I came across this photo of an old-fashioned metal shopping list on Gab yesterday. Click the image for a larger view.
It brought back many memories, because my mother had one like it in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It hung over the counter in the kitchen where she prepared our meals. She’d flip one of the little metal indicators when she ran short (or out) of something, so she could prepare her shopping list more easily. If it was urgently required, I might find myself sent down to the shops to buy whatever she needed; otherwise, it waited for a big shopping run once per week.
The thing that struck me is, there is no provision for “fast” or pre-prepared food in that device at all. Everything consists of the raw materials that a cook will use to make a meal from scratch. There are no TV dinners, no “heat-‘n-eat” meals, no pre-cooked sausages or pre-prepared salads or anything like that. It was simply assumed that “food” meant raw materials, that would be prepared, cooked and served by someone in a domestic kitchen. Compare that to today’s shopping list. How many of us buy “minute” rice (already partly cooked) instead of “raw” rice? How many of us buy “microwave-in-bag” vegetables, instead of the older varieties that still required boiling or baking – never mind buying raw vegetables and peeling, dicing and preparing them from the beginning? How many of us buy cooking sauces or seasonings (e.g. Gochujang, or pre-mixed curries, or Old Bay) instead of making our own, the way most old-time cookbooks assumed we would?
(Speaking of old-time cookbooks, I always giggled at the recipe for jugged hare in my mother’s well-worn copy of Mrs. Beeton. “First, catch your hare.” Quite so!)
I’m sure we’ve gained immensely in convenience and time-saving short-cuts in the kitchen through the advent of modern food processing. However, I suspect our meals are over-processed compared to those of our parents and grandparents, giving us a lot less nutrition and a lot more “filler” materials. I’d like to know how much of our current obesity epidemic can be attributed to that.
(Of course, another facet of that is the enormous growth of fast-food outlets and family dining restaurants. When I was growing up, it was a rare and expensive treat to eat at a Wimpy Bar or a drive-in restaurant [how many former Capetonians remember the Spotted Dog in Mouille Point?], or to have Mom or Dad bring home a bucket of take-out chicken pieces. Nowadays, that’s routine for most families. Pizza was never bought outside the home and eaten by hand – it was always made at home (including the dough), baked in the oven, and eaten around the table, with knives and forks. Yes, I think I’m a food dinosaur . . . )