We don’t seem to have the time or patience for anything anymore. It’s unfortunate, yet true. Family time is usually divided between cooking and getting meals together. Remember getting together on Saturdays for barbecuing or grilling? Well, I certainly don’t. Do you know what comes in handy then? Cold pizza from yesterday. American food
Food, just like people, loses value over time. We cannot imagine life without frozen pizza, prepared salads, canned/preserved ready meals. We aren’t ready for that healthy switcheroo! American food
Ask me why I go for ready meals and I’ll say it’s time-saving, doesn’t require a lot of effort, and it’s easy to handle and store in the not so capacious kitchen of my one-bedroom apartment. I like cooking, listening to slow jazz, with a glass of wine in my hand and Sinatra playing in the background, but hey, I’m 21 and I don’t have the time to shower on some days.
But, it was bold of me to assume that canned foods are a recent discovery. I learned that it’s been in place for decades. Remember how Betty Draper from Mad Men offered cold beef and toast to her husband on some nights?
Canned food as a commercial product dates back to the 19th century. Van Camp was one of the companies producing tinned beans for the Army. They quickly developed a taste for it and appreciated the convenience. With the introduction of the refrigerator and the concept of eating refrigerated food, ready meal boxes gathered immense popularity. American food
Canned/ packaged ready meals liberated housewives too. There was an increase in the number of supermarkets between 1948 and 1958. The United States witnessed a two-fold rise in the number of supermarkets. It established a new post-war housing model. “TV dinners” became a massive hit in busy households. This reinvented the idea of eating dinner. It came in a box, for every individual. Swanson debuted frozen TV dinners in the 1950s and the tagline read “Just heat and serve”. It was a guaranteed hallmark of convenience. Post world war 2, women started moving out for work, but they were still expected to make arrangements like the traditional housewife. Ready meals came to the rescue of these women in the ’50s.
Food and beverage companies in the 1950s organized wide market research and expanded their scope and audience. There were certain ready meals and beverages that gained a lot of popularity during the ’50s and haven’t left the shelves of the supermarkets or our hearts, for that matter.
Diet Cola and Coca Cola
Coca Cola has always existed, much before the ’50s, but became extensively popular during this post-war decade. It was the drink of the young adults and the young generation felt a sense of liberation with the can of coke in their hands. Diet Soda was initially introduced for people with diabetes, but in no time, it was preferred by everyone and still is. A can of coke and diet coke! Who could’ve imagined? American food
This was a ready meal preferred by housewives on various occasions. You didn’t remember your husband’s birthday? A box of Betty Crocker was all that was needed. Bake him a cake and keep him happy.
Cheese slices American food
James L Kraft of Kraft Foods, in 1950 an American, introduced the cheese slices that we use in our sandwiches and burgers. Cheese slices were made way before in Switzerland in the early 20th century but the slices were introduced by Kraft himself. American food
Flavoured potato chips
We love a packet of Lay’s, don’t we? Lay’s in 1958 and Blue Bell introduced the Lay’s that we so lavishly consume today. It captured the hearts of the Americans in the 1950s but it wasn’t until decades later that new flavours were introduced.
Tropicana juice American food
Not exactly a ready meal but it sure is a beverage that we thoroughly enjoy on a sunny April afternoon. It was introduced in the ’50s and it maintains the same hype to this date.
We’ve come a long way ahead, in terms of what we eat and drink today. But, many Americans in the ’50s attached great value to convenience as the right way to lead their lives, and years later, we haven’t seen a very drastic shift in perspective.
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