American 20th century food fads, decade-by-decade


Lynne Olver's Food Timeline tracks food trends through the ages. The Twentieth Century timeline is a decade-by-decade treasurehouse of food fads and fashions, working from primary sources like cookbooks, contemporary magazines, local newspapers, and restaurant menus. The timeline also provides guidance for each decade's "signature" foods for the benefit of people planning historical parties.

Home cooking & family entertaining
What did average Americans eat in the 1920s? Food historians tell us we had a sweet tooth, a taste for the exotic, and a well-developed sense of ordered creativity. Translation? Fruit cocktails, Pineapple upside-down cake and Jell-O molds. Tea sandwiches, fancy salads, and chafing-dish recipes were also "in." City kitchens were wired with electricity meaning foods could be safely refrigerated at home. General Electric (and other companies) published cooking brochures touting frozen foods and safe meat storage.

Conversely? Modern vegetarianism also began the 1920s. Peanuts were promoted as healthy protein alternatives to animal meat. Raw foods were likewise promoted. Ladies Aid Societies and Domestic Scientists worked hard to introduce balanced, nutritional meals to poor, laboring people and help newly arrived immigrants adjust to American markets.

Need recipes & menus?
* [1920] Breakfasts, Luncheons and Dinners: How to Plan Them/Mary Chambers
* [1922] Good Housekeeping's Book of Menus
* [1924] Mrs. Allen on Cooking, Menus, Service/Ida C. Baily Allen (p. 20 offers daily home menus. Selected party menus below)

Food Timeline FAQs: popular 20th century American foods (via Making Light)

(Image: tuna mousse, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from citymama's photostream)

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