Bites from the Smithsonian: a (chokingly) abridged history of the all-‘merican meal

Some bites from the Smithsonian’s historical page: “Key Ingredients: America By Food

(1) Image of: "The First Thanksgiving," 1914 (2) Image of: "Pilgrims praying" (3) Image of: Ladies-only luncheon at Delmonicos, New York City, 1902
(4) Image of: Bowl of Corn Flakes (5) Image of: The first McDonald  


Image of: "The First Thanksgiving," 1914  
“The First Thanksgiving,” 1914
Painting by: Jennie Brownscombe The Granger Collection, New York

A Harvest Celebration Leads to a Holiday: Thanksgiving
To mark a successful planting season, the Mayflower Pilgrims prepared a one-time harvest celebration, now often referred to as the first Thanksgiving, in the fall of 1621. Although there is no evidence that the Pilgrims planned to share their harvest celebration with the local Wampanoag nation, the Europeans and the Wampanoag slowly developed a cooperative relationship, culminating in a March 1621 treaty to jointly protect their communities. … read more


Image of: "Pilgrims praying"  
“Pilgrims praying”
Artist: Henry Mosler Library of Congress

The Colonial Casserole: Corn Porridge
The colonial version of the one-dish meal, a corn porridge called “samp”, was a staple of both Native American and colonial diets. Until this time, Europeans considered corn to be fodder for animals not food for people. Because corn was plentiful and easy to prepare, colonists quickly learned from Native Americans how to prepare the meal and even borrowed the name “samp” from Native Americans. Adding their own touches, such as salted pork, shellfish, and herbs, colonists simmered this heavy, stick-to-the-ribs porridge in huge kettles on their hearths all week, putting in new ingredients each day. …read more

Image of: Ladies-only luncheon at Delmonicos, New York City, 1902  
Ladies-only luncheon at Delmonicos, New York City, 1902
The Museum of the City of New York

Turn-of-the-Century Dinners: A Dozen Courses With Wine
Well-to-do people at the turn of the century consumed huge twelve-course meals, each course accompanied by its own wine. A typical dinner began with oysters, followed by a clear broth, poached salmon, fillet of beef, lamp chops, creamed chicken, roasted game birds, boiled potatoes, and asparagus. Desserts could also include several courses such as cakes, fruit, and ice cream. Coffee and tea were usually offered with dessert. …read more


Image of: Bowl of Corn Flakes  
Bowl of Corn Flakes  

Science & Eating: The Rise of Health Food
At the same time that well-to-do families were eating twelve-course dinners, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, a vegetarian, created a cold breakfast cereal, called “corn flakes,” to replace meat at the breakfast table. Kellogg ran a sanitarium (health resort) in Battle Creek, Michigan, and one of his former patients, a man named C.W. Post, started a rival health food empire with a cold cereal called “Grape-Nuts.” …read more


Image of: The first McDonald  
The first McDonald’s, Des Plaines, Illinois, 1955
McDonald’s Corporation

McDonald’s: The All-American Meal
In 1955, Ray Kroc opened his first McDonald’s franchise in suburban Chicago. His advertising slogan was “The All American Meal:” a $.15 hamburger ($.04 extra for cheese), $.10 fries, and a $.20 shake. This cheap, kid-friendly meal could be served to families at a speedy 25 seconds a meal. …read more


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