In the 1500s, sometimes pork could be obtained, which made people feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could “bring home the bacon.” A little would be cut off to share with guests; everyone would then all sit around and “chew the fat.”
The types of cookbooks you select can often reveal certain aspects of your personality. Take a look at your collection, and see if there’s a pattern emerging (because there most likely is!). As I was glancing through my mom’s collection, I was struck by the large amount of “Better Homes and Gardens”, “Betty Crocker” and “Kraft” titles, as well as the classic Fannie Farmer.
These particular cookbooks feature (for the most part) very traditional American food. And my mom reflects the essence of her collection; she’s very “true blue”, with solid all-American values.
According to Barbara Haber, author of “From Hardtack (a hardtack was similar in shape and design to a modern saltine cracker, but larger, thicker and a lot harder) to Home Fries” (2003), the typical American diet in the early 19th century consisted largely of corn, pork, molasses, puddings, pies, potatoes cooked in lard, and a lot of whiskey to wash it all down (with).
Throughout the 19th century and even before, Americans had a huge appetite for meat; they ate it at almost every meal!
A typical American breakfast at this time could be six or seven courses, including beefsteaks with sauce, ham, grouse, fried fish, fried potatoes, omelets and an assortment of breads and fruit (wow!).
Some of you may remember or recall the classic movie, “The Harvey Girls” (1946) starring Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, John Hodiak, Angela Lansbury and Marjorie Main.
The film was based on fact; there were actual Harvey Girls and Harvey restaurants!
You see, when American train travel began in 1830, speed was the main attraction; amenities came later.
Therefore, in mid-19th century America, a traveler heading by rail from Kansas City to California was in more danger from malnutrition or food poisoning than from Indians and train robbers.
Western railroads offered little food service and poor sleeping accommodations both o board and at stops. This level of food service had been a feature of Western rail travel for almost half a century (50 years) before Fred Harvey arrived on the scene.
In the last two decades of the 19th century, (Frederick) Fred Harvey, an ambitious British immigrant, revolutionized food service in the American West by opening a series of railroad depot restaurants that offered food as good as one could get anywhere else in the country. The phrase “Meals by Fred Harvey” became a guarantee not only of delicious food in generous portions at a reasonable price but of outstanding service by welcoming, efficient and impeccably groomed waitresses called “Harvey Girls.”
From 1883 to the late 1950s, about a hundred thousand of these young women, who ranged in age from 18 to 30, were recruited from the East and Midwest. About half of them remained in the Southwest, where many of them married men connected with the railroads or with Western ranching, farming and mining.
The rapidly expanding Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad line (“On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” won an Oscar for best song; it was also from “The Harvey Girls” movie) were the first beneficiaries of Harvey’s innovative concept.
By the time he died in 1901 and left the business to his sons, Harvey had a chain of fifteen hotels, forty-seven restaurants, thirty dining cars and food service on the ferries across San Francisco Bay.