Food Trends From American History
Have you ever wondered what your ancestors ate? In the early days of Pennsylvania, around the time of the American Revolution, the current trend of hyper-local farm-to-table meals was very much in vogue. Of course, there wasn’t much choice in the matter — with no refrigeration and limited transportation options, eating local was the logical solution.
While our forebears were creating a country, they needed to keep up their strength. They tended to eat seafood caught from local rivers, produce when it was in season, root vegetables throughout the year and legumes. Those who were wealthy created more elaborate meals with these staples, while the rest of the population kept things simple. George Washington, for example, dined on salmon mousse and oyster while others may have had simpler bread and meat dishes. Thomas Jefferson was inspired by the French, so he ate foods such as fried potatoes and champagne. The founding fathers also had chocolate, apple pies and other sweets.
In the 1700s, people drank more beer, cider and whiskey than we consume today. This is partly because there weren’t as many other beverages to choose from. In addition, the health consequences of excessive alcohol consumption weren’t as commonly understood as they are today. There was also a practical reason to drink adult beverages — consuming water was risky during this period as it often carried diseases. A cup of cider was sometimes safer.
While the general eating trends of the 1800s largely focused on local foods, the Centennial Exhibition came to Pennsylvania in 1876 and with it came many new cuisines and customs. Among the new features were dining rooms where men and women ate together, as well as foods such as celery salt, hot dogs, Viennese breads and more.
Trains and new scientific approaches to food and agriculture meant foods from far away could be brought to Pennsylvania.
This century saw the most foodie changes in Pennsylvania and the rest of the country. Faster transport meant food trends started to become national and then global. The price of foods which were not native to Pennsylvania dropped, meaning more people could afford them.
During World War II, rationing and food scarcity meant more people became more aware of where their food came from. Many chose to plant Victory Gardens, growing their own food. With refrigeration, it was possible to keep foods longer and this century also saw the start of convenience foods and frozen dinners. More sophisticated kitchens meant the home cook could microwave and prepare meals with more precise temperatures. Continuing immigration brought many new flavors into America, including Mediterranean favorites.
If you’re interested in experiencing a modern twist on classical cuisine, reserve a table at Bricco to experience our take on Mediterranean dishes with an American twist.