How the Depression Affected Our Culinary Landscape

Presented by Andrew Coe
Author, Culinary Historian

Come join us for an insightful discussion with the co-author of A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression, a book which The New York Times says is an “engaging and often moving cultural history.” Andrew Coe, who wrote the book with his wife, Jane Ziegelman, will explore for us the intersection of food, politics and culture during the Great Depression, a period of seismic shifts in the country’s political and social landscape.Before 1929, America’s relationship with food was defined by abundance. But the collapse of the economy left a quarter of all Americans out of work and undernourished—shattering long-held assumptions about the limitlessness of the national larder.

In 1933, as women struggled to feed their families, President Roosevelt reversed long-standing biases against government “food charity” and for the first time in American history assumed responsibility for feeding its citizens. Championed by Eleanor Roosevelt, “home economists” who had long fought to bring science into the kitchen rose to national stature. Tapping into America’s ambivalence toward culinary enjoyment, they imposed their vision of a sturdy, utilitarian cuisine on the American dinner table. Through the Bureau of Home Economics, they also formulated the nation’s first dietary recommendations, the forerunners of today’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. At the same time, new food conglomerates introduced packaged and processed foods that gave rise to a new American cuisine based on speed and convenience. In the ensuing decades, the tension between local traditions and culinary science has defined our national cuisine—a battle that continues today.

A Square Meal examines the impact of economic contraction and environmental disaster on how Americans ate then—and the lessons and insights those experiences may hold for us today.

Biographies: Andrew Coe is the only reporter covering New York’s bread beat. He’s also a food writer and culinary historian who’s written for Gastronomica, Saveur, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, and is the author of Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States. He is a contributor to the Oxford Enyclopedia of Food and Drink in America.

Jane Ziegelman is the director of the Tenement Museum’s culinary center in New York City, and the founder and director of Kids Cook!, a multiethnic cooking program for children. Her writing on food has appeared in numerous publications, and she is the coauthor of Foie Gras: A Passion.

Cost of the lecture program is $5, $3 for students and no charge for CHC members and Kendall students and faculty.

Saturday, December 3, 2016
10 a.m. to noon
At Kendall College School of Culinary Arts
900 N. North Branch Street, Chicago
(Located just north of W. Chicago Ave. at N. Halsted St.)

To reserve, please email your reservation to