FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000

Collective and Communal (page 2)

Stalking the Wild Asparagus, 1962

Stalking the Wild Asparagus, 1962

Euell Gibbons’s most popular book taught the art of foraging for wild edible and nutritious plants to the new back-to-the-landers.

Lent by Ruth McCully

Frances Moore Lappé, Diet for a Small Planet, 1971

Frances Moore Lappé, Diet for a Small Planet, 1971

Lappé’s book urged a diet of more vegetables and grains and less meat. It was one of the most influential political tracts of the times, connecting, as did Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a life of food activism with environmental activism.

Courtesy of Rayna Green

Homemade bean sprouter, about 1970

Vegetarians and health-food gurus embraced fresh bean sprouts, a staple of Chinese and Southeast Asian cooking. Because sprouts were not available in standard grocery stores until the 1980s, adventurous cooks grew their own.  They used canning jars customized with screened tops, adding mung beans and water to the jars and rinsing the beans with water every day. Once the beans sprouted, they were eaten both cooked and raw. Gift of Shirley Cherkasky.

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Rice cooker, about 1972

Rice has been an important part of traditional American regional cuisine in the southeastern and Gulf states. In the 1960s, brown rice, with its hull intact, was one of the foods most commonly promoted in the new alternative diets. Though long associated with the food of the third world poor, rice became more popular as more Americans developed a taste for ethnic cuisine. Many home cooks sought out the traditional tools used to prepare those foods. Rice cookers, an essential piece of kitchen equipment in Asian countries since the 1960s, made it easier for cooks to incorporate this “new” ancient grain into everyday meals. Courtesy of Rayna Green.

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Yogurt maker, around 1973

Consumed for centuries in many parts of the world, yogurt was little known in the United States before the 1960s, when Americans encountered it while abroad and new notions about its health benefits took hold. Yogurt makers capitalized on the do-it-yourself approach favored by counterculture cooks. The appliances appeared in many health-conscious households during the 1970s and 1980s. Their popularity declined, however, as commercial brands of yogurt became more widely available. Gift of Salton, Inc.

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Yogurt crock, early 1900s

Yogurt crock, early 1900s

Warren and Amy Belasco used this earthenware bean pot to make yogurt from around 1970 to 2012.  They placed the pot, filled with milk and a yogurt culture, in their gas oven, where it was warmed by the heat of the pilot light until it thickened. 

Lent by Warren and Amy Belasco