Sunday, July 25, 2010

25 July 1956 “Cooking and Life : The New and Old Way.”

56woman'sday This image from June 1956 Woman’s Day shows the Old and New way of cooking (Click to enlarge and Read).
I found it interesting on many levels. First off, we have the comparison of the Old way with an older woman who ‘has the time’ to prepare all her food from scratch. While the ‘new’ way by the younger woman mentions that she most likely is a working woman. So, even here in 1956 it is not completely uncommon to hear of or know working women. I think the idea that all women are at home is probably not true, but it is true that many woman do see being at home with a husband as an actual goal. To modern women this seems an affront or somehow shocking. Yet, I think there are many busy working wives who would gladly become a stay at home, so not sure why we have such a taboo about that.
Secondly, what I found interesting is that myself, since my trip back to the 50’s, have begun to move away from the ‘new’ way shown here to the old way. Surely in 1956 I am older than the young 20 something woman in the article, but I am not as old as the grandmother image. So, I wonder if I would truly, having come through what  I would have come through in history, would probably have a mixture of these two.
It has only been since my voyage back that I have learned to bake bread and cakes from scratch. That I take it in a matter of course to whip up homemade pancakes or waffles for breakfast without Bisquick. Even my veg is more often than not cut up from fresh (especially now that it is summer, come fall and winter I will have more  of my own canned to access).
In the beginning of my project I was all Wonder Bread and Jell-o. I mean, I felt the need to try and use and make the old pre-packaged things available. What I now think is rather spot on, is that in so doing I probably did recreate what I would have done. I would have been intrigued by the new. I would have tried it and found that it was okay, but not comparable to homemade, which I would have been used to and grown up with. So, I gradually moved back to the ‘old way’. Of course in reality I was just learning the way to make more things from scratch, but you know what I mean, the 50’s me was simply, “returning to the old way”.
wonderad It’s very easy to cook the NEW way here in 1956. There are so many things pre-made for my convenience.hashad miraclewhipad
nescafead I don’t even have to wait to brew coffee the old fashioned way if I don’t want (though the flavor is different as is the price). Even our sweet drinks are easy and plentiful, no squeezing lemons or crushing fruit to make summer drinks. Of course the result, they are easier to have and will increasingly be in our children's hands as time goes by and so increases their waistlines and diabetes. Yet, simply being responsible with such easy products could be useful and not harmful, but with ease comes disinterest and laziness. Who knows what kids are drinking, I can’t be bothered, I have to work and get home and nuke dinner.
So, what I really see happening here in 1956 is rather similar to 2010. There is a new crop of young wives and teens who are going to grow up with this instant world. Here they will become used to such ease and will slowly leave off the domestic arts. Today in 2010, the young do not know a world without the internet and digital devices. The old way for them, talking to someone in person rather than texting, or writing a paper after reading a book or going to the library rather than cutting and pasting info from websites and sites such as SPARKNOTES so they don’t even have to read the entire book. Again, I find the parallel between then and now. The threshold to the modern world truly lives here in 1950’s. The choices we make, however, leads us to where we are now, but if we go back and try new choices, reset the clock as it were, can we change our own modern reality and the way we make choices? It seems, at least by my reckoning, that we can.
I think the happy medium I have now between these Old and New way of cooking described in this article is a good balance. I honestly enjoy taking the time to steam my own asparagus and make hollandaise from scratch as described in the old way, but if I were in a rush and many things planned, I could easily use frozen veg, but instead would have made my own homemade ahead of time and kept it in the ice box. And I think that is the glaring difference. I have learned, as my 50’s counterpart would have inherently known, to plan for that rainy day.
There is no prep work any more. We don’t think ahead about our savings and retirement, let alone our dinners. Even our government these past ten years has been so shortsighted and has planned for nothing to the point that we are now borrowing to pay for the care of our elderly in Medicare and Medicaid. So, when even our own government and parents are completely oblivious to the adage “a penny saved is a penny earned”. So, if we are all happy to live in debt and to simply exist from moment to moment with no thought of tomorrow, no wonder it is so easy to slide into this ‘new way’ of cooking. It is in comparison not as extreme here in 1956, but I can tell you as an older homemaker, I would most likely look at my younger married nieces or friends and think, “Hmmm, this must be from a box” or “In my day, we’d have shucked our own peas and used butter not margarine”.
There will always be the contrast of the old vs. the new, but what I have come to realize is that rather than it be a war of who wins, it if it is a great learning experience of what works best for me and for our future (and not just my future, the world  for others as well) then that is the right path. We like to think there is no ‘right path’ and that we can, we modern people, do whatever we like. I think we are coming to find in our environment, politically, financially, environmentally, and in the family unit, that is not true. That same lesson keeps coming back to me again and again:REPSONSIBILITY. Every time I uncover more aspects of 1950’s it is always there, staring up at me with its knowing eyes. Be responsible for yourself and your actions and the world around you will be better.
That’s a lot of realization from plucking your own chicken, I know, but that is how it comes to me here in 1956. And, now I am even considering the older old way, the way of my own fictional grandparents here in 1950’s, raising my own chicken to kill and pluck. It all leads down a path of what is doable and makes sense for you and also helps out the bigger picture. Whenever I stop and think about the modern world and our current financial situation of debt both amongst our people and the insanity of our government, I can feel helpless. I can almost feel that modern, “Oh well, can’t fix it, just use up what you want, get a joy ride and go out in a ball of fire” attitude that seemed to prevail from the late 1960’s to now. Yet, I realize, my own actions can make a difference in my sphere and if it is infectious enough to bleed out to others, than one never knows. At the end of the day, when I am stuffing my chicken and making my potatoes from scratch, I feel connected to my home and my food. I feel the positive result in my bankbook, as it really is cheaper to cook from the basics, and I feel a sense of accomplishment and a hope. That is another main element I have learned here in the 1950’s, HOPE. There is a joy to a new day to learn more and want to keep growing both in my skills and in my education. The Old modern me would often face a day with ‘well, what do i do today’ even when I was a busy working woman, my free time was often just spent wasting away in front of the tv or buying things I didn’t need and couldn’t use because I was too busy working anyway.
So, take what you will from this article on the New and Old way of cooking, but do consider Responsibility and Hope, no matter what decade you live in,  as a good recipe for a happy life.
Happy Homemaking.
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