We Didn’t Invent This

Home cooking has experienced a renaissance of sorts in the past few years. Fast food and processed “food” from a box is losing favor. People want Slow Food. They want locally sourced food. And that’s really awesome.

On another note, nutrition science has been evolving lately. If you missed the announcement, the US government has issued updated the nutrition guidelines for Americans.  In short, we should be eating less sugar, salt, and fat. We should be cautious of eating too much meat and get more protein from legumes and grains. We should eat more vegetables and fruits.

What do these two things have in common? They are both old news. Don’t believe me? Search the internet for “wartime recipes”, depression era recipes” or “food ration recipes”. Here are three amazing sources I found, and there are many more out there:

  • During the Great War, a book called Foods that will Win the War and How to Cook Them showed Americans how to eat with both frugality and nutrition in mind. (I’m so happy The Gutenberg Project saved this manuscript.)
  • The UK organization Wootton Bridge Historical has amassed a huge collection of wartime recipes.
  • The family recipe box. I bet your family has one. If they don’t, chat up your relatives who belong to The Greatest Generation and keep notes while they talk. You’ll be thankful you did.

A quick look at these vintage recipes makes one thing clear- our grandparents and great grandparents knew how to cook meals that fit today’s guidelines. They didn’t have pre-made packaged foods so they whipped up simple but thrifty meals from scratch. They were saving precious sugar, but we can use their recipes to cut added sugar from our diets. They were stretching what little meat they could get with beans, but we can use the same strategies incorporate legumes into our meals. They cooked and served exactly as much as they needed to avoid wasting a single scrap to spoilage, we can use the same principle to manage our portions. (And to avoid food waste, that’s still an issue, actually.)

I like science. I like progress. But some things are just true. Buying food and planning meals carefully, selecting ingredients over packages at the market and avoiding food waste are just good things to do. And they always will be.

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