The first issue of Life Magazine for 1955 was devoted to food, with articles on a variety of related topics from 30 foot lettuce harvesting machines that saved management money (“even with cheap labor”), to recipes, to ways to cut down kitchen work (presumably, this is where “labor” saves money), to bold plans for the future. There’s even a photo spread by Margaret Bourke-White, mostly aerial views. I found quite a bit of interesting material in this issue.
Since my last post was on sugar, let’s see what they had to say about the white magic powder:
The value of cheaper sugar certainly can’t be minimalized, can it? And Sugar Information, Inc. would be there to pass the word along. It’s fun to connect the dots.
Life shows you how you can use that sugar:
That pear compote may be “spicy” by the standards of the day, but it is guaranteed to spike blood sugar levels. Nobody cared. An awful lot of us don’t care now. But at least the recipe calls for butter – a rarity in this issue.
We ate things besides sugar; we ate more meat then than we do now. In fact, the then-Secretary of Agriculture, Ezra Taft Benson, said in an article in this issue that “[The] Changing dietary habits of the American people, with greater emphasis upon meats, eggs, some dairy products and fresh fruits and vegetables, indicate that in the years ahead we may need substantially greater production of such foods.” But the low-fat diet would conquer America and make that prediction ring hollow. And it’s interesting to note that while the magazine has lots and lots of ads for vegetable oils/margarine, there isn’t a single ad for butter. So I suppose that’s why he said “some dairy products”.
Industry was preparing to meet the demand:
So the use of antibiotics to fatten livestock was known at least by 1953 according to this article, but it looks like they were getting ready to actually implement it. Today they have certainly progressed way beyond the state of 1955, making shopping for meat an interesting and expensive challenge. The paragraph also mentions the use of stilbesterol to increase calf size (further descriptions in the article, which I have omitted for brevity’s sake), so here are the beginnings of antibiotic and hormone usage in livestock production. I do wonder about that last sentence in the photo caption above and its “unidentified substance” named Vigo Factor.
There is a third leg to the tripod that today’s food processing stands on, and it was just in its infancy then. But here it is, looking a bit like a scene from The Bride Of Frankenstein:
Nobody ever thought that killing germs might destroy some aspects of the nutritional value of the food. But the big benefit is to processors, who don’t have to spend as much money keeping things clean. Why bother, when you can just nuke the salmonella? Save time, which means save money.
In this era everything was about saving time and by extension, money; this is an assumption that permeates the magazine. Life published an article in this issue that showed the homemaker how to create a complete meal using time saving techniques that would spare her “eight hours of labor”, reducing the time to twenty minutes. The article is fascinating (really worth its own blog post) but there’s just too much material to cover here; it’s an embarrassement of riches. In the end, the housewife has a meal that is created entirely from frozen and pre-fab products (as though Wonder Bread from Safeway is the exact equivalent of bread you might make at home) and in every single case I was left thinking “But I would rather eat the food you are not serving here.” Of course, Life’s preoccupation with material goods is on full display here, with three kitchens shown in order of their “utility” (ie, time saving ability and number of shelves and items on them). In the final dream kitchen they reduced the size of the kitchen windows by 75% “to make it easier to arrange equipment efficiently”.
And finally, because you just can’t make this stuff up…this isn’t food, but what were they thinking?
To be fair, this image came from the 1957 issue I was looking at last time, so in this context, it is from the future.
“I have seen the future, and it is Spud.”