their lives where they simply prefer what they're more accustomed to. I'd be more likely to ascribe "making an impression" through food to specific personalities than to age groups. Just my $.02.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Midlife

      I'm a Gen-Xer, too, and agree with your $.02 100 percent. I'd say "making an impression" through food (or jewelry or fill in the blank with your pleasure) has a whole lot more to do with specific personalities than it does with anyone's age.

      "We are always the same age inside."
      --Gertrude Stein

    2. I think totally the opposite. Sorry!

      1. In my family, the older generation are more into food then my younger cousins. I'm in the middle and I'm just as passionate about food as my aunts and uncles. I think it depends on your family, friends and life style (meaning what's available to you)

        1. "making an impression is never the goal"

          Completely disagree. I was born in the late 60's. Just about every single meal that I serve (whether it be to a house full of company for a holiday, a weeknight dinner for me, my husband and 2 kids, or a lunch that goes into my 4 year old daughter's lunch box) is well thought out. I hate wasting any meal on crap. Sometimes it can't be helped, but most of the time it can.

          My mother, while still a decent cook, wouldn't hesitate to serve Stove Top Stuffing on Thanksgiving. Over my dead body would that go on my holiday table!

          5 Replies
          1. re: valerie

            I probably wasn't clear but often with the older generation (on my dad's side) they often seemed to choose a menu based upon what people of a certain background were "supposed" to enjoy. Now what the meal actually tasted like and if anyone really enjoyed it was secondary. With many in our generation it's the opposite I think. We'll create a menu from any region or country (high or low brow) and try and do it justice. And if we get it right that's the thrill for us. For some in the older generation though I think that by preparing certain meals it was like trying to feel like a Kennedy or something.

            1. re: Chinon00

              Gosh - r u just ageist or elitist? Nope, you're a young foodie. You just haven't realized that in this world there are foodies and non-foodies. It doesn't matter how old they are or what background they have or even how much they earn - they just really like food. So when you're a tad older you can invite the other side of the family (tbd) to some great times talking, planning, cooking, and eating food.

              From someone not of your gen - I really like food too and have been exploring it all of my life.

              1. re: alwayscooking

                My parents, always put a good meal on the table but they didn't care one way or the other. I'm a early 60's baby and food was always everything to me. My grandma loved to cook, but back then there were not all the resources like today. She was more adventurous than my mom and Dad. Yes alwayscooking. I don't think it is age specific, just weather or not you enjoy food. I love it ever since I was little. And stove top dressing as someone quoted earlier for turkey day NO I agree however one year we were selling our home and moving. Well lets just say limited cooking abilities. But rather than all store bought or going out. We still had turkey day. Stove top yes, altered with fresh mushrooms, scallions, fresh stock, celery cranberries, etc. You can still make store bought descent at times. Mom ... would of just served it.

                Some of us just love to cook and some don't

              2. re: Chinon00

                Perhaps the mistake is making an uber-generalization based on your own family history. Impression management is not the domain of a single (i.e., older) generation, as far as I can see. It may be true, however, that one's notion of a "nice meal" for company was more limited for a previous generation of Americans than it is today. The reasons are social-historical-cultural - and not necessarily because one generation has more interest in serving something impressive than another generation.

              3. re: valerie

                not serving crap is not the same as making an impression as the primary goal

                im nearing 50. i';m never using food to make an impression, just to please

              4. "With our generation though, although we can at times make an impression upon others with our “foodiness”, " - if we have, then we have failed as a human being.

                Upon jfood's death he hopes that the eulogies focus on other items than his ability to enjoy a bacon cheeseburger.

                1 Reply
                1. re: jfood

                  hmmm...whosyerkitty hopes that she DIES eating a bacon cheeseburger.

                2. I think it is more about the culture of the times. And the single dominant cultural issue of people in their 70's and above was the frugality imposed first by the depression and after that by the second world war. For most americans in the past 40 or 50 years, as you rightly pointed out, fine food, fine dining is more a matter of personal preference than actual economic need. Sure, some people can't afford fine dining ever, but for the most part most of us can afford to eat more extravagantly than our parents/grandparents (ok, for some great-grandparents) were able to, or even was considered appropriately. When your neighbor hasn't had work in several months, or your children or friends are serving in the armed forces and you know there are food shortages, you naturally tend to cut back, and that is even without the rationing that was in effect during most of WWII.

                  You literally ate what was served you, and you felt lucky to get it, you didn't make a big fuss over it, whether it was good or bad. I'm lucky to be just past that generation, but the attitudes were still strong in my family, especially in my formative years of the 50's and 60's.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                    To really distill my point down I believe that our generation is much less likely to use food as a status symbol versus our parents and grandparents. When we had steaks or lobster as a kid it was a big deal; but what it tasted like wasn't. For us the big deal IS what it tastes like and that's it.

                    1. re: Chinon00

                      So you think people choked down steak and lobster at celebrations when they really would have preferred the taste of...what?

                      1. re: babette feasts

                        I agree. Plenty of workplaces host lavish dinners/celebrations at fancy restaurants, and if that isn't showing off, I don't know what is. Many companies will take a client/potential employee out for some good wining and dining, and it's typically not to the neighborhood Chili's for a reason. While people hosting home parties may not be as much into showing off, that doesn't mean that it's not a status symbol in other arenas.

                        1. re: babette feasts

                          I don't know. But it was clear to me as a child that often how what were eating actually tasted was secondary to simply what it "represented" (i.e. status, class, etc). When I or my cousins and friends my age take our children "out to eat" (i.e. beyond utilitarian chain or fast food meals) the big deal isn't THAT we're having sushi but instead what makes this particular sushi interesting to each of us.

                          1. re: Chinon00

                            Sounds like it's your family. I grew up in that era and we didn't have any pretensions, enjoyed everything from fancy to english muffin pizzas without making a big deal about the meaning of it. I think you got short-changed in that dept if you have such a fixation about it. Food is to be enjoyed, not to be a symbol of something else.

                            1. re: lifespan

                              explanation: the touche was for Babette...

                          2. re: Chinon00

                            I'm of the generation that follows X (I hate that we're so often referred to as Gen Y, as if the only thing that defines us is following those before us), and I have to disagree. For me what matters most is what the foods taste like, the same can be said for many people I know of all ages. Likewise, I know a lot of people of all ages who use food to show off, even if they don't like they way it tastes. One of my closest friends insists that she loves Guinness, but you can see the pain/disgust in her face every time she tastes it - she drinks it to show off.

                            1. re: mpjmph

                              I'm a boomer (but as our new president is only 1 month younger than me, and he keeps getting referred to as "GenX" maybe I'll get to move -- we boomers are always trying to act younger than we are) and I agree with those who say it isn't a generational thing. We all eat foods for different reasons at different times; celebratory, "just because it tastes good", because it's what our moms or grandmothers made and we want to remember, because it's something that's too expensive for us to eat often but we love, special fattening treats, whatever. Trying to read too much meaning into any one of these "occasions" seems pointless.

                            2. re: Chinon00

                              My initial reaction to your statement that you knew steak and lobster were a big deal, but not for their taste is to channel my mother - some things just shouldn't be wasted on children. I know that will probably rub some the wrong way. By all means we should encourage kids to be adventurous eaters, but maybe it felt to you, as a child, that the food itself wasn't that special because your childhood palate hadn't yet developed to the point of appreciating the flavors of steak and lobster...

                          3. I have no personal experience with this, but I've seen plenty of movies from the 1940s-1960s in which couples go out to a restaurant and it's all about the elegant clothes, the decor, the lavish service, the music playing and, yes, the steak. The food never looks good and they barely taste it, but as a status symbol it's important. I can think of other movies with examples of the "proper" food being served in the characters' homes -- boring clear soup, a piece of melon. It was a ritual.

                            Of course in movies about working class people, meaning Italian, usually, people were "allowed" to eat heartily and enjoy their food. (The food always looks a lot better, too). So maybe this is a class issue, with hints of Puritanism. (Food = sensuality.) Elegant people ate the "right" food and didn't enjoy it too much.

                            Just thinking out loud. I maybe be off-base. Haven't have my coffee yet.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Glencora

                              I get what you're saying about food in movies, but it's worth noting that food is still portrayed that way in movies.

                              1. re: mpjmph

                                Exactly. Food often functions as metaphor in narratives, and movies (and TV) weren't in decades past reflections of reality any more than they are now. Many middle class couples - mand singles - enjoy getting dressed up and going to elegant restaurants, some solely for the experience of "going out," food be damned, some because it's a fun way to experience good food.

                            2. No, I totally disagree. I think more than ever people use food and drink to demonstrate what they think is their "class" level or their superiority to others. I think people in their mid 20s and 30s worry far more about what they think the food says about them or what people will think about them because of the food than older people do or did.

                              18 Replies
                              1. re: ccbweb

                                Hmmm...........That's an interesting observation about young people-- maybe they're still in the process of inventing themselves. My somewhat older neighbors invite me regularly over for what they call "white trash" food. I don't think they care about "class" --they just want to share some comfort food with me.

                                1. re: ccbweb

                                  Agree with ccbweb. Young people are very informed about food, conscious of eating organic foods, healthy foods, in a way Boomers were not when they were young. Sometimes awareness or preferences can manifest as a false superiority. Also, eating organically, or even being a vegetarian,like other social behaviors, can be thought of as hip, cool, current. As with all young people, there is enormous peer pressure to conform.

                                  However, my view is limited since I live in Northern California, where I observe and hear younger people discussing food. In another part of the country, where urban fast food dominates the conversation, that might be the hip, cool, current thing.

                                  Likewise, in reference to what jlafler wrote about birth cohorts (meaning, the segment of population were born into), if you lived during the time -- the 60s -- when cooking was basically assembly -- you opened a can of soup and a can of beans and a can of fried onions and made a casserole -- prepared, canned and boxed foods are not as repulsive to you as they are to those born later who consume only fresh foods.

                                  Finally, overriding any eating patterns that derive from what era you were born is an individual's personality.

                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                    How can you possibly discount the Boomers and the Age of Aquarius?
                                    That was the original movement toward natural foods, co-ops like the mothership in Berkeley, the Moosewood collective that culminated in the restaurant and eponymous cookbook, zen macrobiotic diets in even mainstream women's magazines, health food restaurants popping up off every college campus and in cities across America, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi entertaining the Beatles in India, and everyone doing yoga. "Everyone" joined La Leche and breastfed their babies. Communes sprung up all over as America's young went back to nature and rejecting "junk" food was a big part of that.
                                    We grew our own - vegetables and pot.
                                    Whole grains, brown rice, and vegetarianism went hand in hand with the anti-Vietnam and civil rights movements.

                                    It was decades before I could touch brown rice again after that era passed The whole grain breads stayed. I still hate mung beans.

                                    The food our families ate was better than you seem to think - and much better than we were willing to acknowledge.
                                    We were simply insufferable, caught up in ourselves and the times.

                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                      YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! "This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius." Woohoo :)

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        Now we have to see how many people "remember" those years, if you get my drift....

                                        And how can any of us forget that "soul food" became popular dinner party fare in that era? From Park Avenue to Harlem to Chicago to all points west...
                                        Inexpensive, filling, and absolutely "correct"....

                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                          Who WAS it who said that???

                                          Since I grew up in the South, we always ate soul food. Then I got to SF mid70s and introduced friends to it.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            That's what we all ate. It was just "food."
                                            The term "soul" to describe food, music, culture, etc. came into popular use in the '60s. Guess the Yankees had to find a name for it.
                                            Seriously, not all American blacks ate the same food we did or grew up listening to R&B.

                                      2. re: MakingSense

                                        Making Sense, I don't get it.

                                        I AM a boomer. I lived through it all vibrantly, and did many of the things you describe. Contrary to what you write, I didn't discount anything, or mention the age of assenbly in a way that excluded any other Boomer cooking behaviors.

                                        Perhaps you did not realize, with my comment on the age of assembly, that it was in response to Valerie's comment about her mother using Stove Top Stuffing. I commented that someone who cooked during the age of assembly might not be as repulsed by Stove Box Stuffing as another who had not lived through that time. The issue here is familiarity, and sociological acceptance of those food products at the time.

                                        And the age of assembly is an era of food history about which many food historians have written. It was a function of the "new, modern convenience foods" at the time, the direct result of new developments in food manufacturing. Nearly every pantry had several cans of Campbell's soup that weren't always used to make soup. Likewise, with the advances in frozen food manufacturing, frozen foods (TV dinners, etc.) started showing up in kitchens of the day as well.

                                        I did most of the things you mentioned in your post, including the new cooking behaviors that you mention -- other facets of an overall whole -- that came after the age of assembly.

                                        I don't think you fully know my frame of reference, or that I lived through the age of assembly, the whole foods movement of the 60s, which became the 70s. Perhaps you incorrectly assumed when I mentioned assembly cooking that it was all I know, or knew, about cooking through the many eras Boomers have lived.

                                        I went through it all. Cooked through it all. I know all its phases. I happened to mention one cooking trend of the 60s era and you didn't apprehend that it was in response to another post about the same thing. I gave you a thin-slice of one era I lived through, and you thought I thought it was the whole loaf -- that I was broadly generalizing. Not so.


                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                          Sorry, my comments weren't intended as personal. Obviously, I have no way of knowing what your age was in, say, 1965, or what were the circumstances in which you would have formed your conclusions.
                                          That being said, it's important to look beyond our own experiences or perceptions to see the accurate picture.

                                          The 60s and 70s were less "an age of assembly" than today, regardless of what some food writers might say.
                                          Simply comparing the average square footage devoted to frozen prepared foods, canned goods, ready-to-consume products, salad and hot bars, sushi, in-store bakeries, delis, carry-out, party platters, steamed seafood, and other such food items, even in an upscale grocery such as Whole Foods, to the total square footage of the average grocery store of the 60s and 70s would be ample evidence.
                                          The shopper of that era wouldn't even recognize today's stores nor the conveniences available.
                                          Today's consumer needs little more than a microwave oven, an appliance only available to the most affluent of that earlier era.
                                          Not that it's a good thing, but there are many who "cook" that way or with Rachel Ray. Enough that the entire grocery marketing business has changed - even at the high end.
                                          I can buy a frozen Mexican meal at the 7-11 and use their microwave, or get a frozen organic Indian specialty for heating at home. A long way from Swanson's fried chicken TV dinners.

                                          Poor Campbells takes a constant beating in discussions of the 60s but it had taken solid hold in American kitchens by the 20s and 30s. It's a common and popular product even if some look down their noses.
                                          Interestingly, this past October when the stock market collapsed, there was only ONE stock on the entire Dow that did not lose value that day - Campbells.
                                          Investors thought it was mmm, mmm, good. Even in the worst of times. And it still hasn't gone down.
                                          Why? People are still buying Campbells, and using it, while they are bashing dear old Mom's green bean casserole and Stove Top Stuffing (actually a Kraft product - and their stock is doing well too.).

                                          The "age of assembly" was only in its INFANCY in the 60s and 70s. America hadn't seen anything yet.
                                          Now people barely have to assemble. They nuke it if it's frozen, or if it got cold on the way home.
                                          Sure, there are still lots of people cooking from scratch or close to it for at least some meals, but compare the square footages in the grocery stores - fresh v. prepared, frozen, and processed - and draw your conclusions from that, not what food writers say, or even what consumers themselves might claim.
                                          The stores wouldn't be full of that stuff if it wasn't selling.

                                          1. re: MakingSense

                                            A point in support of your idea that that the "age of assembly" is now--there's a little wa wa market where we spend a week every summer at the beach (and the nice part is that it is two blocks from where we stay; only real supermarket is "off-island") . Used to be, you could buy "food" there to prepare. Not much, but food. Some veggies, some fruit, bread, noodles, etc. Now they've replaced "food" with boxes and boxes of refrigerated, prepared meals. I guess "cooking" was too much for people at the beach. Kind of frustrating.

                                            I've seen this with other places I shop; more and more space being devoted to "take out" and less and less to plain old food. The couple counters at my rather plain vanilla supermarket that used to carry a nice selection of different cheeses is now being encrouched on by more carry out food. Yes, I'm glad to have several "gourmet" markets that still have lots of stuff, but even those are seeing encroachment.

                                      3. re: maria lorraine

                                        I was born in the '50's. I was raised with very nutritious food into a family who raised our own produce and a mother who baked all the baked goods we ate.
                                        Opening a can of beans and a can of fried onions and making a casserole wasn't anything I recollect or anything I remember friends or extended family doing.
                                        This is a broad, generalized statement made about Boomers....we were the '60's generation where the term 'organic' began and was commonplace and good nutrition was emphasized. Young people today are no more informed about healthy food, as you say, as any other generation of young people prior.
                                        Every generation seems to think they're more enlightened, more healthy and much more forward thinking than the generation before them. I think back and I'm not sure at all if that is even close to the 'truth'.

                                        1. re: latindancer

                                          In agreement. But for many families cooking in the early 60s was also a reflection of the latest in food manufacturing. Most pantries had canned food items and frozen foods too. Perhaps yours didn't. But many did. These items were thought of being modern conveniences. There are many historical overviews of this era and "assembly" cooking was part of it.

                                          I didn't say it was the ONLY part of cooking from that area, or the way YOUR family ate. But it definitely was a sociological trend at the time. I am not excluding other eating practices that also existed -- once again, all are facets of the same jewel.

                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                            mmmmmm... I'm hair splitting again, but at least in my family (and I suspect we were far from alone) store bought canned foods were not perceived as a "modern convenience" (as in new to the times) as much as they were perceived as labor saving in that it was no longer required that we do all of our canning at home.

                                            I suspect that home canning is one of those things that no one thinks about or recognizes because it was so taken for granted. When people did can things -- or maybe preserve foods is a better phrase than "can" -- they often did more than they could use and gave overages to friends. "Out of season" foods are absolutely not new! What is relatively new is FRESH out of season foods.

                                            In the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and even 50s (and probably long before these decades), if you wanted to impress the hell out of your friends, you passed around jars of premium raspberries (or whatever) you had just "put up," along with a recipe for an English raspberry trifle to make for the winter holidays.

                                            Today life is easier. If you're prone to preserving food yourself, you just wash it, toss it in a plastic bag, pump the air out and toss it in the freezer until you remember, "Hey! I have some 'fresh' zucchini in the freezer!!" Life is good.

                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                              My father found it riotously funny when I began my adventures in canning in the 70s. He remembered what a terrible chore it had been for his mother in the 20s and 30s in rural Louisiana when she had to do it to get the family through the winter. Why on earth would I do something like that when I didn't have to?
                                              He remembered her relief when a "factory" of sorts opened in a nearby town that would process the food for the locals in metal cans and then the joy when they could simply buy good quality canned goods and no longer had to raise so much of their own food.
                                              They still had the vegetable garden but the worries over not having enough for the winter were finally gone!
                                              Daddy was the youngest of 14 and I can't even imagine the volume of food that she "put by."

                                              Do I use good quality canned goods? You bet! They are the taste of winter meals from America's heritage in a seasonal kitchen.
                                              I'll wager that some of those Del Monte's are every bit as good or better than Memere put up.

                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                Is there anything in any kitchen more lovely to behold than pantry shelves filled with sparkling Mason jars filled with home preserved corn, beets, green beans, tomatoes, fruits, berries, all sorts of things. And then there were pickles... Watermelon rind, bread and butter pickles, olive tapenade, corn relish, pickled beets, pickled figs, pickled cauliflower and artichokes. How I'd love to have a jar of pickled figs right now!

                                                At times I'm struck with nostalgia and think about canning stuff for display in my walk-in pantry. Wouldn't that be gorgeous to look at? Then I back off once I think about all the work. I think we're both fortunate to have these home-canning memories! Norman Rockwell would be jealous! '-)

                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                  We can bring them back though, thanks to the wonders of the modern grocery store!
                                                  Michael Pollan's advice to "eat like your grandmother ate" jumped right off the page and made me wonder exactly what SHE had put on her table in the winter months.
                                                  I realized that it was Summer's bounty prepared in different ways than it had been done at the height of Summer.
                                                  It came from the pantry and had been processed, but it was no less "local" nor "fresh." It had only been partially cooked by the canning process and had to be prepared in other ways. Wow!
                                                  Crispy green beans gave way to smoky bacon-seasoned beans with onions, softer than my kids were used to, but I remembered that flavor from childhood and they went so well with winter braises. Canned green beans were a cheap way to to duplicate her home-canned ones and cut at least an hour off the prep and cooking time.
                                                  Frozen corn worked for stewed and creamed corn, quick corn relishes, and corn puddings.
                                                  Thank God for frozen okra! Pickled, stewed, or in gumbo. Frozen and canned fruits did a great job for pies and spiced fruits. Even canned beets can make quick pickled ones.
                                                  I started finding more and more recipes for "quick" relishes, chutneys, and pickled this-and-that which could be made in small batches with one cauliflower or a can of something.
                                                  None of them needed processing because they would be used within a week or two.

                                                  That aversion to "nasty canned veggies and fruit" or "sub-standard frozen produce" had been planted in my head by legions of uppity food writers.
                                                  Why, it wasn't a bit different from what my grandmother had done!
                                                  Those "put by" foods WERE the winter foods of long ago, mixed in with root vegetables, dried things, shelf staples, and what little might grow outside if you lived in the right climate.
                                                  Over the course of a year, my grandmother's table might have been more varied and interesting than most are today. She probably knew at least a dozen ways to cook the same vegetable depending on the time of year.
                                                  Necessity is the mother of culinary invention.

                                                2. re: MakingSense

                                                  LOL! Either that or David (Chinon00) is still young. It took Chicken Little a while to figure out the sky wasn't really falling too. Youth is like that. I suspect we all suffered it to one extent or another '-)

                                      4. Those 75 and older remember the Depression and rationing and being in the world wars. My grandfather made bathtub gin for his family during Prohibition, and could never drink gin after then claiming that he could still taste the bathtub in it.

                                        All sides of my family have found the serving of good food to be the sign of a good host, and the criticism of poorly prepared food of any sort to be the sign of someone of questionable intentions, ie trying too hard to replicate something without realising what that thing actually was. I was taught to determine for myself what worked and what didn't, and have applied that rule to food and drink also. I don't believe that class necessarily has anything to do with it, but all of the women in my family have been educated since at least the late 19th century.

                                        Whenever we meet someone new or have guests over, a good impression is what we strive for, be it a proper dinner, watching a movie, or having cocktails while catching up. That might mean having pizza ordered at the last minute or a quick change to omelettes for dinner when it turns out that the roast is tasteless or disgusting and would be better served to the dog than guests--the cost of the roast is nothing compared to the cost of serving one's guests bad food. Fussy food does not equate to good food, similarly to food or drink served which might make a guest feel uncomfortable (if they truly want a beer and not wine or spirits, they should have it if available).

                                        Mentioning "this is so good!" may have been considered an insult in the past (my then fiance and I laughed at that idea in Emily Post's Etiquette), as the exclamation presupposes that one was surprised that the food actually tasted good. I'd take it as a complement, as would those I grew up with. Verbally criticising the meal while at the table, however, remains unacceptable, as it's ungrateful.

                                        I'm Gen X, btw.

                                        1. Using 17 years as a generation, those born in 2009 would be the 13th/14th generation counting forward from 1776.

                                          I based the 13th generation on information under Origin of the term here,

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: Demented

                                            17 years is a generation? By that standard, I should already be a grandmother!

                                            1. re: Caralien

                                              By that standard I could be a great grandfather.

                                              1. re: Caralien

                                                A better word for what we've been talking about is "cohort," which is a term used in demographics for a group of people who have a defined similarity. In this case, it would be an "age cohort" -- that is, people who grew up around the same time and presumably had certain common experiences.

                                                A cohort can be much more narrowly defined than "generation," which, IMO, is pretty useless for talking about social trends with any precision. Someone born in 1960 grew up in a very different world than someone born in 1946, but they're both "Boomers." I've always been aware of this because I was born at the tail end of the demographic Baby Boom (December, 1963), but when people talk about "Boomers" they never mean people my age. And a "generation" encompasses people of all classes, ethnicities, regions, etc., which means that any generalization you make is likely to be incomplete at best. When people talk about "my generation," they're usually talking about something much narrower than a literal generation -- the people they grew up with, their buddies, their cohort.

                                                1. re: jlafler

                                                  Exactly what I was thinking when I read the OP.

                                            2. For the wife and I, entertaining is about enjoying the company and the food, not making a statement of status.

                                              For dinner parties it table linens, silver and crystal, anything else flatware and glass or plastic make do.

                                              I guess it depends on what you call fussy...

                                              1. (a) most of us have the luxury of being able to take our class status for granted--we didn't have to make the climb. (b) for those so inclined, so many more avenues for conspicuous display.

                                                4 Replies
                                                      1. re: thew

                                                        Yes, I'm completely confused as to how one could come to such a conclusion.

                                                1. Oh my, oh my. Chinon00, do you truly think that your generation doesn't have any pretensions about food? As I understand things, many of your generation are right there at the front of the line for the extremely pretentious small plates and "omakasi" sushi meals for six hundred to a thousand bucks a pop. That's not pretentious and using food as a status symbol?

                                                  There are all sorts of people in every generation. We are not clones yet. Every generation has individuals and groups/clans of individuals who are totally into status symbols and would eat doorknobs if the right chef said they were wonderful. All generations produce people who just, for the life of them, are not good cooks, but who may nevertheless try to do their best to entertain friends with love and by offering the best they can do. And there are always a fortunate few who have a magic touch and can make a glass of ice tea and a grilled cheese sandwich come across as a royal feast. There are always plenty of all sorts in every successive generation.

                                                  I don't pretend to speak for anyone but myself. My generation isn't any more uniform than any other generation. The one thing I learned many years ago is that you have absolutely no control over how people perceive you. I am also a unique person in that I am bright, talented, and love doing things to the best of my ability because doing less is a betrayal of myself. I'm on a downward slide at my age, but there was a time when I held my own in very elite cooking circles. But I never planned a dinner party to impress my guests. I planned a dinner party with the intention of having the food I prepared tell my guests how much I thought of them, how much I enjoyed them, and how wonderful it was to get to share with them. And most guests took it in the manner it was intended. But some didn't. I once had a first time guest announce loudly that I would never be invited to her house because she couldn't cook the way I do. I couldn't understand why she thought inviting her to dinner was a contest. It took a while before I finally could accept the fact that I cannot control what people think.

                                                  As for the older generation in your family, those cucumber sandwiches quite likely mean something entirely different to them than they do to you. I have never been a great fan of cucumber or watercress sandwiches, but I have known some who considered them "comfort food." I've always found it far more interesting to try to figure out what brought people to the tastes and opinions they have today rather than judging them simply on the superficiality of what they appear to be. I guess you could call it "social forensics." And I've known people with whom I have shared a lunch of their beloved cucumber or watercress sandwiches that I don't like much at all, but was glad to eat them simply for the company that came with them. Joy is where you find it. Judgment often is a damper.

                                                  8 Replies
                                                  1. re: Caroline1


                                                    Wow....jfood bows to this post. More than excellently stated.

                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                      With your post, my fingers didn't have to do the walking. I'm a little younger than you (61) and feel 100% the same. Thanks, C1

                                                      1. re: Caroline1


                                                        I can only hope, to ever express myself as eloquently as you.

                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                          Aw shucks. You guys are making me blush. Thanks. Jay and c o and Demented.

                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                            I'm a member of your fan club too! Well stated.

                                                            1. re: lifespan

                                                              Thank you. Why isn't there an emoticon for blushing? '-)

                                                              1. re: lifespan

                                                                Ditto! My wife has never entered a post, but will check out where you are and what you're saying, just for fun.

                                                            2. re: Caroline1

                                                              So very well stated, and with such generosity of spirit.

                                                            3. I don't think making impressions with food has any connection with age. I'm in my late 40s and have friends who range from their 20s to 80s nor is defining class via food the particular domain of one generation.

                                                              I would suggest that your exposure to your grandaunt's generation was both limited in scope and in point of view and your exposure to your own generation is tainted by self-perception.

                                                              1. Part of the lack of "fussiness" is an overall trend towards less formality which has been steadily going on for some time. Your observation of the enormous variety of foodstuff now available is correct. The lack of availability in the past made certain things much more special than they often are now. We live in a time where almost anything is available (for a price) at anytime...making the first pick of a short harvest not as special for some. Perhaps the wider awareness of "local" will help many reconnect with the seasonal rhythms of food harvests.

                                                                I think the situation you describe varies by the people, not by the generation. Each generation has people who try to impress, people who like things predictable, people who crave novelty....people are people. The accoutrement's change much faster than the nature of people.

                                                                31 Replies
                                                                1. re: meatn3

                                                                  "Your observation of the enormous variety of foodstuff now available is correct. The lack of availability in the past made certain things much more special than they often are now. We live in a time where almost anything is available (for a price) at anytime..." meatn3

                                                                  I would say this concept is "sort of" right. But I think the attribution, whether yours or the OP's, are not exactly right.

                                                                  And let me begin by clarifying that I'm talking about the Twentieth Century, and most especially for the last two thirds of that time. It isn't so much that things didn't exist as it was that the average person didn't have a clue as to how to acquire them. And no, I'm not talking about a plethora of frozen entrees at the local supermarket, but I am talking about the ingredients and tools to make those things from scratch. It was entirely possible to do that, and a resourceful few did it on a regular basis.

                                                                  And "resourceful" is at the heart of the matter when it comes to your conclusions that things just weren't there. They were! But Joe and Janet Average didn't have a clue as to how to go about acquiring them.

                                                                  So the question is why are things so easily obtainable by the average person today but were not then? Simple answer: The interent. In the 1930's and 40's, I remember my mother and grandparents picking up the telephone and making a long distance phone call (you didn't dial it yourelf, you asked the local operator to connect you with the long distance operator, then you told her -- no men at the switchboard back then -- who you wanted to talk to in what city and or country, and she got them for you. You could call shops or farmers or bakeries or whomever and ask them to mail you whatever you wanted. There were no credit cards or electronic checks, but once you had established a relationship with a particular purveyor by ordering by mail with check or money order enclosed, you could call them and ask them to ship whatever you were after by COD, a U.S. Post Office service that is no longer available (that I know of) through its successor, the U.S. Postal Service, a government owned commercial enterprise. "COD" stands for collect on delivery. While styrofoam packaging was not available back then, the insulating qualities of crushed newspaper were well understood, and dry ice was available, along with air freight. BUT...!!! The average American had no idea all this was possible. The country was dotted with hot houses that grew all sorts of exotic things year round, IF you just knew who and where to call. There was darned little that was totally unavailable to the resourceful. Well, except during World War II, but even that didn't stop the totally unethical who were willing to deal on the Black Market.

                                                                  Today, you don't have to know there is a small shop in New York City that does carry fresh truffles or that a shop in Florida has burdock root. You just tell your foavorite serach engine what you want, and it will make all the information available to you.

                                                                  The only thing that remains the same today as it was back then is that precious things come with a precious price. So it was, so it is, and so it will probably always be....

                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                    "BUT...!!! The average American had no idea all this was possible."

                                                                    That's the difference. Cooking and enjoying things like fine wine and truffles and raw milk cheeses (or international travel for that matter) are no longer curiousities for a few but are hobbies for literally tens of thousands.

                                                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                                                      "tens of thousands" in a country of over 303 million is at most 0.03%, so it would be still be considered a curiosity for the average American. Even yogurt was considered something foreign and wierd to the other students when I growing up.

                                                                      1. re: Caralien

                                                                        Well putting exact numbers aside for the moment (maybe my numbers were low) it's pretty obvious to me though that the things that I've mentioned (e.g. fine wine) have definitely crossed over into the mainstream since the 50s-60s.

                                                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                                                          "enjoying things like fine wine and truffles and raw milk cheeses (or international travel for that matter) are no longer curiousities for a few but are hobbies for literally tens of thousands" plus "it's pretty obvious to me though that the things that I've mentioned (e.g. fine wine) have definitely crossed over into the mainstream since the 50s-60s."

                                                                          Truffles, fine wine and international trave are now main stream?

                                                                          Jfood can only shakes his head that people actually believe that their passion, although a passion to them, is mainstream. Jfood recognizes that the times are different from his youth, but the idea that these three items are "main-stream" would need some serious documentation to support.

                                                                          Think of the people who sit on the floor in your office. How many are into truffles and fine wine. You probably do not need the second hand and definitely keep the shoes and socks on.

                                                                          Jfood is fortunate where he lives and he would guess that 25-30% are into wines, probably the same on international travel and less than 10% into truffles and raw milk cheese.

                                                                          Yes jfood understands that these were proxies and not definitive set-points, but he would not call these luxuries a main stream item but still a major outlier in the bell curve of hobbies.

                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                            Truffles will be mainstream when you can buy a McTruffle for $1.59.

                                                                            I think Chinon00 is defining mainstream thusly: "I like X. I am not weird. Therefore, X is mainstream."

                                                                            1. re: small h

                                                                              The McD coupons this week had them for buy 1 get 1 free if you order it with melted raw milk cheese and a super sized Lafitte. Even in some FFD County CT towns, these things are hardly mainstream.

                                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                                Have you tried the Lafitte slurpee? Divine!

                                                                            2. re: jfood

                                                                              Per the State Department in 2007 74 million Americans had valid passports.

                                                                              At every office related party or bbq that I've attended there has been beer and WINE readily consumed.

                                                                              As for the truffles and raw milk cheeses they've been featured in the mainstream press for years. There was a story about the French truffle hunt on NPR just a few weeks ago.

                                                                              1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                The 24% of Americans who now hold passports is a substantial increase in the past two years created by the new requirements that anyone reentering the US have a passport rather than the old requirements that allowed drivers' licenses or other proofs of residency. Homeland Security, diplomatic reciprocity, etc.
                                                                                This includes people who live along the US/Canadian and US/Mexican borders who never needed them before, as well as Americans who travel on cruise ships and never even leave the ships.
                                                                                Before these requirements went into effect, the percentage of Americans holding passports had remained steady at about 13% for years. A large part of that was business travelers and immigrants who returned for visits to their countries of origin.

                                                                                I'd bet my lunch money that if you asked 100 average Americans about truffles, they'd tell you that they really like chocolate a lot.
                                                                                They never give a second thought to whether the milk is cooked or raw for their cheese. Are you kidding me? They don't care how Kraft makes it.

                                                                                1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                  True story! Our first Christmas in El Paso, I wanted to serve beef Wellington for Christmas dinner. My version calls for Perigord truffles. Could not find any on my side of town. The Dillard's department store on the other side of town had a fairly large "gourmet" department, so I called, talked to the department manager, told her I needed a jar of black Perigord winter truffles, NOT Italian white truffles, did she have any? "Yes, but we only have about three left." PLEASE hold one for me, I'm leaving now but I live thirty miles away." She agreed. When I got their to claim my treasure, she handed me a box of chocolate truffles! <sigh> We had roast goose instead.

                                                                                2. re: Chinon00

                                                                                  probably 100% of the people you know eat food, but that does not make them gourmets

                                                                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                    74 million divided 300 million population = 25% does not equal mainstream. OK jfood can give you that tens of thousands of people travel internationally. Heck just wait at JFK on a Sunday night for take-off and have the captain come on and say you are 60th in line. But tens of thousands is a faaaaaaaar cry from mainstream.

                                                                                    Now fine wine = beer and WINE (your all caps not jfoods) served at a company BBQ. Stretching pretty far on that one, unless you work for a high end vineyard is jfood's guess..

                                                                                    OMG - a story about a truffle hunt featured on NPR. Quick let jfood send a letter to Simon Cowell telling him that American Idol is under attack on ratings from the 100 people who stayed awake during that "mainstream" segment. Please please please do not try to convince anyone that the Truffle Hunt was top 10 in the Nielsen ratings.

                                                                                    C - You have very specific likes on truffles and fine wines and ... But please do not rationalize that these likes of probably less than one-tenth of 1% of the population is mainstream. Just not even close.

                                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                                      We can debate what mainstream means but an American traveling to Bermuda, Barbados, Mexico, the UK or Ireland for example doesn't raise as many eye brows as it might once have. As for fine wine I assumed that you'd be aware that that definition distinguishes white zinfandel or "black tower" from a solid $15 California Cab, Merlot or Chardonnay. I'll note it in the future that this is unfamiliar to you and be more explicit. And as for truffles and raw milk cheeses I see them more and more featured on restaurant menus and in markets where I shop (and not specialty shops either).
                                                                                      Again we can debate "mainstream" but surely you'd recognize that these are not rare eccentric interests anymore?

                                                                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                        Actually, I don't really think there is that much debate about what constitutes mainstream in this area. McDonalds, Walmart, Target, Chilis, Olive Garden (and other similar large chains)...these are mainstream. Millions and millions of people go to them, eat at them, shop at them every day.

                                                                                        Truffles and raw milk cheese and solid $15 California Cabs aren't something the average American thinks about on a daily or weekly basis and isn't something the vast majority of Americans ever think about.

                                                                                        The restaurants where you eat and the markets where you shop are not mainstream. Walmart supercenters are the largest grocery seller in the country and it's not close. They sell almost double the next largest seller which is Kroger. Trader Joe's isn't mainstream. Whole Foods is in the process of becoming mainstream but even they only have about 250 stores total and had about $6.5 billion in sales on 2007. By comparison, Walmart had more than $110 billion in sales.

                                                                                        Yes, truffles and raw milk cheeses and some wines are more well known than they used to be and probably more people buy and eat them than used to be the case but there's a long long way between that and things being a norm much less mainstream.

                                                                                        1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                          I bought Duboeuf Beaujolais wine from a Super Kmart ten years ago and I bought unpasteurized Manchego from BJ's last week.

                                                                                        2. re: Chinon00

                                                                                          "I'll note it in the future that this is unfamiliar to you and be more explicit". please do not do jfood any favors in this ultra-condenscending statement. And as to your myopic data gathering methods and how it relates to statistical significance you should try to find a book aon basic statistics.

                                                                                          But as always you constantly change the standards as you discuss the issue you present to meet your desired goals. You stated originally that "the things that I've mentioned (e.g. fine wine) have definitely crossed over into the mainstream" now the standards are that "I see them more and more featured on restaurant menus and in markets where I shop (and not specialty shops either".

                                                                                          You think that because you see something in Germantown, that the rest of America is in the same boat, jfood keeps his data analysis to a wider demographic range. Heck you can barely get anyone to agree on a food board that truffles, and fine wine are mainstream, imagine if you expanded the universe beyond a liberal suburb of Philly and a bunch of foodies.

                                                                                          Sorry buddy, your observations do not a statistically significant and variable data set make.

                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                            Agreed. What's available in a Philly suburb is probably not available to people living in less affluent areas or smaller towns. I live in a smaller factory city and we have no high-end grocery stores, nor do we have that much in terms of high-end items in those grocery stores. We have one or two "nice" restaurants that would probably be considered mid-level at best in bigger cities.

                                                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                                                              First off I live in the Mount Airy section not Germantown (although it too is a lovely section of town). And what you'd describe as me changing standards I'd describe as being reasonable. We see things differently. As I've stated elsewhere I've purchase white truffle oil at Superfresh, unpastuerized Manchego at BJ's and Duboeuf wine at Super KMart. I'd describe Superfresh, BJ's and Kmart as mainstream. But we don't have to agree.

                                                                                              1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                This discussion was not about those store as mainstream or not, it was listed as truffles, fine wine, etc. Never mentioned whether your big bix stores are mainstream, and yes jfood agrees those you mention are absolutely mainstream. But derivative conclusions that everything sold at those mainstream stores assumes the same lable as mainstream is a bad leap of faith. There is correlation and causation.

                                                                                                Just because you can buy something in BJ's or SuperK does not make it mainstream. If Uncle Sam sells Rolls Royces at WalMart that poof, makes them mainstream? Jfood thinks not.

                                                                                                In fact here is an add from Costco.com:

                                                                                                2009 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 5.5L V12 RWD 2009 S-Class 4dr Sdn 5.5L V12 RWD 5 Speed Automatic $147,450.00

                                                                                                Please do not tell me a $150K MB S-Class is mainstream America, yet you can buy one at Costco.

                                                                                        3. re: Chinon00

                                                                                          Drinking beer and wine isn't the same as thinking about it, reading about it or making it a hobby. Further, reading (potentially) about something does not mean one consumes it and absent consumption I don't think you could correctly term something a "hobby."

                                                                                          26 million listeners total for NPR each week (there are more than 300 million Americans). I'm not sure that's mainstream, really. Something like 20 million people watch Dancing with the Stars each week when it's on and it's only on for an hour.

                                                                                          As someone noted, I think part of this is conflating things you're interested in and that people you know are interested in with mainstream and cultural norms. They don't appear to be the same in this case.

                                                                                          1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                            It's called "false consensus effect."
                                                                                            A pretty good explanation from Wiki:
                                                                                            "This logical fallacy involves a group or individual assuming that their own opinions, beliefs and predilections are more prevalent amongst the general public than they really are.
                                                                                            This bias is commonly present in a group setting where one thinks the collective opinion of their own group matches that of the larger population. Since the members of a group reach a consensus and rarely encounter those who dispute it, they tend to believe that everybody thinks the same way."

                                                                                            It's not uncommon though to see that it fails. Two different outlets of the same retail chain some miles apart will have differing sales results with an identical product.
                                                                                            In one store, they are barely able to keep it in stock. It blows off the shelves.
                                                                                            In an identically outfitted store in a similar mall, they can't give it away, even at a deep discount. Nobody wants it at any price.
                                                                                            The consumer base can change that much in only a few miles.

                                                                                            1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                              Yes and those of us who spend too much time hanging around chowhound get a very false sense of "everyone". Had this experience the other night; I'd invited some friends over for dinner. They liked the way I had made the spinach (a catalan preparation, but I made little balls and squeezed the water out, refrigerated, rolled in olive oil then gently reheated). I had the idea from having made a recipe from the french laundry cookbook. Anyway, I mentioned the FL, got a blank stare, mentioned Thomas Keller, then "oh- he's the chef of that restaurant Per Se at Columbus Circle" (we live just outside NYC)-- "Ok yeah, I think I've heard of that"-- all I'm saying is that these affluent, well traveled, artistic couple hadn't heard of French Laundry. Many of us might be surprised at that, but shouldn't be. He's famous *in our world" not everyone's world.

                                                                                            2. re: ccbweb

                                                                                              I'd still say that many more Americans today see wine as a hobby versus those that did during the 50s and 60s. And versus that time MANY MANY more are consuming wine generally. Again the mainstream press (e.g. NYT, LATIMES, Chicago Sun Times) have had recent stories on savory truffles and the item can be found on many restaurant menus.

                                                                                              1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                The National Enquirer has a larger circulation than those three newspapers combined.
                                                                                                That's why it was purchased by the investment group, Evercore Capital Partners L.L.C., headed by former Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger C. Altman.
                                                                                                When you want to reach mainstream readers, you go to the publications they read.

                                                                                                It's estimated that about 30 million Americans suffer from some form of substance abuse, the most common being alcoholism, and dual addiction with drugs and alcohol. It has been rising. Maybe it is becoming mainstream.

                                                                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                  Chinon00, I think you're overlooking an important part of the equation. For example, what PERCENTAGE of the population of the 1960s considered wine a "hobby" as compared to what PERCENTAGE of today's population think of wine as such? My guess is that there isn't as great a difference as you appear to think.

                                                                                                  It is highly possible that today gazillions of people are finally aware that "truffles" does not necessarily mean a lump of ganache robed in chocolate. But for me the big question is how many of the people who know that have actually TASTED a truffle for themselves? Awareness levels and experience levels are hardly ever equal.

                                                                                                  In the 70s, I lived in Del Mar, California, and shopped at my local Big Bear supermarket. That specific Big Bear stocked black Perigord truffles on the open grocery shelves in the same aisle as black olives. During the holidays, there were open cases of Dom Perignon and $400.00 bottles of Chateau Lafitte Rothschild sitting on the floor in the wine department so customers could help themselves. You picked up your fois gras in the deli department where it was behind refrigerated glass with the pickled herring. And prices were so cheap that my niece, who had just managed her first apartment in a low rent district, drove to Del Mar to shop because prices were so much cheaper simply because it was an area where no one needed to shop lift to eat. Did that mean I could go to any Big Bear supermarket in California and have the same selection I had there? Not even close! My point in all of this for you is that the "norm" in one neighborhood does not mean it is universal.

                                                                                                  It's a terrible and painful comparison, but just because the American public knows about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by no means indicates they have any first hand experience with what it is like to live their daily lives in such circumstances. The same rule holds true fro truffles and raw milk cheeses. Our awareness levels always outstrip our experience levels by far. Sometimes that's a very good thing.

                                                                                                  1. re: Chinon00


                                                                                                    If you truly believe that those three papers articles are in response to an overwhelming input from readers or that tryffles are now a staple in maninstream restaurants, you should travel more around America.

                                                                                                    It just ain't so buddy and no matter how many times you write it, it ain;t happening.

                                                                                                    Big Mac, La Quinta and beer are mainstream, Truffles, Four Seasons and fine wine are outliers.

                                                                                          2. re: Caralien

                                                                                            As far back as I remember well.(late 1940's)we had yogurt in the frig.Without exception it was exotic and alien as haggis to all US friends.To culture/ferment
                                                                                            in the home was ??? strange.

                                                                                        4. re: Caroline1

                                                                                          I don't have to impress anybody. If I cook for people, I want them to enjoy it because I care about them, but 'impress', no. Do I enjoy compliments? Of course. And I don't spend hours polishing silver or days cooking the way my mom did. Well, she made me polish the silver, actually, probably why I don't want to now (nor do I peel potatoes, but that's for another day). I set a nice table anyway, and I don't want people to be uncomfortable. I want it to be fun and attractive. Now, I often have to plan for kids, too, so that will mean making separate food for them or planning something that they're not going to stick in my flower vases on the sly and then want 3 helpings of dessert.

                                                                                          YOUR generation (I am on the cusp of the boomers and X-ers), Original poster dud(ette), also grew up eating MickyD's and garbage chain pizza which your parent's wouldn't have even thought of and many many of you did it in front of --ack!--the TV. Your grandparents were often grateful to have ANYthing at all.

                                                                                          There were also a lot less conveniences in food preparation. Why, in my day, people put frozen dinners in the OVEN.

                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                            I understand your point regarding the possibility of obtaining an item if one was resourceful enough. I was addressing more recent availability prior to the ease of the Internet.

                                                                                            The area my family moved to in 1960 was small enough that it was a tremendous deal when my father returned from business trips with rye bread, bagels, real corned beef, capers, snails, non-cheddar varieties of cheese, and many fruits and vegetables. Perhaps they could have been ordered. Our grocery would order some things, but only if you were willing to purchase a case, since the rest had little chance of selling. Many of our neighbors had never tried or heard of these things. A lot of people just hadn't had the opportunity to travel much, and air travel was still pretty expensive then. WWII seems to have been the point that a larger number of people traveled and saw more than their little corner of the world (on Uncle Sam's dime) and many never went back to the farm after seeing what was out there. This gave food awareness a little push forward, but it still took another 20 years to start filtering down to the smaller areas.

                                                                                            Mushrooms are another product that I really do not think was being produced domestically at a significant volume prior to the '80's or so. Tofu too, unless you lived in specific areas with good Asian markets. There are a host of products which are very available at regular grocery stores that used to be difficult to come by if you were not in a large metropolitan area.

                                                                                            The current availability is such that when I worked for a natural foods grocery I had a customer furious that blueberries were so high in Feb., when she had bought them for much less in August. It took a while to calm her down, but her anger was because she really had no idea of the seasons of items and did not understand that an out of season fruit is going to usually cost a pretty penny. Her entire life she had seen these things in the stores year round! Hence, their availability decreased the specialness for her. (I didn't even attempt to get into flavor, food miles or anything else with her - just tried to increase her understanding of the cause and effect of seasonality on her wallet.)

                                                                                            Yes, those in the know with the the means to pursue could ultimately obtain many items. But I still feel your average person, even if they really loved food, would not have recognized a fair amount of the produce and ethnic foods now found in most grocery stores.

                                                                                            1. re: meatn3

                                                                                              Agreed, but the point I was trying to put across is that it's not so much whether things were/are available (at any cost) but more a point of education and awareness. I think it's "The Information Age" that is the definitive difference. Retrofit the 1930s and 40s with computers and the internet, and you'll have pho on the lunch table in Podunk in a heartbeat!

                                                                                        5. As an aside, I recall being out to dinner with my family as a child and really enjoying my meal when my mother told me to "leave some manners" which I understood to mean not eating everything on my plate. What was that all about?

                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                              There was a time -- primarily prior to World War II -- when it was considered extremely rude to clean your plate, especially at dinner parties and in "well mannered" circles. World War II brought food rationing, and nagging mothers (like mine) who said things like, "You eat EVERY bite! Just think of your poor starving cousins in England who would love to have this food." I often prayed for wax paper lined boxes to ship them my food, but that's another thread.

                                                                                              The custom of always leaving food on a plate probably (I'm assuming things here) came about during the late XIX Century when those huge conspicuous consumption banquets of the very rich were popular. What better was to flaunt your wealth than by not eating very elaborate and expensive food?

                                                                                                1. re: Sharuf

                                                                                                  Sharuf: Good link! If Eleanor Roosevelt's grandmother thought leaving food on a plate was wasteful (mid 1800s?), "leaving for manners" should have been completely outmoded by the mid to late 20th century!

                                                                                            2. Hunh. You think the generation that invented the celebrity chef and the gazillion-dollar kitchen remodel doesn't think of food in terms of status? Interesting.

                                                                                              25 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: jlafler

                                                                                                No. With kitchens I think they think of THINGS in terms of status, as well as property values. I have seen people spend fortunes on kitchens and eat out all the time anyway or eat crap. Having stainless steel on the outside of yoiur fridge doesn't make your food better.

                                                                                                The celebrity chef thing I don't get. We had Julia, though. And Justin Wilson (man, that guy was hilarious). There were cooking videos (on tape) long before there were entire networks devoted to it.

                                                                                                1. re: jlafler

                                                                                                  Thank you especially for that last paragraph. I'm one of the first boomers (born in '47) and the OP has at least annoyed me and at most offended me. "Heartily sick of" describes it perfectly.

                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                    Is a locovore someone who eats crazy people or eats in motion? And what the HECK is organic sea salt? There are some mighty non organic things in the sea. By the same token, it's all organic anyway, isn't it? God, I'm so confused, I'm sounding like Seinfeld. Must be bedtime.

                                                                                                      1. re: Whosyerkitty

                                                                                                        You've got a point. NaCl isn't even an organic molecule.

                                                                                                  2. re: jlafler

                                                                                                    How about spending more time obsessing over the provenance of the food than the food itself?
                                                                                                    Or having 15 different kinds of salt and telling me that every one is completely different - including the "organic" sea salt?
                                                                                                    I really don't need to know where you bought every single thing that you used to make the dinner you cooked for us, why it's special and better than other versions of it, and how much trouble you went through to acquire it.
                                                                                                    At some level, a good tomato is a good tomato. I don't care what variety it is or who grew it.
                                                                                                    Does your food validate you?

                                                                                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                      I presume you're not addressing me personally, but rather expanding on what I said. But yeah, that kind of thing does seem to be rampant in my age/class/regional cohort.

                                                                                                      1. re: jlafler

                                                                                                        I do want to add, though, that it's also true that people talk about the provenance of food because they find it interesting, not necessarily to show off. You may not care about the tomato variety or where it comes from; it doesn't follow that people who do care are wrong to care, or to enjoy talking about it. What's wrong is ignoring your lack of interest and insisting on talking about it even though it's clear that you aren't enjoying the conversation -- or being so self-absorbed that they don't even notice that you're not interested.

                                                                                                        [edited for amplication]

                                                                                                        1. re: jlafler

                                                                                                          No one with good social skills would prolong a conversation about a topic that was boring the crap out of everyone.
                                                                                                          The problem is like announcing that you're wearing Ferragamos, carrying a new Prada bag, or had your hair done at such and such a new trendy salon.
                                                                                                          Do people have to tell the crowd that the reason that the dish is special is that the olive oil is from limited production from a small producer in a tiny corner of wherever and then go on about it?
                                                                                                          Look at me. Look at my olive oil. Sort of needy?

                                                                                                        2. re: jlafler

                                                                                                          Expanding on your very good question, which I assumed to be rhetorical.
                                                                                                          Trophy kitchens, trophy foodstuffs, trophy chef's newest restaurant...
                                                                                                          Not confined to one age/class/cohort. Too many people chasing it.
                                                                                                          It's gotten tedious.

                                                                                                        3. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                          Interesting. Your comments and jlafler's have set me thinking; do people really serve a meal and then expound on the food, where the ingredients originated, what sort of herbs and spices they used?

                                                                                                          So now I'm curious whether it's just me, whether it's generational, whether it's a regional or class thing, or just what's behind it, but it has never occurred to me to discuss the food I set before guests. I seem to have always assumed the food would speak for itself, and that talking about the mechanics of it somehow diminishes it.

                                                                                                          For me a great meal consists of great companionship, great conversation, and great food and drink, not necessarily in that order. The whole should be greater than the parts, and when you discuss the parts -- especially the mechanics of the food -- it diminishes the whole. Am I alone?

                                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                            "So now I'm curious whether it's just me, whether it's generational, whether it's a regional or class thing, or just what's behind it,"

                                                                                                            No I do not believe it is just you. Whatever they say about keeping up with the Jonses has been going on for ages, abd probably will continue on for ages. And the Jonses is obviously a metaphor that has permeated all contexts, even the ones we would least expect.

                                                                                                            I agree that a great meal is a multi-sense experience, the whole of which is greater than the individual components. Discussing certain mechanics under the appropriate conditions though I think can enhance the experience on occasion.

                                                                                                            No, you are not alone. I wish more people were like-minded, and marble countertops + lacking all braincells will not a husband make :)

                                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                              As a guest, there's no harm in discussing the food -- just act natural. If the food is wonderful, say so. There's nothing wrong in showing appreciation or recognizing the specialness of certain dishes. Talk about other things too. Sometimes later on, the host(ess) will take you into the kitchen and introduce you to the cook, or show you the kitchen garden and introduce you to the gardener. Even if they don't have a gardener or cook, people travel a lot these days, go on cruises and such, so the food they serve you might have a story behind it. It's hard not to talk about food. And please, please, please talk about food and enjoy eating it. I've been at gatherings where the topic turned to illness and medications, loss of appetite, nursing homes, IV's. all downhill, no good. Say a silent grace before every meal.......whether you're old or young, rich or poor.

                                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                You ask what's behind it, Caroline. I think that it's "branding." More than ever, that's used as a marketing tool but with food, it's hard to tell once the wrappings are gone and the food is cooked and on the table.
                                                                                                                There was a popular cabaret-style entertainer here in Washington some years ago, known as Ms. Foggybottom (the location of the State Department), who sang a riotously funny song called "Designer Jeans." The refrain was, "You can tell that I've got class by the label on my ass..."
                                                                                                                If the food has no label, and you are concerned that people might not know that you had purchased the "correct" products to put you into the proper group of food cognoscenti, my goodness, don't take any chances!!! Tell them!
                                                                                                                After all, a mediocre cook can render the very best ingredients no better than so-so, while a very good cook can use things from the pedestrian supermarket to produce miracles.
                                                                                                                Make sure there is NO doubt that YOU have class.

                                                                                                                This is totally different however from a great conversation among people who truly know and love food as a topic of discussion and debate.

                                                                                                                1. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                  LOL! Love the line about jeans, but I'm old enough (and apparently set enough in my ways) that I think all jeans are tacky unless you're working on your carberator. I think the last time I wore jeans was as a teenager when the "uniform" was Levis with a very wide cuff, spit shined cordovan penny loafers with white crew socks, and one of your father's very best white dress shirts, preferably French cuffs, with the tails out hanging nearly to your knees! We thought that was cool. Oh, and hair in a pony tail. Can't forget that!... '-)

                                                                                                                  But for table conversation, I'd far prefer a discussion of particle physics than what's in a dish. I once had a wonderfully delicious and sensual stew ruined for me when the hostess announced her secret was a hint of "poudre de Je ne sais quoi". I spent the rest of the meal trying to pick up on a taste of the damned crap! Ruined it! Just ruined it. Which is not to say I won't answer questions... <sigh> Obviously I'm just plain strange.

                                                                                                                  But I do love receiving phone calls the next day asking what was what and which was which and how I cooked it and all that jazz. That's fun, and you really know your food made an impression. Jackpot!

                                                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                    But talking about particle physics could be construed as showing off your intellectual creds. Pretty much any topic of conversation is bound to bore and aggravate some people.

                                                                                                                    1. re: jlafler

                                                                                                                      Whether a discussion of particle physics shows off anyone's intellectual credentials depends entirely on the guest list, wouldn't you say? I try very hard to invite people I know to be compatible with many shared interests, and I'm not above changing the subject if I think someone is uncomfortable or is not enjoying the subject. It's my job! '-).

                                                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                        Well, yes. As it happens, my husband has a degree in theoretical particle physics, though he hasn't worked in the field in more than a decade. But he's pretty good about not showing off.

                                                                                                                        1. re: jlafler

                                                                                                                          You're missing the point completely. Particle physics was just something relatively preposterous off the top of my head as a possible subject for discussion I would prefer to spending time discussing the food itself. I think the best way to enjoy food is to allow the food to speak for itself while enjoying the companionship of those gathered and talking about a communal interest. My guests, unless they're first timers, already know I can cook.

                                                                                                                          But I don't know why you think discussing particle physics is so outlandish since there are lots of programs about it on Discovery Science every week. Michio Kaku is making it as common a subject for DS vieewers as tomato sauce is for Food Network viewers. So why do you think it's "showing off"? Don't you get Discovery Science? Some interesting programs.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                            No, I wasn't missing the point; actually I was agreeing in what I hoped was a humorous way. And I'm not sure where you get the idea that I think discussing particle physics is outlandish. I don't.

                                                                                                                            [edited because I can't let well enough alone]

                                                                                                                            1. re: jlafler

                                                                                                                              Sorry! This seems to be Dense Sunday for me! '-)

                                                                                                                            2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                              "But I don't know why you think discussing particle physics is so outlandish since there are lots of programs about it on Discovery Science every week."

                                                                                                                              This seems every bit as specious an argument as the one made by Chinon00 upthread about wine and truffles becoming mainstream. The arguments against his claim would seem to apply to yours as well.

                                                                                                                              And I for one love talking about what's in the food we prepare. Just last night I had a conversation with my sister about the tuna salad sandwich I made for her - she asked, and we discussed. And we enjoyed both the sandwiches and the conversation.

                                                                                                                              1. re: lisavf

                                                                                                                                I'll restate, truffles and raw milk cheeses are mainstream in my household ;]

                                                                                                                  2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                    There maybe some reverse class snobism to the subject.The advertisements of the 50's displayed/enticed the new age of homemaker/house wife/mother.My MIL
                                                                                                                    went there hook,line and sinker.Nothing from scratch because it meant you had not "arrived".The new food conveniences were as status riddled with her as the car or fur coat.Her mother however was a fabulous cook.Raised chickens for eggs and meat and old fashioned butter and egg $$$.That lady and I had much in
                                                                                                                    common.All of her kitchen and dining stuff she left to me knowing I did not intend to melt it,sell it or throw it away.Not one of her children wanted the "old" stuff.Much
                                                                                                                    of which is now very collectable,valuable and still USED with fondness.

                                                                                                                  3. re: MakingSense

                                                                                                                    Bravo, MakingSense.
                                                                                                                    This reminds me of my first, and only, experience with Patina.
                                                                                                                    By the 6th course, and still hungry, I was so revolted by the pretentious waiter and the neverending linen/silver changing for each course, I needed to leave and go find a decent hamburger.
                                                                                                                    Food, surprisingly, does validate many.
                                                                                                                    I ate a piece of opa at a very unscale and expensive restaurant in Los Angeles not too long ago. I could have easily purchased and opened a package of frozen Gorton's fishsticks and had the same dinner.

                                                                                                                2. I don't think that the generations were as you described. I think history and ethnicity of the individuals (Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y) influenced their food choices more than their ages. I'm a Baby Boomer and had Italian grandparents. Food was important in my family and it was connected to family and friends. The kitchen was the center of life in that house. Everyone cooked and it was about eating locally and organically before it became trendy. I recall stories about my grandmother cooking huge meals during the Depression and feeding down on their luck salesmen who would come to the door and who couldn't afford a meal. This may account for your grandmother and friends eating food that helped define their class. My dad who experienced the Depression as a boy, would buy everything in sight in a grocery store once he was an adult, just because he could. I agree with some of the other posts that the dividing line is foodies versus non-foodies. I know a lot of young people who eat food that I would never consider. Some of them never think about what it means to enjoy food. Others eat the most expensive thing on the menu because that communicates their success to the world. Not getting "all fussy" about food may indicate how we take it for granted. Yet, the understanding of how our food gets from producer to market to our table is a crucial one. When your grandmother and her friends were young, acquisition of food was not nearly as easy as it is today. We assume if we want to eat strawberries or a melon in the dead of winter, we can go to our local food market and buy something out of season that has been shipped to the store. Those were not assumptions made in the 1950's - 60's. I think food has a real value in our lives but it has a symbolic value as well.

                                                                                                                  1. Ok, I’ll back off that truffles and raw milk cheeses are “mainstream” but I’m standing pat on wine;]

                                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                      LOL! Good for you! Meanwhile, Thunderbird and Ripple salute you! '-)

                                                                                                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                        Fine wine may be a hobby to some, but wine has been mainstream in California, where my family is from, for quite some time. Plunk included. My guess is that the same would be true for families descended from many parts of the wine growing regions of the world. Wine might be newer to some families who didn't immigrate from wine growing regions.

                                                                                                                        I also don't believe that "fine wine", if taken only by pricepoints, is mainstream, as it's a hobby most people can't afford.

                                                                                                                        A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou...

                                                                                                                        Truffles, "fine" wine, and raw milk cheeses still aren't on the menus of Denny's, McDonalds, Applebee's, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, or the local Chinese take away shop (there are more Chinese restaurants in the US than McDonald's). These are mainstream. Anything under 50% is not mainstream, and most people can't tell the difference between plunk and fine wine (not that they have to if they enjoy it anyway).

                                                                                                                        1. re: Chinon00


                                                                                                                          And jfood will give you wine (w/o the "fine") is mainstream, but fine wine as in fine whine are a beauty usually only in the head of the holder or speaker, respectively.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                            Coffee brandy (to mix w/ milk) is the largest selling "wine" in Maine. Bud Lite is mainstream wine is not. Chain restaurants flourish, quality restaurants are endangered.

                                                                                                                          2. I think I'd like to go back to OP's OP and say that grandauntie sounded pretty pretentious and it seems the fruit hasn't fallen far from the tree.

                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                              Me thinks this post has to do with a Freudian slip.
                                                                                                                              That is, when you say one thing, but really mean your mother.

                                                                                                                              "Class of '47" too