A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression

Andrew Coe and Jane Ziegelman. HarperCollins, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-221641-0
This absorbing history explores what American’s ate—and, even more, didn’t eat—during the Great Depression, an economic upheaval that devastated agriculture and food budgets. Husband-and-wife food historians Coe (Chop Suey) and Ziegelman (97 Orchard) revisit an era when dire poverty and widespread hunger prompted a raft of food innovations. As bread lines lengthened, political leaders vacillated over the provisioning of food to destitute families while dodging accusations of fostering dependency and laziness. Welfare supports such as food stamps and the school lunch program inaugurated the enduring bureaucratization of food. The period also witnessed a sea change in how Americans thought about food, shifting the focus from taste and abundance to nutrition as scientists and home economists sought to prescribe adequately nutritious diets from the cheapest possible foods—after Eleanor Roosevelt adopted a scientifically engineered economy menu devised at Cornell University, the White House was generally thought to serve the worst fare in Washington—and new convenience inventions such as frozen vegetables revolutionized cooking. Coe and Ziegelman have written an engaging social history illustrated throughout with historically authentic recipes. Even if the period cuisine doesn’t make the reader’s mouth water, the vivid recreation of American eating at a historical crossroads is engrossing. Photos. Agent: Jason Yarn, Jason Yarn Literary. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/30/2016
Release date: 08/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-06-221642-7
MP3 CD - 978-1-5159-6628-9
Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-06-221643-4
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