What would a typical person in the West in the late 19th century and/or early 20th century eat on a day-to-day basis?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,714
SoCal
What would a typical person in the West in the late 19th century and/or early 20th century eat on a day-to-day basis? I suppose that this question should be asked separately for urban dwellers and rural dwellers in the West during this time.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,714
SoCal
I suppose that breaking this question by social class might be useful. It would be interesting to compare the diets of the rich, middle-class, and poor in the late 19th and/or early 20th centuries.
 
Oct 2016
1,157
Merryland
in the USA meat was consumed in almost every meal, middle and upper classes
breakfast; ham or bacon (possibly with eggs), some kind of bread (biscuits, toast) maybe some cereal (corn, wheat), butter, coffee or milk (maybe tea), fruit in season
dinner; soup, meat (chop, steak, poultry), some vegetable, probly some starch (potato), dessert (fruit pie), milk/coffee workingmen often had beer
supper; usually lighter; maybe leftover ham, bread, fruit.

southern/rural areas had more corn dishes (corn breads, grits). coastal areas (New England, Chesapeake, Gulf Coast, Pacific NW) more seafood.

poorer folks might do with just a bowl of oatmeal or farina (corn meal mush). lunch often ham and bread; supper maybe soup / leftovers.

upper classes of course had multicourse meals with cheeses, desserts, etc

a New England tradition was slow cooked beans flavored with ham / salt pork and sweetened with molasses, the precursor of today's baked beans.

many places had some sort of fresh bread every day, even every meal; biscuits, corn bread, yeast rolls, etc.
 
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Oct 2016
1,157
Merryland
ethnic groups in the USA tended to have their own foods. Chinese would have the noodle/rice dishes; Italians would have pasta etc. over time these would become mainstream dishes but few non-Italians in the USA would eat, say, spaghetti, until the 1950s or so (one example).

people with $ would have steak many nights.

some folks felt uncomfortable cooking on Sunday so would prepare dishes in advance.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,714
SoCal
in the USA meat was consumed in almost every meal, middle and upper classes
Do you know what kind of meat (chicken, beef, pork, fish, et cetera) was the most popular?

breakfast; ham or bacon (possibly with eggs), some kind of bread (biscuits, toast) maybe some cereal (corn, wheat), butter, coffee or milk (maybe tea), fruit in season
dinner; soup, meat (chop, steak, poultry), some vegetable, probly some starch (potato), dessert (fruit pie), milk/coffee workingmen often had beer
supper; usually lighter; maybe leftover ham, bread, fruit.
Very interesting! I wonder if fruit pies back then were comparable to those today.

southern/rural areas had more corn dishes (corn breads, grits). coastal areas (New England, Chesapeake, Gulf Coast, Pacific NW) more seafood.
Did Western areas eat a lot of buffalo meat and fresh fruits?

poorer folks might do with just a bowl of oatmeal or farina (corn meal mush). lunch often ham and bread; supper maybe soup / leftovers.
Did poorer folks frequently eat dessert--and if so, what kind?

upper classes of course had multicourse meals with cheeses, desserts, etc
Desserts comparable to those nowadays?

a New England tradition was slow cooked beans flavored with ham / salt pork and sweetened with molasses, the precursor of today's baked beans.
Yum!

many places had some sort of fresh bread every day, even every meal; biscuits, corn bread, yeast rolls, etc.
Tasty! Too bad that bread has a lot of calories! :(
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,714
SoCal
ethnic groups in the USA tended to have their own foods. Chinese would have the noodle/rice dishes; Italians would have pasta etc. over time these would become mainstream dishes but few non-Italians in the USA would eat, say, spaghetti, until the 1950s or so (one example).

people with $ would have steak many nights.

some folks felt uncomfortable cooking on Sunday so would prepare dishes in advance.
Refrigeration was only affordable to the upper-classes back then, correct?
 
Aug 2019
10
Belgium
An average person in Western Europe would eat potatoes (Benelux, Germany, not France or Italy) , bread, cereals (porridge of every kind), sugar, usually in the form of jams and marmelades, and impossible quantities of spirits ( a gallon of small beer and a pint of gin was quite normal). Fresh vegetables were a luxury, usually preserves like cabbage (sauerkraut) were eaten in quantity .

In Western Europe, meat and fish would have been reseved for the well to do. Artisan class could afford "small meat" like pigs trotters, head meat, organ meat, salted meat. And sausages of course Depending on the region also rabbit and poultry.
Just take a look at a traditional cook book: Tripes Diyonnaise (bowel) , riz de veau (brain) , rognons (kidney), escargots de Bourgogne

The proletariat would simply die from undernourishment,
 

Dreamhunter

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
7,481
Malaysia
But I believe folks do actually get used to surviving on very little protein. Their bodies somehow quite amazingly adapt, to become more efficient if one may, at converting non-protein food into protein when it gets into their body. They become kind of like cattle LOL.

When I was a kid, any meat or fish was a rare luxury. A single medium sized fish, sometimes not even fresh but salted, was shared by up to four or five people. If you dared to pinch too much fish at one go you would risk being called a 'cat'. So, it was like, just mainly about the gravy.

We just ate lots of rice, yams or potaties & vegetables, including beans, edible grassy plants & leaf shoots for salad.

Fruits were kind of irregular. They could be greatly abundant when in season. Other times, you just went without them. Banana was a near ever present, though.

We did use loads of coconut milk though, to make the gravy, or as ingredients in many kinds of traditional cakes, sweetmeats or desserts. I guess that does contain some protein, or perhaps is kind of easily convertible into protein.

Still two brothers of mine have managed to grow up to five foot ten, one of them now even a beefy 264 lbs (120 kg).
 
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Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,461
Dispargum
Prior to the Civil War the most commonly eaten meat in America was pork in its many varieties (ham, bacon, etc). After the CW Americans began to eat more beef as the western plains were opened up and the cow displaced the buffalo.
Root cellars long predate your time period so it was possible to preserve food using cool temperatures (35 or 40 degrees).
The tin can was invented in the very early 1800s. By the 1870s, American companies with names like Campbell's, Heinz, and Borden were mass producing all kinds of foods in hermetically sealed tin cans. Canned food was a major export to Europe.
The mason jar for home canning was patented in 1858. Mason jars were in mass production by the 1870s.
Clarence Birdseye first began freezing foods in the 1920s and by the 1930s had a diverse product line of frozen foods available to consumers.
The first patent for mechanical refrigeration was in 1851. The first commercial ice plant was in 1868 in New Orleans. By the early 1900s most cities had at least one ice plant and were delivering blocks of ice to people's homes for use in ice boxes.
Early refrigerated rail cars were in use by the 1880s and they were in widespread use by 1900.
Cattle cars for shipping live animals became more common after the 1880s. They had existed earlier, probably before the Civil War.
The pre-WW2 American diet was probably similar to the modern American diet except for the addition of some ethnic foods that only came along after the war. Also, pre-war there was less junk food and less fast food. Unlike today, most Americans ate at home almost every day. Eating in a restaurant was only for special occasions. Bachelors ate out more, because cooking was 'women's work.'