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 1912: Cream of Carrot and Onion

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The year was 1912, and you know what I want to talk about? The Titanic. My brother and I were obsessed with the Titanic when we were little. My parents took us to traveling Titanic exhibits in Ocean City, New Jersey and Orlando, Florida to see artifacts brought up from the ocean, and in one case a piece of the hull they’d recovered. We had books on the Titanic, and we watched all of the documentaries about both the history, as well as the dives to the wreckage. We even had a computer game – Titanic: Adventure Out of Time – that we obsessed over. And, since we were little and we couldn’t really figure out strategy, we sent away for the game manual… through the mail!

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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 1905: Eggs Scrambled in Tomatoes

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It was the year 1905, and though the phrase “American Dream” hadn’t yet been thought up, the concept was alive and well. Everyone was out to forge his own path, find success, and maybe even make a fortune in the wide, open opportunity that was America. And, the “rags to riches” stories that made it into the spotlight, like those of Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, made the possibility of success beyond the wildest of dreams seem entirely reachable.

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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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