In this podcast we’re going to examine a pivotal shift in food consumption that took place in the early 20th century. First, World War I is going to change, forever, the way civilians eat. We’ll see how corporations dictated the American diet, and we’ll witness the arrival of chain supermarkets. We’re going to examine the advent of junk foods as well as the marketing of food with health claims. Finally, we’ll take a look at the government’s new role in food supply in the wake of the Depression.
Images for this Episode:
Culinary Activities for this Episode:
• Examining Food Advertising
The early 20th century has been described as the golden age of advertising. It certainly was the first time mass media was used extensively to sell products; in fact, entirely new products were marketed in ingenious ways. Breakfast cereals are merely one example. Chewing gum is another. Think of a food product that appeared in this era. Search for images of advertisements for this product. What tactics did the ads employ? Who were they targeting, in terms of demographics, gender, and social class? Where did these ads appear, and what was their primary appeal? In other words, was it rational or emotional? Were scare tactics used, or were the ads aspirational, selling a particular lifestyle?
Deconstruct the text and images, and look for subliminal messages. For example, an ad for vitamin-fortified pasta might claim that children need to eat well to grow up healthy, and this brand of pasta is nutritious. The subtext, though, is that friends and neighbors will look at your scrawny children, and you will be ashamed for not feeding them well. This is intended to scare you into buying the product. In the end, what are these ads really selling—food or fantasy? Think how advertising today functions much the same way, playing on our fears and desires.
Helstosky, Garlic and Oil: Food and Politics in Italy.
Kamminga, Science and Culture of Nutrition.
Marinetti, The Futurist Cookbook.
Valenze, Milk: A Local and Global History.
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