A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression
A Square Meal describes the disastrous period of food inadequacy during the Depression. Early chapters tell the less familiar history of the period leading up to the 1930s. Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe lay culpability for shortages and malnutrition on two factors. First, migration from farmland to cities where food home-cooked in large kitchens was forfeited for meals cobbled together in minuscule urban apartment kitchens. Secondly, they point to the lack of nutrients, then on the brink of recognition, found in vitamins and produce.
Still more captivating is the essential role women played through the bleakest years. Across the board, alongside men, they were researchers in sociological and dietary fields, extension agents, nutritionists, and, at least as importantly, hands-on managers of the expanded school lunches program that rescued a generation of children.
In a captivating book, we learn how political parties sparred and how state and federal administrators balked at stepping in with assistance, trying to shirk responsibility. All too often, poverty-stricken communities were blamed for their situation. A national charity worker, after seeing the desperate conditions in Appalachia, suggested that the drought was providential and that God intended the dumb ones should be wiped out, and thus it was a mistake to feed them.
Jane Ziegelman • Andy Coe