Food on the Go
By the end of the 1900s, ready-to-eat “convenience” foods had become a significant part of the American diet. Most Americans came to depend on the ability to buy such food whenever and wherever they wanted. Growers, manufacturers, grocers and convenience store owners, and restaurants attempted to meet this demand—and create more of it—through a variety of new products, inventive technologies, and expanded menus.
“Convenience” stores have been a popular quick stop for snacks, beverages, and other basic items since the late 1940s. They usually maintain extended hours, are conveniently located, and sell food and drink designed for consumption on the go, as well as some staples like milk and bread. Competition from convenience stores prompted other food stores to stay open longer hours too. In some areas without supermarkets, convenience stores remained residents’ primary source of food.
This sixty-four-ounce cup from a chain of convenience stores around Texas reflects a major trend in soft drink consumption. A “supersized” drink lasts several hours and can be taken anywhere—from vehicle to office to sporting event and back home. Filled with soda, the cup might contain over 700 calories and 46 teaspoons of sugar. Although nutritionists and health advocates decry the supersizing of soda, the large containers remain popular.
Peel, Pinch, Puncture, Slurp
Coffee cup lids are examples of how humble objects are sometimes the result of meticulous engineering. The first lids date to the 1950s, but to-go cup-lid innovation exploded in the 1980s. Patents describe peel-back tabs and the pucker-type shapes that make room for mouths and noses, and note the importance of “heat retention,” “mouth comfort,” “splash reduction,” “friction fit,” and “one-handed activation,” all enabling Americans to drink on the go.
Meals Behind the Wheel
Eating in the car grew in popularity in the 1950s, with carhops, some on roller skates, delivering meals to people in parked cars. By the early 1960s, automobile glove-box doors opened flat to support drinks. By the 1980s, with the rise of fast-food drive-thrus and long commutes, automobile manufacturers began to offer as standard equipment built-in cupholders that kept bottles and cups upright in moving vehicles.