Barbara Kingsolver’s nonfiction book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” was released in 2007 and chronicles her family’s effort to eat only locally grown food for the entire year. The book’s main theme revolves around improving a family’s diet, in which her family relied on food collected locally or that they were able to produce themselves. Kingsolver, her husband, and their daughter decided to start their own rural Appalachian farm in Virginia, where they were able to grow tomatoes, make cheese, raise roosters, and avoid foods that were not grown locally. She states that “even though participating in family farms sold around $236,000 of organic produce to farmers, which those markets sold to consumers around $0.3 million (Barbara 202). That implies that though they practice farming, the consumers still benefit more than the ideal farmers, but at least they get some finances. Kingsolver also points out how the success of women referred to as liberation in the book has brought about demise in the family table. She claims that the evening meal that people ate together thereby contributing to communal bonding is no more or at least changed. The author’s points are quite convincing; however, in this paper, my sentiments agree with her opinion on how liberation has changed our evening meal setting. The argument is further elaborated with an interview involving my grandmother and other research that have solid evidence.
To compare the structure of meals during the 1950’s and our current one, an interview involving my grandmother who was born in 1947 was conducted. Their meals were comprised of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Mealtime would differ depending on places that people lived whereby as per my grandmother, she lived with her parents in the rural area thus did not consume the fast foods and new goods that were being introduced to people especially in the urban centers from during the late 1950’s. The foods were locally produced whereby they had a small farm in the Southern US. The snacks that they kept in the cupboards were mostly cold biscuits and butter as snacks. A normal breakfast that they frequently had was Bacons, Eggs, and Toast.
Lunch depended on whether one was at home or work. If a family member were at an office or a factory, they would eat a bagged sandwich or metal lunch box and likely a slice of a sweet thing. And if they were at home, lunch could be meat, vegetables and possibly iced tea since they had electricity. Dinner time would be ham, fried chicken, fried fish, pork chops, or meatloaf. Vegetables such as mashed potatoes, corn, turnip greens, sweet potatoes, mustard greens, peas, or others that was available during that season. For instance, vegetables present during summer were mostly unavailable during winter. Salt pork assisted in seasoning the greens. Her mother prepared potato pancakes or salmon cakes as side dishes with lunch or supper meals. Nonetheless, during winter seasons, they would often eat foods that were cold storage dried or smoked or home canned or store canned.
Nevertheless, the food that was eaten during 1950 era is very much different from the regular food that we currently eat. In the modern world where the revolution has occurred, most foods have been processed and preserved with chemicals for long lasting. When comparing the current food that I eat when going to the rural place of my grandmother to the one she used to when she was little, chemicals are involved. Most crops are engineered whereby modern technology has enabled them to be disease free and grow fast. The meals taken during breakfast, lunch, and supper are also different since they depend on every family work schedules and conflicting meal times that make some to skip or have regular mealtimes. Mostly, my mother relies much on more boxed meals and desserts. She also prefers snacks (sandwiches, fruits, and crackers) and fast foods (hamburgers, sandwiches, among others) thus being my families favorite. Brunch has also been introduced, which is a combination of breakfast and lunch. Family breakfast now comprises of cereals. Working people can also eat fast foods on their way to work or drink coffee and sandwiches.
Liberation has led to the demise of evening meal settings since as discussed in this interview, my grandmother and her family used to eat all the three balanced diet meals together that her mother used to prepare them. However, nowadays that has changed as women have found employment and the increase of fast food outlets have made family members prefer eating in those stores instead of eating together with their families. That can be attested since my mother usually comes home late after work tired to the extent that we often order for Chinese food or pizza.
Differences between 1930’s and 2016 cookbooks
When one looks back at the 1930’s cookbooks, one may have an impression that the recipes that they contain portray what majority of the people consumed during that period. However, in the real sense, it was very different since most families continued to prepare what their lineages and families used to eat for generations. Majority of those cookbooks were full of new ideas, which majority of people could not get hold of the ingredients. For instance, in “Better Meals for Less” by George Cornforth who was a popular chef in the New England Sanitarium in the 1930’s, the author writes about the preparation of ice tea, which was hard to be prepared by everyone. Ice tea requires ingredients such as a glass filled with cracked ice, two teaspoons of powdered sugar, two thin slices of lemon, two mint leaves, and hot tea. However, during that period, electric refrigerators used in the preparation of cracked ice were few since it was the period when the freezer was invented. Many people did not possess the wealth of purchasing the equipment, and rural areas lacked electricity to handle it (Cornforth 25).
On the other hand, in recipe books published in 2016, recipes are real and practicable. Majority of people have evolved, and they welcome new ideas instead of relying on what their past generations used to eat. Indeed, the writers just write what everyone can afford to cook with recipes being available and even if new ingredients are introduced, they can be accessed. For instance, in “Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks,” written by Linda Carucci, the ingredients used in preparing the foods from risotto to ricotta can be easily found. In preparing Apple Crisp with Bourbon and Sp’Ice Cream, refrigerators are also available (Carucci 56). Current cookbooks also offer new ingredients that can be quickly prepared such as shortening, cake mixes, and box cereals thus many women prefer them to the generational food that their family has been eating, which were healthy even though they took time to prepare such as fried chicken, fried fish, or potato pancakes. The new cookbooks have contributed significantly to our poor evening meals. During the 1930’s when Television was still new in America, government films were being shown to people; hence, people had to cook what was being advertised. The cinemas brought the families together in having their meals together unlike nowadays whereby technology has brought about new gadgets such as laptops, ipads, and television not being a priority. Family members can watch whatever they want anywhere without sitting together as a family.
In the sitcom “Leave it to the Beaver,” Theodore (Beaver) asks his dad (Ward), “whenever we prepare food inside, mum is the one who is always cooking, and whenever we cook food outside, you are the one who always do it, how come?” Then his dad responds, “well I suppose, traditionally I guess they say, the place of a woman is in the home, and as long as she is right in the home, definitely she might be in the kitchen (“Leave it to the Beaver” 0:30-0:50 seconds). The episode shows how women in the 1950’s and 60’s were only seen as wives and mother to their children whereby their only duty was in the kitchen preparing meals. However, with the feminism taking charge in our current society, women no longer are domesticated but live their married life more like their husbands thus even evening meals not being their daily priority as earlier.
The same occurs in the 1950’s sitcom, “Father Knows Best,” whereby in season two episode five, Woman in the House,” the domesticity of women are portrayed. When Betty discusses with her dad about her ambition of being an Engineer, her father (Mr. Anderson) thinks that she is joking as he promotes his daughters’ family values. Mr. Anderson goes to work since he is the breadwinner and her mothers’ (Mrs. Anderson) role is just to stay at home as he kisses her husband goodbye to work. Mrs. Anderson tries to teach her daughter good cooking skills especially in the evening meals (“S02E05 Woman in the House”). The sitcom, which was mostly watched by many helped instill the role of women domesticity. However, as the liberation of women came, their role changed whereby they too started looking for employment, and with time, women have shifted; hence, evening meals not being their main priority as it used to be earlier.
Family farm over the last five decades has dramatically changed due to the urbanization whereby the majority of people who were farmers moved from the rural areas to the urban centers with their families to look for work. Most of them sold off their lands while some left them barren. However, some people still have their farms that they inherited from their forefathers (Satterthwaite, David, et al.).
Publications on the Women’s Movement have also contributed to the problems that we face in our meals. They mostly dwelt on empowering women thereby encouraging them that the kitchen is not only the place where they can champion their ideas but in the outside their homes as their men. Through the liberation brought about by this, modern women have grown up knowing that preparing meals is not what they are good at but as a way of keeping their families. Nonetheless, they now take part in many duties outside the homes (Dantec-Lowry, Hélène).
Evening meals are crucial in keeping the family together. In the 1930’s before liberation began, women mostly relied on their cooking skills thereby ensuring that their family members are well fed up. Meals we compulsory since that were their significant duties as they were taught by their mother who was also taught by their mothers. The cookbooks were also not taken as seriously as they are being taken nowadays. Nonetheless, with the liberation, the value of evening meals have declined as women now focus on other vital issues such as employment as opposed to the last decades whereby the man was the only provider.
Carucci, Linda. Cooking School Secrets For Real World Cooks. Bloomington, IN, Authorhouse, 2016.
Cornforth, George E. Better Meals for Less. Washington, D.C., Review and Herald, 1960.
Barbara, Kingsolver. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Harpercollins, 2009.
“S02E05 Woman in the House.” Youtube, uploaded by mdagael32, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jUrYTaTzlw.
“Leave It To Beaver.” Youtube, uploaded by Sarah Gillette, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oay9VxFVFmE.
Satterthwaite, David et al. “Urbanization and Its Implications For Food And Farming.” 2010, http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/365/1554/2809.
Dantec-Lowry, Hélène. “Reading Women’s Lives in Cookbooks And Other Culinary Writings: A Critical Essay.” Cairn.Info, 2008, https://www.cairn.info/revue-francaise-d-etudes-americaines-2008-2-page-99.htm.