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home : health : health June 20, 2018

5/29/2018 1:36:00 PM
Journey through thyme - Diet changes with historical trends

A century ago someone like you was seated at a kitchen table, mulling over a morning paper. The big difference? The meal. While you may be munching on fat-free yogurt and granola with a café latte made with almond milk, the centenarian, depending where he lived, filled his plate with porridge, flapjacks, mutton or a heart-stopping amount of home-cured bacon.

Over the last century, American eating habits have changed dramatically, with our diets becoming almost unrecognizable to those of our grandparents and great-grandparents. The way we cook, shop, and dine out has been altered by our attitudes toward food.

Oh, the irony of how we romanticize great-grandma's supposedly local, sustainable food habits. Because when processed food was coming into place over a hundred years ago, American women leapt at the chance to buy canned vegetables, boxed cereal, industrial meat, and newly invented processed cheese.

And at the same time, the new science of nutrition was turning complicated terms like calories and vitamins into household names. And by the 1910s calories were actually changing how Americans ate. As vitamins began to be discovered from 1912 on, fruit, vegetables and milk became more important than they had in earlier years. And that new knowledge was morphing them into central players in the modern diet.

Exactly 100 years ago Americans were in the middle of the "Great War" and one thing World War I doesn't bring to mind is food. But it should, because during World War I the progress of industrial food processing, nutrition science, and America's first food aid program changed American food on almost every level.

With U.S. entry into World War I, President Wilson appointed Herbert Hoover to head the newly created U.S. government Food Administration.

In 1917 in response to food shortages, Hoover had the job of shipping calorie-dense food to allies and soldiers abroad. So, diets changed again when Americans began exporting as much beef, pork, white flour, butter and sugar as possible, and folks had to eat less of them. The tightened food regulations altered the pantries, recipes, and diets of folks on the home front.

When American families sat down for dinner in 1918, the table would often behold meatless and wheatless dishes. Depending on the day of the week, (Wheatless Mondays and Wednesdays, Meatless Tuesdays, and Porkless Thursdays and Saturdays became a mantra in many households) a meal might begin with rolls made of potato flour or a blend of graham and rye flour, a main course of broiled slat mackerel with cabbage and end with a piece of Lintz Tart - a pastry made without wheat flour.

Here is an original recipe for dessert after dinner from 1917:

Lintz Tart

1 lb. Rye flour

1/2 lb. almonds

1/2 lb. pastry crumbs

12 oz. sugar

12 oz. butter

2 eggs

2 yolks of eggs

1 grated lemon

1/2 oz. ground cinnamon

1/2 lb. almond paste

Mix the whole to paste, form in long strips on a pan, and fill with a filling of 1/2 lb. almond paste, 1/2 lb. sugar and the grated lemon and made to a soft dough. Bake in a medium oven.

Gladys Henderer, a 93-year-old Sisters resident, remembers her husband making homemade sauerkraut in the utility room - and how it stunk up the whole house.

But as she noted, "We sure loved to eat it after it was done to perfection."

Henderer's husband's sauerkraut recipe was handed down from his mom, who possibly made it during World War I when cabbage was a common household item.

The recipe called for 5 pounds of cabbage bought from a nearby farm. The cabbage was cut using a Kraut maker.

5 lbs. of shredded cabbage

3 Tablespoons of non-iodized salt

Stir well and put in a crock and tamp it down. Do 5 more pounds with salt, keep doing 5-pound batches till your crock is full. Leave some room at the top of the crook so that when it starts working and creating juice it won't run over.

Put a rock on the lid to hold the crock down, so it won't all bubble up. You have to keep it close to 75-degree temperature. If it gets too hot it will kill the fermentation, but if it gets below 65 degrees it will stop fermenting and spoil. It will take about three weeks. You will know when it's ready because it will not bubble any more.

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