From 1921: Italian Potatoes

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So, this is my fifth week in my PhD program, and it is hard. I knew it would be, but I didn’t really know how it would be if that makes sense. I knew it would be a lot of work, of course, but I guess I didn’t realize how much deeper I was going to have to start thinking.

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From 1855: Cold Slaw

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Okay, so remember back when I made cherry jam and I told you we’d talk about 1855 another day? No? That’s okay. But, let’s talk about 1855 now!

I think it’s important when talking about history to understand that remembering the bad things is just as important as remembering the good. Sometimes, people or cultures or countries don’t want to remember the bad parts of their histories. Maybe there was a lot of violence. Maybe there is embarrassment over how and why horrible things were allowed to happen. Maybe people just feel like forgetting is the best way to move on. It’s so important, though, to learn about, discuss, and debate about the bad parts of history so we can understand how to keep them from happening again.

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From 1851: Macaroni Au Gratin

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Have you ever eaten or smelled something that immediately reminded you of something you’ve done before – like a sensory déjà vu, if you will? That’s what happened when I ate this macaroni au gratin, which is just a fancy name for macaroni and cheese! As soon as I took a bite, I knew I’d tasted it before – the creamy, saltiness of the parmesan; the way its cheesy cream sauce coated every noodle; the warm touch of the nutmeg… traditional gratins have a touch of nutmeg – don’t be afraid! And, then, as I closed my eyes, my other senses filled in the blanks. I could feel heat. I was sitting in the sun. I could hear people all around, and then a cuckoo clock. A cuckoo clock? You know where I tasted this dish before? It tastes EXACTLY like the Nudel Gratin from Germany at EPCOT! I love food and how it has the power to harness the senses and tap into memories!

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From 1908: Potato Salad

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It was the year 1908 – the year Famous Old Receipts: Used a Hundred Years and More in the Kitchens of the North and the South was published. Now, typically, I would tell you about 1908, or at least the years surrounding 1908, since that’s when this cookbook was published, but this cookbook is about recipes used for over 100 years prior to the book’s publication. So, let’s talk about those 100 years. What happened in America between 1808 and 1908? A lot is the answer to that question!

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From 1917: Creamed Potatoes

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It was the year 1917. Woodrow Wilson was elected to serve his second term as President of a country at war – World War I. The average income was $800 per year, and the average home cost about $6,000. A well-managed home contained all the comforts a modern family could need: plumbing and electricity, a telephone with long-distance capability, a vacuum cleaner, a gas oven, and a phonograph. Women wore shorter dresses now – their skirts hit just above the ankle – and light face powder, rouge for the lips and cheeks, and eyeliner were most fashionable. Ice cream socials were all the rage, as was going to the cinema to see the silent Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford. A movie ticket cost seven cents. Popular music of the era reflected the wartime; George Cohan’s “Over There” was a patriotic hit meant to convince young men to enlist in the army. And, jazz music made its way into the mainstream; “Livery Stable Blues” by Original Dixieland Jass Band was the first jazz recording commercially released to the public.

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From 1919: Cornbread

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It was the year 1919 – the height of the Progressive Era, which was an era that started in the 1890s and ended abruptly with the stock market crash of 1929. It was an era marked by industrialization, urbanization, commercialism, mass production, and… well, progress. America changed significantly and rapidly during the Progressive Era. It went from a country where people developed small, rural villages and lived off of the land and what they could produce themselves to a country ruled by factories and mills where people flocked to the cities and bought their massed-produced food, clothes, and goods from big-box stores.

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From 1892: Potato Pancakes

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It was the year 1892, the beginning of what would come to be called the “Gay Nineties.” It’s funny; the 1890s weren’t particularly grand for the average American – for the wealthy, yes, but not for average people. The economy suffered a nationwide depression; an influx of immigrants combined with the grueling work laborers performed created unrest in the workforce; and, for most of the decade, the country ramped up for the Spanish American War, which finally broke out in 1898. So, why are the 1890s remembered as a time of such happiness and ease?

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