Best of Times, Worst of Times

Wheat fields in America, turning gold in the late afternoon sun --- amber waves of grain. Wheat has been transformed from hand cutting to mechanical harvesting. The American wheat belt beckons from Texas northward through Oklahoma, into Kansas, from eastern Washington state to central Montana. Wheat bread and wheat cakes, from pancakes and waffles to wedding cakes.... wheat holds a special, prominent place in the American food pattern.


Sourdough ranks among the world's most passionately debated foods. Like fried chicken or spaghetti sauce, it has its factions and fanatics, and each claims to know more about it than the next person. Some believe that the only effective sourdough starter is made from hops, water and flour, and must be several decades old -- a sort of eternal flame of cooking that should never be extinguished. Others are convinced that potato water makes a better starter than hops, while still others use only raw milk. Whatever the sourdough starter source, there is universal agreement that it should be kept in an earthenware pot, not in a metal container, since metal corrodes and would spoil the starter.

San Francisco is one of the few American cities where residents get excited about bread. Woe to a restaurant that serves an inferior loaf. The favorite bread in San Francisco is sourdough, leavened not with commercial yeast, but with a sourdough starter where yeast cells have multiplied for years. There are widely believed stories that a crock of San Francisco sourdough, removed from its native city, loses its power to produce top-quality bread.

Sourdough bread was popular in California during the gold rush era, but it was during the Alaskan Klondike gold strike that miners became known as "sourdoughs." [7: 1]

Did You Know?

Lord Montagu


Charles Lindbergh delayed eating, believing he would become sleepy...

Why, it's past supper time! I untwist the neck of the paper big, and pull out a sandwich... my first food since take-off... Bread and meat never touched my tongue like this before. One sandwich is enough...

   May 21st, 1927 [7: 4]


Beaten biscuits have been the pride of Maryland and Virginia for 200 years. By pounding the dough with a hammer, or flat of an ax, for twenty minutes, air is beaten into it, and the dough is made light. Freshly baked beaten biscuits are the essential accompaniment to Smithfield ham.
[7: 7]

Why Stay Home to Cook?


First-Class passengers on the R.M.S. Titanic, that fateful night, April 14th, 1912, rejoiced at an elegant 10-course meal.
[7: 2]

First Course:
  Hors d'oeuvres; oysters
Second Course:
  Consommé Olga; Cream of Barley
Third Course:
  Poached salmon with Mousseline sauce;
Fourth Course:
  Filet Mignons Lili; Sauté of chicken,
  Vegetable marrow Farci
Fifth Course:
  Lamb, mint sauce;
  Roast duckling, apple sauce;
  Sirloin of beef, chateau potatoes;
  green peas; creamed carrots;
  boiled rice; Parmentier and
  boiled new potatoes
Sixth Course:
  Punch Romaine
Seventh Course:
  Roast squab and cress
Eighth Course:
  Cold asparagus vinaigrette
Ninth course:
  Pate de foie gras; Celery
Tenth course:
  Waldorf pudding; Peaches
  in Chartreuse jelly; Chocolate
  and vanilla eclairs; French ice cream

Doughnut Girl


When the United States entered World War I, the general American public was just begining to learn about the differences between proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. If Americans could be persuaded to obtain their proteins from beans and pulses rather than meat, their carbohydrates from corn meal, oats, and grains, other than from wheat, and if they could learn to eat fresh fruits and vegetables too perishable to send to Europe, then soldiers and civilians overseas could be supplied, and there would be no need for rationing.
[7: 3]

Olympic Stadium, Los Angeles 1932


The most obvious food served to members of the American Olympic team was beefsteak, usually cooked rare or medium. American athletes also ate on a daily average -- three eggs, custard for dessert, and drank l.5 liters of milk. Their food choices were characterized by white bread, dinner rolls, and fresh vegetables -- especially spinach and salads. American Olympians were served no citrus fruits and limited their intake of sugar.
[7: 5]


1910 Return of Haley's Comet

1912 Titanic disaster

1914 Panama Canal opened

1917 U.S. enters World War I

1922 19th Amendment (Voting Rights for Women)

1927 Charles Lindbergh

1929 Stock Market crash

1934 Terrible dust storms

1938 First drive-in hamburger stand

1941 United States enters World War II

<Previous Page Exhibit Home Further Resources Library Home >Next Page