Thursday, March 22, 2012

What “The Joy of Cooking” Has Taught Me.

I was reading through the 1951 published cookbook this morning, and marveled at how labor intensive these recipes were. There was advice on how to pluck a chicken, 12 pages on cooking Sweet Breads, Brains, Kidneys, Liver, Heart, Tongue, Oxtails  to accommodate the “housekeeper’s slenderized pocketbook”, who was “faced with the responsibility of producing meals that are nutritionally sound, acceptable to the family and not noticeably economical.”  And these recipes were loaded with lard, butter and fat. Then toward the back of the book, I came across the recommended daily allowance as published in 1951.

Food Energy: Recommended Daily Allowances (1951)

Woman (123 lbs.)
Moderately active
2500 Calories
Very active
3000 Calories
2100 Calories

Wait. WHAT!? Want to know my Gym Trainer’s RDA? 1400 Calories.

Today’s RDA Standards for a woman from are,
Moderately active
2000 Calories
Very active
2200 Calories
1800 Calories

So how did these women stay so thin? How did obesity in the American population rise from 4% in the 1950s to almost 34% today when they were recommended to eat more?

We’ve all heard that our sedentary lifestyle and reduced home cooking was the culprit, but I wanted more details. Which inventions reduced our chores so significantly that we rarely need to move at all? I narrowed it down to 3 in this order: the washing machine, the freezer, and the automobile.  All 3 of these machines were not yet found in every household during the 50’s, although they were quickly growing in popularity.

Freezers were fairly new in 1951, when Mrs. Rombauer’s cookbook was published, and by her account were both a blessing and a risk.  She warned that “unless you are a determined planner and dispenser it may lead to extravagance. It is a great temptation and children love to draw on the seemingly unlimited freezer resources of ice cream and desserts.  It is only by unsparing effort and good husbandry of supplies that the satisfactions as well as the cash savings from the use of the freezer are apparent and worth while.”

I was curious. I could probably count my calories more, but overall, I don’t tend to over eat, and I usually cook the family meals. I don’t drink soda, so why is it I struggle with weight? I compared my current lifestyle to that of a housewife in the 50’s just to see.

Calories Consumed
Calories Expended
Wakes before the family does, lays out their clothes and fixes breakfast.

Eats breakfast, which the family eats together, toast, butter, and  eggs

Washes breakfast dishes

8.30 am
Walks the children to school

9.30 am
Walks to the butcher, then the baker, then the grocer

10.30 am
Puts away the shopping, then weeds and harvest  the day’s produce from backyard garden

11 am
Stops for tea and a snack

11 am
Prepares lunch for herself and husband who comes home to eat

1 pm
Hand washes clothes worn the day before and hangs them out to dry

Walks to and from school to collect the children

4 pm
Fixes dinner.  If they are middle class, pork chops, potatoes, vegetable, canned fruit, and dessert

4 pm
Fixes dinner.  If they are poorer, beans and rice, vegetable, corn bread, and dessert

6.30 pm
Dishes are washed, and children are given a bath


Total calories consumed/expended
1600 - 1850

And then there is me,

Calories Consumed
Calories Expended
6 am
Wakes up, gets ready for work and if lucky, remembers to pack a breakfast and lunch.

7 am
Hurries to the train station (4 blocks), if running late, runs to the bus stop (6 blocks)

7.30 am
If I catch the train, walk to work (10 blocks)

7.45 am
Sits in a 5 foot square cube and eats breakfast and drinks coffee

10 am
Get up to walk around

12 pm
Walks to microwave to heat up lunch, then returns to cube to eat it.

12 pm
Eats lunch - last night's leftovers

12.30 - 3
Sits in cube. Fights off falling to sleep

3 pm
Gets bored and craves a sweet. Caves in.

5 pm
Takes bus back home

5.30 pm
Fixes Dinner and washes dishes left behind by children (GRRR!)

6.15 pm
Eats dinner - salmon, rice, spinach. No dessert.

7 pm
Washes dinner dishes - Children are old enough to wash themselves

8 pm
Sits and does nothing, or sews

Total calories consumed/expended

And so now I know. Women from the 50’s, you rocked. I pay my respects to you.

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