Tuesday, May 25, 2010

25 May 1956 “Food, Glorious Food”

family at dinner We started this way.
family at dinner with tv Gradually moved to this.
swansondinner It started out innocent enough.tveating maybe one night a week as a special treat. kidtv To the normal way of life.
On the Forum today, someone asked this question:
“I really like the 50's version of homemaking but I sometimes get wrapped up in the idea of pot roast and potato and cake for dessert type meals.
From what I can tell from my 50's cookbooks they didnt eat a lot of main dish salads or baked chicken, etc.
I guess it's kind of silly but I want to feel "50's" while still eating healthy. Any ideas?
I know food is just one part... but its my favorite! (which is probably why we both have so much weight to lose)”

I thought about this a lot in the beginning of my project and I have come to realize two major things from the 1950’s to today
  1. The proportions were much smaller than today.
  2. Processed Food was just really beginning to be offered.
Though we are often given this image of plates piled with bacon and sticks of butter, the opposite is actually true. In all of my 50’s cookbooks, even the better known Better Homes and Betty Crocker, if you actually look at serving size and also at what was a normal serving size you will see a marked difference. Though the idea for the New World we were making after the war was of plenty, that did not mean that every plate every night was filled with steak. When asking anyone of that generation what a good meal would be, they would probably answer steak, but that was because it was special. People were still eating on some level as they had before the war, with a big dinner on Sunday (Pot Roast or Chicken) and then throughout the week leftovers or smaller versions of food ‘stretched’ with rice or oatmeal (the ever comforting meat loaf.
I know when I started my project I had lovely visions of bacon piled high and mountains of mashed potatoes, and  in the beginning I did do so. But, as I began to pay more attention to the cookbooks and magazines and looking at old photos and reading old articles, I began to see proportion. A child in 1955 may have had a glass of soda or Kool-aid, but it was a 6 oz. glass. That is not even a full cup, compare that with children today drinking endless soda’s or even modern glasses of juice. Most juice is corn syrup and chemicals and rather than a 6 oz glass at breakfast, children may be guzzling 20 oz. tumblers full throughout the day.

A breakfast of one to two slices of bacon (35 calories each and not that much fat because it is only 2 slices) one egg, one toast and 6 oz of juice and coffee is actually not as bad as two bowls of prepared cereal. We seem to have replaced most of our nutrition with sugar and even that isn’t really sugar but corn syrup. We have increasingly took farming in our country from the small guy who farmed many things for market and his family and now have more corn grown than we can even use, which is amazing when you think of ethanol, corn syrups, fillers in most foods and pet foods etc. IT is all corn and as it is bad for our bodies to only give it one thing, it is equally bad for the land to have the same thing grown over and over. This also increases the strain of damaging insects that feed on that crop and all of that lead to needing to make chemicals to supplement the soil and kill the bugs.
The single most damaging modern dilemma seems to be over doing it. We can’t eat one small hamburger and 6 oz soda as an occasional treat, we have to have a 4 patty burger with bacon, cheese, fries and malts. A simple order of what we would eat of French fries today would be an entire serving for a family of four in 1950s. The fact that parent’s were telling children to ‘clean their plate’ meant it wasn’t just full of fried fish sticks and ‘chicken nuggets’ there were vegetables and other things which they needed to have some nutrition. They could not simply later go to the pantry and grab a bunch of junk food.
Junk food was really beginning after the war. With the increase in production and the vast market of people wanting ease it was a goldmine for such products. But, at first, these would have been supplemented a homemakers work load. When they first introduced box cake mixes they were poorly received because they were so easy. So, marketing had them add to the ingredients, add an egg and oil and people felt more like they were not ‘cheating’. The very concept of how we felt about what was our duty to prepare good food for our family was so ingrained that the ‘ease’ of quick food had to be slowly feed to us (A very interesting BBC documentary on the marketing world basically started by Freud's’ American cousin who invented marketing and P.R.).
Today we seem to want to be on some endless wheel of diets because we no nothing else. Most of these always involve our depriving ourselves of some element while we then overdo another. I know for many vegetarians who hadn’t the time to use and make fresh vegetables all the time, they simply fell into the pattern of buying ‘vegetarian’ premade foods and in fact eating very little vegetables when it came down to it. Processed food, rather it has meat or not, is still that. And the over eating of Soy as the main elements of those diets are now showing up as health problems. Because, again, we over do one thing! Variety is the spice of life and also seems to be the major element in eating properly.
If one really wanted to eat an American 50’s family diet, they would reduce their proportions by more than half. Right there, less calories would lead to weight loss. And many older wives in the 50’s were still making their own bread. When we control our food by preparing it our self, we know how much salt goes in and we are not injecting it with chemicals (other than what is already in the meat and such we buy today anyway).
Even dessert servings are so small. This will still surprise me sometimes. The other day I made a sugar cookie recipe I had not tried before in my Betty Crocker book and was surprised by the small amount and the suggested amount of cookies. While it told me to expect 3 dozen, if I made a modern day size sugar cookie (think Starbucks, grocery store baker, any cafe’) I would have probably made about a dozen. A child having that second cookie in 1950 was not like today. One cookie today at most bakery/cafe’s/stores are about 3 50’s size cookies.
There was also not endless snacking. Though 1950’s was the Golden Age of TV, it was also in its infancy. It was not on all day long and there were not even that many programs. My magazines and books are filled with ideas for having friends over for a TV night. It was a special occasion where you prepared certain food and gathered r0und, like playing cards or scrabble. Even the commercials would be discussed and shared, while today advertising is such a part of us we just sit there, chips in our lap, 32 oz of soda and watch and watch and watch.
So the daily exercise of a 1950’s family is also different from ours. You may have had pot roast, but you didn’t eat it all up and there would be small proportions and your cake for dessert would be small as well. Even coffee cups were tiny compared to modern versions. So take that element of less food being served and mix it with more exercise.
We were just starting to get more cars and become two car families after the war. But many households had one car. That meant the wife had it when she needed to do her errands or had to drop father off at the train station. Walking had been a major part of our lives pre-suburbia, but once we moved out of the cities and into the ‘burbs we had to drive to stores. But, at first, we did not. you either went without or you walked.  Children played outside, there were not video games. They may have all lay mindlessly on the floor to watch Howdy Doody and drink a 6 oz bottle of Coke, but then they were up again and racing around their neighborhood, riding bikes, climbing, jumping ropes. Today the homemaker, the father and the children are so much more sedentary.
That is why one of the main things I have really learned with this project is that many of our ailments of the modern world began in the 1950’s, but still within that time we had not learned them all yet. They were just beginning to show up. If we could have somehow held onto the good neighborliness, and the smaller proportions, but it was too hard .The ease of prepared foods and the power of advertising mingled with the vast increase in passive entertainment has come to be our downfall in weight, food health and exercise.
In some way I am now afraid of the increase in the popularity of the 1950’s because I know it is just going to become another marketing ploy to make us buy more of whatever they want to sell as that image. Here buy more things, eat this new version of bad foods, its from the 50’s but its serving size is quadrupled. We really need to start looking at the whole picture of our lives and how we live. We need to see that transportation and the endless need to always be driving does not have to be. One has to get to work, but maybe if we lived places where we could walk more or if towns and burbs could be laid out more to encourage that, as they once naturally did. But, with Wal-Mart and the Malls, we are only getting further away from the old way of living. Now we drive to a place (using up gas and our money) to walk around inside a place that has to use SO MUCH energy to run all the lights to heat or cook vast spaces large as small towns so we can walk around and wonder if we can get a bargain on another 5 dollar shirt to throw on the increasing pile in our closet. Then we can go home because we don’t ‘have time to cook’ and pop some chicken patties in the micro, open a flavored water full of sugar and veg in front of the tv watching the endless shows or catching up on Tivo. Then, when we are so tire, “I don’t know why I am so tired, I can’t get anything done” even though we have filled our bodies with sugars which give us charges and then exhaust us, sit in cars or in front of the tv and wonder why the housework won’t do itself. Instead of trying to invent robots to clean for us, why can’t we get off our lazy bums and get to work. The only REAL solution to any housework problems is laziness and procrastination. The modern world is a pitfall of such things. Endless entertainment, the computer, the malls, easy to hop in your car and go shopping. It is odd that since the 1950’s food and luxury items are VERY cheap in comparison but housing and healthcare and education is quadrupled. We are somehow lulled into a state of endlessly working to try to keep up with the basics of what is needed, shelter food education, and then to feel better spend more on all the items at the big box store because it is all so cheap! It is a veritable trap to keep us consumers. It is very sad.
People get mad about the BP oil spill, which they should, but then feel no personal responsibility as they drive needlessly around in huge cars using up gas to go and buy products at places that use up petroleum to heat and electrify. Our entire world, all its excesses is run on oil. We put oil on all those birds and sea creatures as much as did they big companies (well not as much, but we are all part of the problem) but it is easier to just have occasional scape-goats then to try and live our own lives differently. To use the car less. Use less electricity. Buy more ingredients and make our own. Try to buy as much local as we can. It is all harder but if we don’t do it we may never even have the choice anymore to try.
Wow, all of this from a 1950’s dinner. You know me, though, I cannot help but rant. But, while on the subject of food here are some interesting finds hubby showed me on a site that I guess is part of some new book (another example of having to make a book of simple common sense of ‘hey don’t eat that entire turkey, just have one piece’ mentality.) It is very interesting. Here are some of the finds of how much food we simply drink!
The link to the 20 worst offenders is HERE. But, some examples.
worstwater This simple SoBe green tea water, which seems a ‘healthy drink’ is equivalent to half an entire cherry pie!
worstsoda This simple 20 oz bottle of soda, which I am sure kids drink more than one of a day, is the same fat and calories as eating 6 breyers ice cream oreo pies. Those are not little oreo cookies.
worstea This ‘energy’ drink is equivalent to 6 pop-tarts.
worst-espresso-drink This Venti Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha with Whipped Cream is the same as 8½ scoops Edy’s Slow Churned Rich and Creamy Coffee Ice Cream. I mean this simple drink, which I certainly had the equivalent of before 1955 is 660 calories 22 g fat (15 g saturated) and 95 g sugars!
worst-margarita This margarita from a chain restaurant is the same as eating 7 almond joy bars!
And the WORST drink ever is this
worst-drink-america Cold Stone PB&C 24 oz ice cream shake is the same as 30 chewy chips ahoy cookies. This one drink has 2,010 calories 131 g fat (68 g saturated) and 153 g sugars
When you consider these are just drinks, it is no wonder we have so much obesity and diabetes today!
So, I really think to honestly cook 1950’s is not bad at all. Many of my cookbooks discuss the importance of a well balanced meal (including breakfast) wherein vegetables and protein are discussed. If one ate 4 oz of meat (normal 50’s serving) and veg and even a starch, a slice of bread and had water and then a simple slice of homemade cake or fruit with whipped cream, that is not bad at all. It is nostalgic and it is also Easier and Cheaper than buying everything made up or at restaurants, take-away, fast food.
I think maybe we should really start discussing on the forum realistic 50’s dinners and their appropriate servings. I almost want to write a cookbook “Cooking 1955 and Healthy” or some such.
Well, that is enough for me today, I have to get to my garden and work on my chicken house. I hope all of you are well and happy homemaking.
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