My great-grandmother, who baked fabulous bread, and my grandmother, who made a dessert for every dinner.
Anna at Pleasant View Schoolhouse posted a day's menu from the vintage cookbook, The American Home Diet, or, What Shall We Have for Dinner? published in 1920. It doesn't take long to see that this diet is packed with carbohydrates and sweet delectables, in one form another, for each meal. Since the epidemic of obesity had not yet struck America in 1920, it is interesting that people could eat through such a day's menu.
When I was between four and eight years old -- quite a few decades ago -- my mother and I lived with my grandparents. My grandmother did most of the cooking. Every evening, dinner was served in the dining room, on a table cloth -- not in the breakfast nook adjoining the kitchen. Every night there was dessert. Years later when I looked through my grandmother's recipes and those of her mother, at least 50 percent of the recipes were for sweets--puddings, sherberts, cakes, pies, cookies, sweet sauces, tarts. For each kind of fruit there was an array of recipes, so you could cook it when it was in season in all kinds of ways. If are making 365 desserts a year, you need variety.
There are plenty of differences between the 1920s, when my grandmother first started cooking for her husband and family, and today. For one, many more people moved their bodies in the course of doing their daily work, rather than sitting in an office, or walked a lot more as part of their commutes or trips to the store.
Our portions are reported to be much larger today.
Food represents a much smaller portion of the family's monthly budget -- that is, it is cheaper.
But was there a difference in the experience of the meal itself, especially the family dinner? At my grandmother's, meals were regular (I don't remember eating in restaurants), and eating ended when the meal ended. Adults never ate between meals.
Ergo, missing from the grocery store that we went to every Friday night were the huge aisles of snack food that we see in today's supermarkets. In my local grocery store, there is one side of an aisle devoted to candy, another to popcorn and nuts, another to frozen desserts, a double aisle of cookies and crackers, and another double aisle of chips, pretzels, and other snack food. With the exception of the desserts, crackers with soup, and cookies for lunch, none of these foods are eaten at meals, yet they consume close to 25 percent of the supermarket floor space devoted to food items.
I am wondering if there is a correlation between the lack of a ritualized family dinner, complete with dessert, and the rise in snack food?
I am wondering, do many women today still make a dessert when they prepare the family meal at night? Do you? And if you do, does it help decrease your family's eating between meals?