We take a lot of care in what we eat: There are now low-fat, low-sodium, fat-free and gluten-free options for many foods. Never have we been able to have so much choice in what we put in our diets. It often feels like we invented this healthy style of eating due to how much attention it gets.
However, with the 1940s census data recently being released, it’s brought some attention to the era, and perhaps nothing allows us to better connect to our own pasts than looking at how we ate.
The ’40s were very much dominated by rationing with WWII. The home cook had to be amazingly creative not only to keep their families happy, but also because simple pantry ingredients were not available to these cooks. They had to come up with recipes for things like cookies without sugar, cakes that used no eggs and reduced butter, and sometimes meals without meat.
These challenges sound much like the ones we take on today, but instead of by choice the home cook did without due to the rationing.
The fresh food resurgence of the past few years also feels very novel and new, but the cooks of the ’40s were just as excited by fresh produce as we are today, mostly because this fresh produce had to supplement missing ingredients. The government encouraged families to create so called “victory gardens” for families to grow their own food to reduce their need for outside-sourced food, and to help feed their neighbors as well.
We don’t have the problems of rationing in our everyday lives, but we still have much we can take from the home cook of the ’40s. Being creative with our diets and embracing fresh produce are trends we still embrace today. The ’40s may feel like a very long time ago, but maybe things haven’t changed as much as we think.