(Review) A Square Meal: A Culinary History OF The Great Depression by Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe

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Publisher and Publication Date: HarperCollins. August 16, 2016.
Genre: Nonfiction. History of eating during the Great Depression.
Pages: 336.
Source: Library.
Rating: Good.

Amazon

This is the first book I’ve read about a history of eating!
The Great Depression is one of my favorite topics to read. A book about eating during the Great Depression is something I had to read. My parents were children during this era. I’ve heard their stories about growing, preparing, cooking, baking, and storing foods. I wanted to hear how other American people ate.

In the front inside flap of the book, A Square Meal is explained as a history of eating during the Great Depression. Yes, the book covers this topic. However, the book begins with World War I and how the American soldiers ate on the battlefield. Additional surprises about this book is in the late 1800s nutrition in food was studied. By 1907, scientists were studying how deficient diets caused diseases like scurvy and rickets. Vitamin research was studied which led to an understanding of how Vitamins A and B can help people have a “healthy life.”
Chapter 3 moves on to the Great Depression years. In this chapter, the history of breadlines and the birth of the School Lunch Movement.

For many students, lunch was their only meal of the day; parents counted on it, not only for the sake of the child, but with one meal covered by the lunchroom, more food was left for the rest of the family. Page 79.

Schools not only provided food but clothing. Lunch meals were often cooked in Homemaking classrooms. On pages 80-81, a meal schedule is given as an example of what was fed to the students in “the New York school system.”
After the stock market crash in 1929, breadlines grew sharply in NYC. In 1931, there were 82 breadlines, feeding 85,000 meals a day. I was interested to learn it was single women who were apprehensive about taking food from a breadline. Women in this culture still were expected to be taken care of by a male figure. Single working women were frowned upon.
Other noted interests in this book: the history of Betty Crocker, casseroles, frozen foods; and the history of sharecropper farmers in rural areas.
I enjoyed reading this book. I’ve heard other reviewers remark-the book is not just about eating during the Great Depression, but I found the additional information about eating in the early 20th century fascinating. For readers who have an interest in the Great Depression this book is a beneficial!

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