great depression cooking
- banjoman2375 May 8, 2011 09:33 PM
Is anybody else completely SMITTEN with this little youtube series called Great Depression Cooking?
here's one of the first videos I saw. I just love it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4IjNV...
So many of the values shared by many people on CHOW (values like home cooking, fresh ingredients, local food, sustainability and eliminating wastefulness, not to mention taking pleasure in the sheer act of eating...) were all fixtures of the depression. It was a time when people actually cooked real food, with their hands and expertise, and shared it as a family. Now people buy pre-processed food and scarf it down in the car on the way to and from a million things.
Also, like she said, they ate well back then. If you think about it, it's always the peasant food that people love the most. When you don't have much to enjoy, food is still there. Sometimes its the absolute cheapest food that is the most satisfying and provides the most pleasure. It's a beautiful thing. I feel like they valued food, and the time they spent preparing it and eating it with the family more back then than we do now.
Of course, I speak with the naivite of a 20 year old, middle class college student. I have no idea what it was like living in the depression, and for all my romanticizing of it, it was obviously a very difficult time, and I can never understand what it was like. But I have a real respect for the people who lived during that time, and I think what happened during and because of the depression is in some cases a real testament to the resilient and hopeful power of the human spirit.
Also it just simply gets the foodie in me all excited... :)
"So many of the values shared by many people on CHOW (values like home cooking, fresh ingredients, local food, sustainability and eliminating wastefulness, not to mention taking pleasure in the sheer act of eating...) were all fixtures of the depression."
Many people had no choice. There was nothing fashionable or glamorous about everything you listed. Also, for the people at the time, it wouldn't have been new either. That's how people cooked and ate for most of human history. Even in the pre-depression boom of the 1920s very few Americans dined out, restaurants were mostly cheap places for lunch or where you stopped at on a trip. Affluent Americans rarely dined out. And the diet was, for rich and poor, remarkably plain and simple by modern standards. Think about the traditional Thanksgiving dinner - that's the type of food Americans ate across the board.
The families that suffered during the depression were reduced to eating very cheap cuts of meat, smaller portions, even cheap processed foods that were beginning to emerge. Take the case of my grandfather, when his family lost their business they ate fish from the river in front of their house every single day. Hey, it was free. After a couple years they managed to restore their prosperity, and let me tell you, my grandfather never had fish again for the rest of his life....
Ask yourself and think very carefully about why Americans were so eager to embrace the packaged, proccessed food age.....
re: Roland Parker
Absolutely, after the second world war, people finally had a chance to indulge a little. After "going without" for the depression, and then immediately after, the war, things changed a lot. People suddenly had lots of money, and were buying appliances and cars and houses, and the nuclear family was born. It was the realization of all the efforts they had made. The whole country was brought together in an effort to survive and to work together, and the 1950's onwards were the reward they were all waiting for.
I want to stress that I'm not trying to telegraph any kind of "holier than thou" attitude... I'm positive I would have done the very same had I been in the same position. It's only natural! The comment you made about glamour is precisely why I added my comment at the end about my naivite. I'm not trying to romanticize any of this, what I'm trying to say is that through the hardship and suffering, some amazing things happened. And that now, 50 some odd years after this whole overconsumption thing started, the system is starting to get a little scary. Children are being raised by Xboxes and can't concentrate in school, families are breaking up faster than ever before, and there are people who weigh 800 lbs! My generation has no clue how to cook. I know 2 other people my age who have any remote interest in cooking, and the rest rarely cook, if ever.
"People suddenly had lots of money, and were buying appliances and cars and houses, and the nuclear family was born. It was the realization of all the efforts they had made. The whole country was brought together in an effort to survive and to work together, and the 1950's onwards were the reward they were all waiting for. "
The nuclear family has been around for a very long time....the typical family model in the Anglo-saxon world was the nuclear family with perhaps an unmarried aunt or grandmother. That model was established in the US with the British colonies, so you generally didn't get the large-extended-family model as in other cultures. Now, up till WWII most Americans lived in the same community for most of their lives, so families were closer by - aunts and uncles next door, cousins down the street. But that's not the same as the "nuclear family."
The first real technological boom was in the 1920s, not in the 1950s, when Americans started buying cars and radios and home appliances in large numbers. Post-War saw new technology that wasn't around in the depression or weren't utilised in the depression. As my mother pointed out re the 1950s versus the 1990s, and my grandmother about the 1920s re the 1950s, Americans back then would have been just as materialistic. They just didn't have the opportunity due to the smaller supply and variety of goods.
It is a myth to think that the whole country struggled in the 1930s. While times were indeed bad, many Americans were still affluent or comfortably off. Actually, because of deflation, the buying power of a typical middle to upper middle class American increased in this time period. I wouldn't say the whole country worked together to survive. Poor blacks in the deep south (possibly the worst off) certainly weren't working side by side with poor immigrants or factory workers in the northern cities. Roosevelt's alphabet programs only helped a small minority of people and had limited impact. For poor Americans, it was just a question surviving day by day, not a communal effort to better their lives.
As for today, most people don't like to cook. That's the simple reality. Most people back them didn't like to cook either. Affluent Americans hired cooks if they could. Even upper-middle class Americans had domestic servants. People who had to cook had no choice. It was time consuming and monotonous.
Lots of families broke up in the 1930s as well. Others stayed together only because of financial necessities. I'm not sure of families are breaking up at a faster rate today, correct me if I'm wrong but I think the divorce rate has actually declined in recent years.
Today, we have a much wider selection of foods to pick from. Wonderful variety of cuisines from all over the world that would have been unthinkable back then. Food is also cheaper and constitutes a smaller percentage of our incomes. We can avoid cooking of we chose to do so.
Today isn't all doom and gloom and the past isn't all wonderful (as you've already pointed out).