Steven Kurutz’s “The Depressing Food of the Depression, in ‘A Square Meal’ “ is a fascinating read, and one I had been looking forward to all semester. I don’t know if anyone else had this experience in the course, but whenever I visited our class website, travelstudies.org, the link to the Kurutz piece was always the first article that popped up at the top of the page, with the attached photo of in addition to the attached photo of the historians, Andrew Coe and Jane Ziegelman. When I clicked on the link, a thought ran through my mind: “Finally! I get to read this goshdarn article!”
The article begins with the following statement
In March 1933, shortly after ascending to the presidency, Franklin Delano Roosevelt sat down to lunch in the Oval Office. A gourmand, President Roosevelt had a taste for fancy Fifth Avenue foods like pâté de foie gras and Maryland terrapin soup. His menu that day was more humble: deviled eggs in tomato sauce, mashed potatoes and, for dessert, prune pudding.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt has always been my favorite president of the United States. On the verge of collapse under the pressures of facism and a bust economy, Roosevelt was able to push this country out of a depression and towards victory in the worst war this planet has ever seen. It is unsurprising, that he was happy to eat like the suffering man during this time. His presidency was one of leadership by communion, not leadership by worship, the style preferred by the incoming administration to the United States and the president elect.
Another interesting bit of the article occurs later on, when Zurst states
As never before or since, home economists — among them Louise Stanley, chief of the federal Bureau of Home Economics from 1923 to 1943 — drove the country’s eating habits. Publishing recipes and articles in newspapers and magazines, they encouraged women to become “budgeteers” and rise to the challenge of transforming glop like creamed spaghetti with carrots into tasty dishes.
It is wholly incomprehensible to me that economists would be the one to decide the dietary habits of citizens across the United States. And I simply mean incomprehensible by way of I have had a spoiled palate in that I eat what I want, when I want. There was a certain nutritional and budgetary constraint during this period in the United States that required everyone to sacrifice for one another. What this sacrifice also encompassed, was sacrificing aesthetic pleasures, the Epicurean joys in life, and making the choices that benefited the country the most. Today, we are all consumed with loyalty along party lines. I would only hope that something besides a war could unite us all, sooner rather than later.