I’d like to start out by saying first and foremost, I love food. Not the cooking of it; just the eating. If the food comes to me mouth-ready, I will eat just about anything.
Until I read this book….one of Lovegren’s best qualities is really driving home the “gourmet” atrocities committed throughout most of the 20th Century. Seriously….someone in the 1920s thought combining peas, pickles, peanuts, and mayonnaise served in a piece of iceburg lettuce was the height of domestic sophistication. Oh and also presenting any fresh produce in a ball of wobbly, grey looking, tasteless gelatin. Because f*ck fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s food of the poor!
Well, the 20s were a strange time, you might say….people were probably too bombed on bath-tub gin and basement wine to really notice the taste of anything. And sweet potatoes stuffed with marshmallows and ground wheaties are only to be expected from the Great Depression. They’d be happy with shoe-leather stuffed sweet potatoes. Surely things get better. And they do, around 1985….
Don’t get me wrong, there were lots of foods that actually sounded appealing and others that outlasted their fads so long, we see them on our holiday tables or as favorite family recipes, but most of these foods are in the dustbin of history for a reason.
Lovegren’s research is solid, interesting, and her writing style is incredibly accessible. She breaks up the research with historically accurate recipes that, for the most part, haven’t been updated for the modern palette, allowing the reader to stare in horrified mortification at what our great-grandparents shoveled into their gullets in the name of progress.
A thoroughly interesting read where we find out how Prohibition basically destroyed the American wine industry and may have helped cause the Depression, how Hawaiian and Japanese foods became popular thanks to World War II, and fondue is the fault of the Space Age.
If you love food, and you love history, give this book a read!