Diet, food preparation, and attitudes toward eating have changed dramatically over the past 150 years, A century and a half ago, no American ate a hot dog, a hamburger, or an ice cream cone—foods that came to define the American diet.

Cooking was an extremely time-consuming task. Chickens needed to be plucked, fish scaled, and coffee beans ground.

Restaurant meals were a luxury largely confined to the well-to-do.

Attitudes toward diet were very different than they have since become. In the late 19th century, corpulence was a sign of propersperity and well-being. Today, in contrast, obesity is considered dangerous to peoples' health and slimness is regarded as desirable.

Breakfast cereals, fast foods, and processed foods are relatively recent developments, as are pizza and chop suey.

In little more than a century, our diet has been totally transformed as have our ideas of proper nutrition.

Key Questions:

1. How did Americans’ culinary tastes change over the course of the 20th century?

2. How would you explain the changes that have taken place in the kinds of foods Americans eat?

3. Trace the development of convenience foods.

4. How has immigration and ethnic diversity transformed the American diet?

5. Why do you think certain “ethnic” foods have been incorporated into the mainstream diet (such as bagels, egg rolls, and tacos), while others (such as knishes, chiterlings, and haggis) have not?


Copyright Digital History 2018