The Times, They Are A-Changin’

A Brief History of Food: Where We’ve Been

In the inimitable words of Bob Dylan, the world and especially the United States after World War II was a-changin’. After the first half-century of the 1900’s being defined by scarcity and getting by, the post-war U.S. would be defined by growth, prosperity, and a baby boom.

This prosperity led to the purchase of electric appliances, with most households having a refrigerator/freezer and electric range. In turn, food marketing and the types of food available changed, such as the advent of the “TV Dinner”; the frozen dinner (whose origin can be traced to an excess of 260 tons of frozen Thanksgiving turkeys) was a revolution in convenience. Now, a meal that would otherwise take hours to put together could be achieved by throwing some aluminum trays into the oven for half an hour. (These, of course, would be one-upped in the 80’s by microwaveable dinners, because who wants to wait a half hour when you can have something in a couple of minutes.) Processed foods that had once been a means of providing safe, affordable food would now transition into a means of time saving and convenience. This melded well with the changes in society and culture, where events outside the home and entertainment occupied more of people’s time. Empowered by contributions during World War II and pushed forward by the women’s movement in the 1960’s and 70’s, women also increasingly pursued their own careers, lessening time available for food preparation and increasing the need for convenient meals. In a significant departure from most of human history, no longer was it a necessity for a household to have one or more persons fully engaged in preparing food for the family.

While life in the house was changing, life outside of the house was also undergoing massive shifts. Proliferation of cars, and the highways to drive them on, led to the need and desire for meals prepared outside of the house. From drive-ins to drive-throughs, restaurants developed efficient kitchen setups to provide meals quickly for their diners, earning the moniker of “fast food.” Cars and food became so intertwined that in the early 2000’s, surveys estimated nearly 20% of meals were eaten in the car. Along with convenience, restaurants also provided a source of new and different cuisines. Many who served in World War II experienced and took a liking to new foods as part of their travels. Upon their return, restaurants would play a large role in providing a state-side source for these foods and opening U.S. culture up to a wide diversity of foods that have become the melting pot that is American cuisine. Food consumed outside the home would grow from 8% in the 60’s to a third of the total calories consumed for the period from the 90’s through the 2010’s.

A Timeline of Fast Food Restaurants with their Original Location and Founding Date (logos via Wikipedia)

The trend of convenience in food continue today. Food has never before been as convenient and accessible as it is in our modern world. What would a caveman think about using a drive through and being handed a bag of food (let alone using an app to have food delivered to your front door)? But, in an effort to make food convenient, replicable, transportable, shelf-stable, and affordable, food has been manipulated and modified in ways that would be unrecognizable to people from a few generations back. The correlations of increased digestive, autoimmunity, and health conditions with the changes in our food are hard to ignore. On a more positive note, this convenience has also allowed much more freedom in the household, saving many hours a week previously required for food preparation, opening up opportunities for careers, entertainment, and other activities. But, with less need to prepare meals, American’s cooking skills have also eroded, lessening the type and quality of meals cooked at home. These trends have fundamentally altered how we view food. Very little connection remains between the consumers and producers of food and the increased convenience and accessibility has lessened the value we place on food in our lives.

We feel that there is a better option where people connect with their food and possess the skills necessary to prepare delicious meals in a convenient manner. We are on a mission to provide you high quality food that you can connect with while also assisting you with the skills needed to create delicious dishes with minimal effort. Sign up here to be the first to know about our offerings.

A Brief History of Food