A Square Meal by Jane Ziegelman
A Culinary History of the Great Depression

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Their efforts influenced the culinary arts for decades to come. A highly readable, illuminating look at the many ramifications of feeding the hungry in hard times.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

From the author of the acclaimed 97 Orchard and her husband, a culinary historian, an in-depth exploration of the greatest food crisis the nation has ever faced—the Great Depression—and how it transformed America’s culinary culture.

The decade-long Great Depression, a period of shifts in the country’s political and social landscape, forever changed the way America eats. Before 1929, America’s relationship with food was defined by abundance. But the collapse of the economy, in both urban and rural America, left a quarter of all Americans out of work and undernourished—shattering long-held assumptions about the limitlessness of the national larder.

In 1933, as women struggled to feed their families, President Roosevelt reversed long-standing biases toward government-sponsored “food charity.” For the first time in American history, the federal government assumed, for a while, responsibility for feeding its citizens. The effects were widespread. Championed by Eleanor Roosevelt, “home economists” who had long fought to bring science into the kitchen rose to national stature.

Tapping into America’s long-standing ambivalence toward culinary enjoyment, they imposed their vision of a sturdy, utilitarian cuisine on the American dinner table. Through the Bureau of Home Economics, these women led a sweeping campaign to instill dietary recommendations, the forerunners of today’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

At the same time, rising food conglomerates introduced packaged and processed foods that gave rise to a new American cuisine based on speed and convenience. This movement toward a homogenized national cuisine sparked a revival of American regional cooking. In the ensuing decades, the tension between local traditions and culinary science has defined our national cuisine—a battle that continues today.

A Square Meal examines the impact of economic contraction and environmental disaster on how Americans ate then—and the lessons and insights those experiences may hold for us today.

A Square Meal features 25 black-and-white photographs.

 

About Jane Ziegelman

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Jane Ziegelman is the director of the Tenement Museum's culinary center and the founder and director of Kids Cook!, a multiethnic cooking program for children. Her writing on food has appeared in numerous publications, and she is the coauthor of Foie Gras: A Passion. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
 
Published August 16, 2016 by Harper. 336 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, Cooking, History, Political & Social Sciences, Science & Math. Non-fiction
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Kirkus

Good
on May 31 2016

Their efforts influenced the culinary arts for decades to come. A highly readable, illuminating look at the many ramifications of feeding the hungry in hard times.

Read Full Review of A Square Meal: A Culinary His... | See more reviews from Kirkus

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Sadie Stein on Sep 09 2016

It is not always entirely clear what Ziegelman and Coe mean for us to take away from their eloquent work of historical summation. Then again, that may be a good thing. The larger question of America’s shifting attitudes toward federal aid is a prodigious topic to digest.

Read Full Review of A Square Meal: A Culinary His... | See more reviews from NY Times

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